2013.01.02 Finding happiness at the movies

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

With two more days to wait for their late Dec. 26 arrival, I was sad and impatient for my nearly 22-month-old granddaughter Caroline and her parents to visit this Christmas. They had driven up from Baton Rouge to Kentucky where they were first spending a week with Taylor’s family. 

It was hard waiting for our turn. I turned to Facebook to distract myself. Imagine my delight when I read this, posted by Rosie:

Christmas Eve service with Caroline:

When the prelude ended she yelled, "whoo!" clapping furiously, then yelled, "more, more!"

In the middle of the soloist doing 'O Holy Night' she yelled, "All done! All done!"

And toward the end, she pointed to the butt of her stuffed elf and yelled, "poo poo!"

I burst out laughing and was immediately sustained, sure that I could make it another two days before seeing that sweet funny little girl.

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I can sit and stare for hours at my amazing grandson, Ryland, who continues to grow and smile and infuse me with the knowledge that miracles are real.

Just being in the mere presence of my children fills me with inner joy. They don’t have to do anything; just seeing them or knowing they are in the house is enough to make me happy.

Sitting on the couch watching Netflix movies on Roku with Maddie after everybody’s gone to bed: That makes me happy. She and I don’t mind giving up on a movie if it doesn’t grab us within 15 minutes.

We’ve gone through a slew in the last week, with only one, “Happy,” giving food for thought. “Happy” caught my eye because it’s one of the movies Heather Walker is showing in her film class at the high school.

“Happy” is a documentary that explores what really makes people happy. As the Rotten Tomatoes website says, “from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, Happy explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.” 

The summary on Amazon tells us that “Happy” “combines cutting-edge science from the new field of ‘positive psychology’ with real-life stories of people from around the world whose lives illustrate these findings.”

This movie is filled with so many interesting tidbits about and ways of looking at happiness, including that 50 percent of your happiness is pre-determined by genetics and 10 percent is circumstantial or situational (things you can change, but don’t always have a tremendous amount of control over). But 40 percent is all you...things you can do to change your happiness level.

You wouldn’t think a rickshaw driver from India would be happy, but as he described the delight of seeing his children waiting for him at the end of a long day of work, you could see that happiness.

There’s not really a whole lot of revolutionary science in the movie, just a lot of common-sense advice backed up by science.

Count your blessings.

Perform acts of kindness.

Appreciate what you have.

Exercise…especially in novel ways, like participating in a race dressed up as gorillas.

“To laugh is very important,” said an African bushman.

And, don’t get caught up in thinking that money will buy happiness. After basic needs are met, there’s not much happiness to be had by having lots of money. You’re more likely to step on the Hedonic Treadmill—whatever level of wealth you have, you always want more.

Extrinsic goals like money, image and status won’t make you as happy as intrinsic goals like personal growth, close relationships, and a desire to help.

“Are you happy?” I asked Maddie when the movie ended.

“Sometimes,” she said.

“I don’t think I’m happy,” I said. “I don’t like that we’re not all together all the time.

“You and Dad need to live in a group so you can be the grandmother type to the young kids,” she said, in reference to an intentional community in Denmark where 20 families happily live in close proximity and share meals.

“But I want to live with my own kids and grandkids,” I countered.

“You can’t always get what you want,” she said, unmoved by my perpetual lament.

“Now you know what to do,” she said. “Change the 40%.”

Then she summed up other lessons learned: exercise, help people, practice meditation and compassion, hang out with people.

“Sleep!” she suddenly remembered. An 106-year-old Japanese woman from Okinawa had emphasized the importance of that for happiness. 

“Have some sake and go to bed,” Maddie advised.

  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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