‘Pursuing Happiness’: A Nuanced Perspective of What it Means to Be Truly Happy

David & Sherry: Despite his inoperable brain cancer, David has chosen to live life in the face of tragedy and inspires his entire family to do the same.

Americans have been pursuing happiness since the birth of our nation. We’re even ranked in the top twenty happiest countries. But how do we find happiness? Where does it come from? What part do we play in our own happiness? The documentary “Pursuing Happiness” may contain the answers to those questions.

“Pursuing Happiness” points toward a threefold answer to the question of what happiness is and how to find it for yourself, but not before asking some questions of its own. The crew reached out via social media to ask, “Who is the happiest person you know?” The answers might surprise you.

Adam Shell (Photo Credit: Brian Doremus)

Adam Shell (Photo Credit: Brian Doremus)

Visiting with these people as well as experts and researchers in the fields of psychology, spirituality, etc., “Pursuing Happiness” captures the fascination with such an intangible quality and manages to make it tangible for us at home, drawing us in with its promise of secrets revealed. Through the documentary we are given a peek into different people’s lives and the ways they have come to discover happiness, whether through service, acceptance, or by overcoming tragedy.

The first section introduces us to several happy people, many of whom participate in or have created charities, services, and campaigns to help those in need. This is the part of happiness that people most often speak about – and it’s proven to bring you joy. But it’s an incomplete answer, the first step toward looking at the complete picture of happiness.

The next part introduces us to people who are unique, weird, and completely wonderful. Learning to accept yourself and being proud of who you are is another component in the equation for happiness. Being yourself and sharing your passions with others often leads to reaching out to your community and helping others, but it isn’t the end of the hunt for happiness either.

What I loved most about this documentary is that it doesn’t shy away from the difficult parts of life. None of us will have a perfect life, and none of us will be happy all the time. That’s life. It’s ever-changing, confusing, chaotic, and we’re lucky if we find people along the way who can help us navigate the difficulties.

The third and final section of the documentary is about finding joy even amidst the sadness, for without sadness, we could not have happiness (a lesson we saw play out not long ago in the Pixar film “Inside Out”). This is where I started to cry, because by now I was attached to these people, and I could empathize. I’ve lost people I’ve loved, and I’ve spent years recovering from the pain and sadness that life sometimes delivers.

Whether it’s losing a friend or loved one to a cruel disease, or losing part of yourself by a tragic accident, or deciding to leave a relationship that has soured, we all have a deep sadness that cannot be covered up by faking happiness. We must wade through the sadness, allowing it to wash over us. Without it, we could not appreciate the beauty and fragility of living.

Watching the documentary crew come into contact with all these beautiful, incredible, alive people and live with them through their memories and current circumstances was touching, often laughter-inducing and sometimes leading toward a few tears spilled. Each life is precious, and no matter who we are, how much we have, and where we live, we are each valuable and meaningful to the universe.

“Pursuing Happiness” opened my eyes. It allowed me to listen to other people, to see many different ways of life, and to honor those who have found happiness, as well as those who are still seeking it. It took my breath away at moments by its raw honesty and emotion. I felt, at the end of it, as if I had been given a gift, and that the best way for me to make use of it was to share it.

I don’t think I would call myself a happy person yet – but by watching “Pursuing Happiness”, I think I have a pretty good idea of where to begin my own search. That’s what’s so compelling about this documentary, it gives you markers of where to start looking, and gives you the courage to go find it for yourself.

If you love documentaries, soul-searching, history, or human interest stories, you will love “Pursuing Happiness”. It will be available soon, and if you’re curious about the people involved, you can read more at the website.

Image Credits: Brian Doremus
K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone is a story nerd, particularly for the episodic stories told via the medium of television. When not parked in front of the TV, K.M. Cone can be found writing kooky urban fantasy on her personal site, attempting to learn German, or making a huge pot of soup for her friends, who are probably coming over to join her in her latest TV or animated film obsession.
K.M. Cone

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