Haven’t we all just wanted to put our lives on hold for a few weeks and get away from the world? You can forget your worries while surrounded by majestic mountains and fragrant pine trees. That’s what Ellie Kemper’s Helen does in Netflix’s new romantic comedy, Happiness for Beginners. (And yes, I’ve already watched it twice.)
Based on a novel by the same name, Helen signs up for a beginner’s hiking excursion after finalizing her divorce. She’s 40, newly single, and has absolutely no idea what she wants out of life. She just wants to hike through the wilderness for a few weeks while she figures herself out, but that’s made all the more difficult when her younger brother’s lifelong best friend Jake winds up signing up for the same hike.
Honestly, this is one of the best new rom-coms in years. After devouring Happiness for Beginners, and then devouring it again, there are lessons in life and love that have just stuck with me. Read on, but be aware: Mild spoilers ahead! Go watch the movie on Netflix and then come right back here.
1. Do something big if you’re unhappy with your life.
You can’t expect anything to change if you don’t take any measure to change them. Helen goes out of her way to go on a hiking trip that takes weeks, without any hiking experience. Would a big step like this be scary? Of course! But that’s how you know it’ll be life changing. It doesn’t have to be hiking, though. It could be moving to Paris or selling everything and buying a tiny house. Break out of that rut, just like Helen.
2. Surround yourself with people who make the journey better.
While the romance plot of Happiness for Beginners is so top-notch (and we’ll get to that), the movie’s made even better by the ensemble cast that accompanies Helen and Jake on the hiking trip. There’s the erstwhile leader, the overly talkative Millennial, the airhead with a heart of gold who’s more than she seems. Your life isn’t just about you, but about the cast of characters who enter your life. Embrace the people who enrich your life.
3. Focus on what makes you happy.
Helen, when she first learns from fellow hiker Windy the joy of listing three good things each day, finds it difficult to think of even one. Oh how poisoned your life can become if you never recognize what makes it good. So say the positive things about your day. Even if it’s something as small as a really good cup of coffee, focusing on what makes you happy is always welcome.
4. When you feel a “hot spot,” deal with it.
In the movie, “hot spot” refers to the heat of an oncoming blister as your hiking boot rubs up against your feet and ankles. If you don’t deal with it right away, it’ll turn into a blister that only makes things ten times worse. It’s true in life, too. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. And until you fix it, it’ll only get worse. You owe it to yourself to deal with the hot spots of life.
5. You might already know your soulmate, but just haven’t opened your heart.
We get so distracted by our lives. While Helen was busy marrying a weird guy that no one liked, she was ignoring the much better people around her. In life, we often have blinders on. We’re set on the type of person we’re “supposed” to be with, but maybe there’s someone even better we hadn’t considered? That’s certainly the case with Helen, which brings me to my most important lesson of the whole movie…
6. Find someone who looks at you like Jake looks at Helen.
This is a bit of a spoiler, although if you’ve watched the trailer you probably saw this coming. Jake loves Helen. How do we know? Even before he says anything, you can see it in the way he looks at her. The amount of love seeping off of him is something to swoon over. Don’t accept anything less than that kind of love and devotion. We all deserve a Jake.