Internationally recognized researcher and explorer Dan Buettner founded Blue Zones to research the world’s best practices in health, longevity and happiness. His groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story, ” Secrets of Longevity.”
After studying longevity, Buettner wondered if there are global places that nurture happiness, similar to Blue Zones nurturing longevity. Buettner focused on people who rate themselves as very happy (at least 8 on a scale of 10). They also believe they’ll be happier in the next five years, an optimistic condition researchers describe as thriving. He details his discoveries in his new book entitled, Thrive: Finding Happiness The Blue Zones Way.
“The Truth About Happiness,” opens Thrive, highlighting findings from the new science of happiness experts. They answer questions, including, “Do we have any control over our happiness?” and “Can money buy happiness?” Buettner then begins his world journey to discover the secrets of happiness.
Denmark is a country of 5.5 million people, and one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita. Lifelong healthcare and education are free for all citizens; and the country touts a low unemployment rate of 4 percent.
Anyone earning $70,000 a year or more pays roughly 60 percent of their income to taxes. Danes accept this arrangement, allowing most residents to live moderately, with little disparity between the rich and poor. Danes believe in the common good; and frown upon status seekers.
Danes are trustworthy; believing in each other, as well as their government. It’s not uncommon to find baby carriages (with infants in tow); parked outside pedestrian businesses while parents shop.
Thirty-seven-hour workweeks are standard, with 6 weeks of vacation time. Family gatherings are important. Summer finds Danes active outdoors, and conversing, as opposed to watching TV. Winter’s 17-hour darkened days allow Danes to create candlelight events at home for relaxation.
Forty-mile-long, Asian island nation, Singapore, houses 5.1 million people. It’s one of the highest population densities in the world, with 19,000 people squeezed vertically into every mile.
Singaporeans are workaholics, in pursuit of the five C’s: cash, credit card, car, condominium, and club membership. Over the last 40 years, the wealth of the average Singaporean has multiplied 11times-the fastest growth of any economy in the world.
Residents willingly obey certain restrictions, like chewing gum and smoking, imposed by their paternalistic government, in exchange for greater safety and opportunity.
Like Denmark, Singapore has a low unemployment rate, with little differentiation between the rich and poor. Government owns 84 percent of the island properties.
Family ties are important and the government provides tax subsidies for those who care for their aging parents. Singaporeans trust the government, police force and other public officials; and they’re grateful for the positive things in their lives.
Despite having one of the highest disparities between the rich and poor, Mexicans are happy people. They maintain a balance between making a living and savoring life. They’re able to laugh in the face of hardship, making sickness, poverty and death more tolerable.
Family, health and faith in God (98 percent of Mexicans believe in a higher power) are important. Making just enough money suits Mexicans. They pursue simple contentment and count their blessings regularly. Being near the Equator, Mexico enjoys the sun bonus. Places with sunnier weather are slightly happier than their northern counterparts.
America’s happiest people include inhabitants of San Luis Obispo, California. A college town of 44,000, California Polytech students comingle with mostly middle-aged residents. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco; the area ranks number one in the nation for overall emotional health.
Visionary city planning in the 1960s, today finds the town thriving around a central mission plaza, closed to traffic. A farmer’s market, orchestra, and pedestrian shops are among the city’s assets. This wealthy town embraces numerous nonprofit organizations and volunteerism.
Public health and recreation are cultural gems. In 1990, San Luis Obispo was the first region in the world to place a ban on smoking in the workplace, including bars. Drive-thru restaurants too are relegated to the outskirts of town.
Thrive’s penultimate chapter, “Lessons in Thriving,” provides practical ways to boost your chance for happiness long term. Buettner forms them around six, interconnected Thrive Centers: Community, Workplace, Social life, Financial life, Home and Self. Suggestions to make sure you marry the right person, join a club and grow a garden are among his insights.
Buettner concludes with a Special Bonus chapter, entitled, “The Truth About Living Longer.” It’s excerpted from his book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.
Who doesn’t want to lead a happier, more authentic existence? Read Thrive and explore new ways to be joyful throughout your lifetime.
Visit Buettner’s Blue Zones; and discover your own True Happiness Compass, at http://www.bluezones.com.