A large number of people are stuck at home at the moment. It’s easy to get bored, feel uninspired and end up watching far too much television. One solution is being more intentional with your time at home. Previously I have talked about some free self care things you can use to help improve your mental health. Sometimes though, sitting down in front of the television with a hot chocolate is all I want to do at the end of the day. Recently I have been discovering as well as rewatching documentaries about minimalism, wellbeing, work, adventure and the environment. Watching a documentary is a great way to learn more about a subject as even be inspired to make adjustments to your own life to improve it.
With so much doom and gloom happening in the world (if you are reading this from the future, I speak for most people in 2020 saying we are pretty keen for this year to be over) its encouraging to watch a documentary reminding you that the world is full of kind people. When we are more informed on what is going on around us it helps us understand the world and learn what we can do to change the things we don’t like. With the recent release of the amazing David Attenborough’s ‘A Life on our planet’ on Netflix and ‘Extinction’ on BBC – perhaps you might want to delve deeper into discovering some documentaries to motivate you to make some changes today.
Taking responsibility for how we choose to work and live is the first step in how we can all make the world a better place. A key part of that is educating ourselves on what is happening in the world around us and what we can do to make things better. I hope you enjoy my selection, and if you have any recommendations I would love to see them in the comments below.
1. A Life on our Planet
David Attenborough is pretty much a national treasure in the UK, if not all over the world. This documentary highlights not only the huge changes in the world that have affected wildlife and the environment, but what we can do to address some of the big challenges that we now face.
One of the conversations he addresses in the documentary is how our food is produced and how it affects the world around us. WWF says the UK food supply alone is directly linked to the extinction of about 33 species at home and abroad. It’s amazing to think how much of a difference we could make but just changing how we shop for our everyday food. (If you are interested in shopping plastic free – check out my guide to my plastic free grocery shopping guide as well as my guide to online plastic free and zero waste websites)
2. Happy – Available on Netflix or buy for $19.99 or rent $2.99 for three days
I watched this documentary for the first time back in 2016 not really having much insight into the topic or what it was about – bar the name. This film travels around the world, using real people’s stories of what happiness means to them. They pull all this together with tons of scientific research. My favourite fact from the movie, which I use to this day, is this. 50% of your happiness is based on your genetic makeup. 40% can be developed through intentional activity. 10% is based on your external circumstances you may or may not be able to control.
With that in mind, why do so many people complain about the 10% they can’t control instead of working on the 40% that they can?
This is a great deep dive into happiness and how to have a happier life. In fact, it was the inspiration for me to travel overland to Bhutan in 2017 to write a book about Happiness!
Minimalism is often confused by people to mean just having less things. But it is so much more than that.
I have identified as a Minimalist for years. It’s a direct move against compulsory consumption. It’s about stopping businesses telling you what you need and what you want and deciding it for yourself. Yes, it’s about getting rid of things that you don’t need but it’s also about buying things intentionally.
It’s a way to take control of your life and how you choose to spend it. Minimalism looks at the very real link between our time and money and how by spending money on things that we don’t need we have to give up our precious time.
If you struggle with money or feeling you don’t have enough time to do the things you want, watch this. This documentary will help change your mindset on what is truly important and help you take control of your finances and time.
4. The Great Hack
I’ll be honest, I found this one a hard watch. I actually watched this in two sittings – it’s a lot to take in especially, if like me, you didn’t have much knowledge how social media companies use our data.
At the beginning of 2020, I deleted my social media accounts. I was finding that I was comparing myself to a lot of other business people. I was more worried about how many people were interacting with me on social media then on what I was creating. The reality is, social media is here to stay.
We all need to be informed of what information we are getting online and how our information can be used. Unfortunately as the documentary states ‘if you are not using a service for free buying a product you are the product’
5. Hail, Satan
Don’t get confused. This is not about devil worshippers.
Hail, Satan delves into American Politics in a way I had never thought of. The film follows the co-founder Lucien Greaves as he battles against christian values creeping into American law. The film makes an important point that the church and law should be separate. Lucien an articulate leader, explaining why the Church Of Satan is so important to the freedom of all Americans.
I imagine lots of people who watch this will be tempted to join the cause, making this all the more interesting.
This film focuses on the incredible conservation work taking place at the Congo’s Virunga National Park. To be honest, I started watching this documentary because of my love of gorillas, with no insight into the story behind it and how political it would become.
The Director explores how economical and political issues surrounding oil exploration affect the park and I was shocked to see the enemy of the story as a UK based oil company.
Home to the worlds last mountain gorillas, it is vital that this land is kept safe. Virunga is a stark reminder of the fragility of the environment and our effect on it as humans. As well as winning countless awards when released in 2014, it is now being made into a feature film with Leonardo DiCaprio directing.
This is one of the most sobering of the documentaries on this list when it comes to how we treat each other. 13th delves into how the American prison system is built on racial inequality and looks at solutions to this problem.
I think the best thing to do to stop us making mistakes in the future, is to be honest and look at the mistakes of the past. I found this documentary a really hard watch. Sometimes a problem can seem so huge it’s impossible to work out how to solve it. The hard work of amazing activists in the US is motivating to watch.
Understanding an issue like this is so important to help us all look at ways we can make the world better.
8. Food Inc
Something we do everyday, several times a day, is eat. While this is a US centric documentary, many of the practices and systems are the same worldwide.
Food Inc looks at how the food industry works. It provides the tools to help us, as consumers to be able to make more educated decisions when we go grocery shopping. Often we can feel that we are helpless when fighting against big industries but the blame is put squarely with them in this documentary.
While the food industry may be displaying irresponsible behaviour when it comes to how the planet is being treated, that doesn’t mean we need to. We can vote not only by voting for greener policies but also with the food we buy.
9. Inside Bills Brain
This one is a bit of a cheat as it is a docu-series rather then a one off. It delves into the life of Bill Gates, how he grew his business, his habits and how he spends his days now.
There are loads of habits of Bill Gates that are worth trying to implement in your own life – including being a huge reader and making sure he is always learning. He even releases a list every year of his favourite books. He also makes time for his friends every week with a weekly bridge game. Though his best mate is fellow billionaire Warren Buffett!
Bill Gates aims to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, including trying to completely cure polio and provide clean nuclear energy. An interesting look into the mind of a genius along with a reminder how important it is to keep learning and do deep focused work.
10. My Octopus Teacher
A recent addition to Netflix, it took me a while to watch this thanks to a fear of octopus since childhood. But I am glad I did.
This focuses around the relationship between an award winning film maker and an octopus. Yep, you heard that right. At a time when Craig, the film maker is struggling to find purpose in his life he begins free diving every day.
Not all of us are lucky to live in Cape Town with access to such an incredible underwater world. But it is a reminder that we need to be more in touch with the world around us. With so many of us working from home or using the car to get to work, when was the last time you simply went on a walk in a park or countryside near you.
Whatever you feel about the emotions between Craig and the Octopus (it’s a… confusing one) one thing is clear. The more in touch with our natural environment we are the better and more connected you feel.
I’d love to hear if you have seen any of these and what you liked about them? Or perhaps you have seen a documentary you think I will enjoy?
Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to sign up to the community newsletter to get my articles sent straight to your inbox.