Happiness / by martin bennie

Have you ever caught yourself having a bad day and being in the worst mood, but then randomly feeling joy when talking to someone happy or someone that makes you laugh, putting a smile on your face? According to various studies, smiling is considered contagious. When a person is smiling, they are viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. When a person sees another person smiling, his or her orbitofrontal cortex is activating, which processes sensory rewards. So when a person catches another person smiling, he or she feels rewarded, which is a good feeling. Take a look at this woman washing her clothes in a Temple in Seam Reap In Cambodia and tell me you don't want to smile back?


I travelled to Cambodia on my own, in the middle of a personal crises, perhaps even a mid life one and I did it to see people smile. I could have gone anywhere in Asia, as in general, Asian people are happier then westerners. I chose Siem Reap because of the temple and images I had seen from here.

It took me perhaps two days to see the temples and the photo opportunities there, didn't fill me with any passion. I decided I wanted to go out into the jungles to the little villages and off the beaten tourists path. So I found myself a tuk tuk driver and paid him well on a daily basis to be at my beck and call.


The first place my driver took me to, was a temple on the outskirts of the town and it was here I found the trainee monks. Talk about natural smilers and these guys were living the dream I think. I m sure their life was not easy, but as soon as I appeared with my camera, the laughing and joking began.

Smiling makes people look and feel better. It is better for your health to smile more because of the good chemicals it releases in your brain. Next time you feel sad, surround yourself with people you know will put a smile on your face because unconsciously, smiles and emotions are contagious.

I left the temple with some great images of these monks and I felt better than I did before I arrived, as we joked and laughed with each other through the morning.


Where ever I have been in the world, poor people have the biggest smiles. I met this woman above in a small temple somewhere in the jungle outside Siem Reap and she just beamed this great big toothy grin and was more than willing to pose for me.


Once I hit the outskirts of Siem Reap, we ended up at the floating village and was instantly surrounded by laughing kids. With a pocket full of sweet bought from one of the village shops, I was the pied piper and these young boys followed me around the village as I snapped away. It didn't take long in their company to see their different characters emerge.


First impressions always count to me and when I met this dude, I liked him straight away. I have no idea what he did or why he was dressed like some type of delivery worker, but he had an air of confidence and looked happy as he sat on his doorstep.

They say The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.

I went to Cambodia to seek and photograph happiness, because at the time in my life, I had no idea what it was or how to find it. I spent 10 days there wondering aimlessly around on my own, while back in Korea, I had the person who could have made me happy, if I had let her. I lacked empathy for her, because I was lost in a grim world of what ifs and past life’s and general unhappiness. I thought happiness was something that just came. Ive since figured out after many hard years, that happiness can be practiced but its hard work some days lol.


The best image I have from Cambodia, is of this little girl and I snapped it off so quickly, as I just turned and she was sticking her tongue out, and I barely had time to focus properly, which is a pity as it would have been a stunner. I still love it, because her happy energy is written all over her face and when I look at it, I also feel happy.


What is happiness then?

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of happiness is a simple one: “The state of being happy.”

  1. Happiness is a state, not a trait; in other words, it isn’t a long-lasting, permanent feature or personality trait, but a more fleeting, changeable state.

  2. Happiness is equated with feeling pleasure or contentment, meaning that happiness is not to be confused with joy, ecstasy, bliss, or other more intense feelings.


Although the term is not used very often, “self-happiness” refers to a sense of happiness or satisfaction with one’s self. It is often associated with self-confidence, self-esteem, and other concepts that marry “the self” with feeling content and happy.

In general, it means that you are pleased with yourself and your choices, and with the person that you are.

So are you happy and if not, why not?.