The Happiness Connection: A Conversation with Documentary Filmmaker Roko Belic

Roko Belic knows a thing or two about Happiness. He is living it and sharing it through his work as a filmmaker. His films range from “Happy” which explores this topic, to “Trust Me” which explores the digital age and its implications for our Happiness. 

In this open ended conversation Roko and Peter explore the aspects that make up happiness as well as elements which rob us of it. This includes taking the abstract concepts of happiness, contentment and gratitude as well as fear and anger,, discussing the physiological implications then distilling these elements into actionable strategies using real world examples of people living happy and fulfilling lives. This includes how Roko has chosen to live his life inspired from so many people he has encountered on his journey. 

The conversation dives into the human hardwiring of fear and anger and how this can be exploited in the modern world, particularly through the spread of information and disinformation to create division. This highlights the importance of recognizing that all humans have more in common at our core than the messaging suggests. 

Roko reminds us all how cooperation and compassion play key roles in human survival, how curiosity and empathy can overcome xenophobia and the delicate balance between happiness and fear in today's world.  

Ultimately, this interview serves as a platform for YOU to foster happiness in the modern world. Roko's documentaries and the insights gleaned from them serve as reference points to delve deeper into these subjects and provide insights into the human experience.

Here are some of the talking points:

  • How many people have become disconnected from the physical activities that bring joy and happiness, such as play. Engaging in activities that are physically and aerobically challenging can greatly improve overall happiness and well-being. 

  • By reconnecting with our evolutionary roots and prioritizing activities that promote both physical and emotional health, we can begin to make better decisions for ourselves and our well-being.

  • By embracing the principles of a healthy lifestyle, including a well-rounded diet, regular exercise, and activities that bring joy, we can create a positive spiral that enhances our emotional and cognitive states, leading to a happier, more fulfilling life.

  • Mental capacity and taking risks - They talk about how embracing risks can lead to a more fulfilling life, contrasting this with today's risk-averse society.

  • Backpacking and filmmaking - Roko shares his experiences backpacking around the world and making films like “Genghis Blues”, his first project about the Tuvan throat singers and, subsequently, “Beyond the Call” about doctors performing critical care in war zones .

  • The importance of curiosity - They discuss the importance of curiosity and taking risks in life, and how the growing popularity of ultra-running is an example of people seeking more adventurous experiences.

  • Overcoming challenges and the importance of adaptive stressors in life - They discuss how running helped them to build their endurance and confidence, eventually allowing them to run as fast as their peers and cover long distances in the mountains. 

  • Conversely, they touch on how removing adaptive stressors from our lives can lead to a lack of problem-solving skills and innovation.

  • The importance of prioritizing relationships and experiences over financial success.

  • Happiness was not considered a valid area of study and was often dismissed. However, in recent years, researchers have begun to study happiness and have found that it is indeed a valuable area of research. 

  • The importance of self-acceptance and inner work in achieving happiness. He notes that many relationship issues stem from a person's inner self and how they interact with others. Roko encourages listeners to examine their own behaviors and beliefs to improve their happiness and relationship with themselves and thus with others.

  • The importance of gratitude and how it can enhance our lives. - Everyone has a purpose, something to contribute and a connection to something larger than ourselves. Finding and developing our purpose, contribution and connection can make us happier as an Individual and, through this, collectively as a society.