Fanatic Cinematic: We’re all crappy at being happy

Movie columnist Alex Leininger on the secrets to lifelong happiness (begging celebrities for money is not one of them)

Hey, you! Are you happy? Do wonderful thoughts frolic in and out of your brain like Marilyn Manson at a black eyeliner sale?

Why? Or, perhaps more importantly, why not?

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many times I’ve wished that I had more money. Just like one million dollars, up front and in cash, with a cute letter declaring undying love and asking for my hand in eternal matrimony, you know? I don’t get how this is hard, people.

Calling Bill Gates, LeBron James, Jay Z — Paris Hilton, even — could y’all just do me a solid and donate some pocket change to the Alexander Leininger Fund? It’s for a good cause (a lifetime supply of Taco Bell), and frankly, you could probably all do without the joys of chrome toilet paper.

I, however, need money to be happy. All I’ve got right now is a scholarship to one of the nation’s best journalism schools, a supportive family and a Netflix subscription. So, no, late-’70s disco music, I won’t survive. How on Earth could I?

Every day I look at my bag of 20 pizza rolls and think, “Wow, if only I could afford the exclusive 40 pack. Maybe then I’d be able to enjoy the few fortunes I’ve been given in this cruel, cruel world.”

Guess what? I’m not really like that (send my Oscar in the mail, thanks). But, thinking about it, maybe I am just a little bit. Maybe we all are.

Do any of us have any idea from where happiness truly stems? Happiness isn’t always easily obtainable. Depression affects nearly one in 10 people per year, and hunger and poverty affect even more. Happiness can seem like a distant, unlikely thing when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or adapting to a life-changing injury. But, no matter what your situation is, finding happiness is, in reality, much easier than we make it out to be.

I mentioned my Netflix subscription, and, believe it or not, I sometimes use it for more than just 14-hour “Parks and Recreation” marathons. Yesterday, I watched “Happy,” a documentary by the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, Roko Belic. And again, here comes the (literally) million-dollar question: what determines happiness?

Hint: it’s not money. Shocking, isn’t it? Take “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” for instance. Unless we’re talking about mansions, high-profile marriages or gluteal plastic surgeries, evidence suggests that most of us may already be caught up. It may be hard to take in, but 10-week (pardon me, 10.3-week) marriages are not always indicative of lifelong happiness.

“Happy” takes the viewer on a journey across the world, to places like Namibia, Japan, Brazil and Louisiana to illustrate the overall simplicity of being a happy person.

A rickshaw driver happily carries triple his weight for miles in the scorching Kolkata sun. A Louisiana fisherman happily spends his days on the water with just a boat to his name. A former beauty pageant winner, run over by a truck and subject to a divorce and dozens of facial reconstruction surgeries, claims to be the happiest she has ever been.

It’s a beautiful message; even more so when it’s proven to be true. The film (drawing from “positive psychology” studies) proposes that a lot of the things we constantly worry about — money, success, status — make up only 10 percent of our total happiness.

Half of a person’s happiness is determined by genetics, and 10 percent by situations thrust upon them. The rest, being everything a person does in their own free will, makes up a whopping 40 percent of the entire happiness pie.

The things you do every day in your own free time, and even while you’re at work, are the ticket to a more fulfilling life. Learn to play an instrument. Get your morning coffee somewhere new. Take up yoga, karate or boxing. Eat more. Eat less. Go crazy.

Or, here’s a novel idea: help others! Volunteer. And become friends with as many people as you can. Living in Kansas, Missouri, Germany or wherever, the ultimate key to your happiness is that you share it with other people. As usual, I have a quote for this. Send your gratitude to the makers of “Up in the Air.”

“If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in your life…were you alone?”

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