I’ve decided to combine pictures from an evening with Mike’s family in Hawaii with a review of the documentary HAPPY and my own thoughts on happiness, because I think Michael and Grace have one of the happiest families I know, and the pictures are pretty self-explanatory. All you need to know is that after Michael got done with his work for the day, we did what they usually do: We took a trip to the beach for some fun and then went home for dinner! 🙂 Have you seen the 2011 documentary called HAPPY? As its own advertizement explains, “HAPPY combines powerful human stories from around the world with cutting edge science to give us a deeper understanding of our most valued emotion.” We watched it a few nights ago, and I really appreciated what it had to teach. They interviewed people from around the world and uncovered some very profound stories, such as a man from the slums of India who was found to be as happy as the average American, and the beautiful debutant who was run over by a truck and disfigured for life but is—believe it or not—even happier than she was before her accident. The researchers discovered that happy, close family relationships far outweigh economic status. Although there is a big difference in satisfaction between Americans making $5,000 and $50,000 per year, there is no perceptible difference in happiness between those who earn $50,000 and $500,000, so making a lot of money is not the answer! Research indicates that although 50% of “happiness” is a genetic disposition, only a pretty insignificant 10% is related to circumstances beyond our control, leaving a whooping 40% up to us, our own attitudes and how we manage life. What the producers of HAPPY found dovetail nicely with what much of what my father always taught comprised the “good life.” He said the “good life” is “Varied.” Indeed, variety is the spice of life, so enjoy new experiences! “Integrated.” Your life flows as a connected whole; you have true integrity. “Productive.” Hard work building and creating good stuff makes people happy!Physical activity is also huge…anything where you get lost in the flow of life.“Social.” Family unites tend to be the happiest, although even people living in community with others tend to be happier than people who live alone. As one who loves mnemonic devices to help me remember, the first letters of these words form the acronym VIPS: Varied, Integrated, Productive, and Social. From the video on happiness, I’d like to add “Intensely Interesting” (“in the flow”) to the “I” and “Physically active” to the “P.” From what I’ve learned about happiness over the years, I would also add “Spiritual” to the “S,” and I think we’d have a really great recipe for happiness! “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:5).