Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Why These People Are Happier Than You Are

Published on March 11, 2016 by   ·   9 Comments Pin It

A Small Good Thing, a new documentary film from Academy award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, asks the question, “How can we live in a better way?”  The film follows six individuals in one community who are living a life that is less centered around material wealth, and more focused on their connection to health, the natural world, and the greater good. From social work student Tim Durrin to yoga teacher Mark Gerow to farmers Jen and Pete Salinetti, these “everyday people” find personal satisfaction via their link to nature, chosen professions, and interconnectedness with others, foregoing conventional definitions.

Here’s a list of the top ten things that Pamela learned in researching and making the film:


Research shows that roughly 50% of our happiness is determined by our genes, 10% by our life circumstances, but 40% depends on what we do during our daily activities.  Studies also show that social connections are the key to our happiness.

Mindful Practices

With a regular mindful practice, we breathe better, we sleep better, we lower our blood pressure, and we reduce stress.  Mindfulness connects us to our inner-most feelings and allows us to focus on what we are most passionate about.


It takes courage to find your calling. Finding what lights you up often means going against those you love. It sometimes means risking failure. Finding your calling may mean risking disapproval.


The more we let others know us—our talents and wisdom as well as our faults and fears—the richer are our relationships and our lives. Having the courage to open up to others about our fears and our failures leads to more joy.

Practicing self-compassion is harder than we think and actually helps us to achieve our goals.  Being able to soothe ourselves when we are hurt or have failed is a skill that we can learn. And when we learn to soothe ourselves we rely less on our friends and on our coworkers to do this for us. This practice can take some of the burden off our relationships and allows us to be more compassionate with others.


Compassion means we are all in this mess together; we are each broken and trying our best.  Practicing compassion means we give up the notion that we are better than others. It means we give up judging others.


We are each unique human beings with particular and peculiar strengths. But, humans are happier when they can share their lives and their work with others.  We are happier when we help each other. Even if we feel we are too busy and stressed to reach out to another with kindness—that act changes our body chemistry so we feel calmer and more able to tackle our own problems.

Authentic Connections

Making time for friends sometimes feels at the expense of our work or obligations.  We think just connecting through social networking is what will make us feel better, but we end up feeling more isolated.  And yet, when we make the effort to spend real time with good friends we often are able to get back to our work with more energy.  Research show that if you walk through life surrounded by people you are connected to, you will live a longer, healthier life.


For centuries humans have operated as though the natural world was for our use and exploitation: natural resources. But with more and more people on the planet, this attitude no longer serves us. The more we work with natural systems, the better we live and the healthier our planet.

Positive Emotions

Studies show that positive emotions such as gratitude, wonder, and awe all promote healthier levels of cytokines in our systems.  Daily activities to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, visiting an art museum, unconditional acts of kindness – will have a positive influence on our health and life expectancy.

For more information about A Small Good Thing and to learn how to bring this film to your community, visit

Watch the trailer here:

A Small Good Thing TRAILER from Mystic Artists on Vimeo.

How can we live in a better way?

While the philosophy of “more is better” has been key to American economic success for the past 50 years, we now find ourselves backed into an isolated corner — where our devices, celebrity entertainment, dream homes and wealth aren’t making us any happier.

“A Small Good Thing” explores how the American Dream has reached its end and how for most of us, greater material wealth and upward mobility are no longer possible. To find out what is taking its place, this feature documentary follows six people in one community who have recast their lives so they can live with a sense of meaning.

Experts offer insights and discoveries about what creates a sense of well-being, as new research from such diverse fields as Neuroscience, Environmental Studies, Economics, Positive Psychology and Yoga point the way in a surprisingly different direction. A New American Dream — one based on compassion, community and connection — turns out to be “A Small Good Thing”.

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Readers Comments (9)

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