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Four Happy Places

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Four Happy Places

By Courtney Helgoe, Experience Life

When National Geographic sent explorer and journalist Dan Buettner abroad in 2007 to research the secrets of the world’s longest-lived societies, he interviewed one scrappy centenarian from the seat of her exercise bike. Another beat him at arm wrestling. The citizens of what Buettner subsequently called the globe’s “Blue Zones” not only demonstrated an unusual capacity for longevity, they also displayed an extraordinarily positive outlook and zest for life.

In his first best-selling book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (National Geographic, 2008), Buettner touched on the intrinsic role this sort of joie de vivre seemed to have on longevity. Then he decided to dig deeper and make an exploration of the world’s “happiness hot spots” the central focus of his newest book, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way (National Geographic, 2010).

Thanks to a decade-worth of surveys measuring well-being on a global scale, National Geographic researchers already knew where these hots spots were located. Buettner’s investigative mission: finding out what accounted for the happy lots of these residents, and how the rest of us could leverage some of their central lessons on satisfaction — regardless of where we live.

Apparently, longitude and latitude aren’t the deciding factors. The locales Buettner investigated (Denmark, Singapore, northeastern Mexico and San Luis Obispo, Calif.) are notably diverse, geographically and culturally.

Each society faces different but daunting inherent challenges, like months of winter darkness, prohibitive property costs or rampant police corruption. Still, they share a sense of well-being that comes mostly from ordinary, daily routines and rituals (many involving friends and family), combined with a collective quality of life — one not tied to individual surpluses of money or professional power.

We often mistakenly try to measure happiness by life’s high points, Buettner says, yet the hot spots suggest that “lived happiness” usually derives from mundane, repeated acts and moments too ordinary to attract notice. Like regularly walking to the store instead of driving. Like enjoying your work. Like feeling safe on the street at night.

Buettner’s hope is that by better understanding the everyday habits and attitudes of happy people around the world, we’ll all stand a better chance at becoming happier ourselves. We can stop looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and put our energy to more worthwhile and rewarding uses instead.

Here’s just a little of what Buettner learned, and what he’d like us all to know, about the four happiest places on Earth.

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4:42PM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

Interesting, thanks for sharing

11:12PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

oddly not a single disney park was mentioned..... interesting.....

5:33AM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Interesting, food for thought.

1:03PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Fresh air, community, enjoying life and feeling safe while doing it. Glad to hear the suggestions that came in this article.

2:11AM PDT on Aug 18, 2013


2:20AM PDT on Aug 12, 2013

Thank you :)

3:50AM PDT on Jul 10, 2013

Thank you. We need more places like these...

6:09PM PDT on Jul 9, 2013

Have never been to any of these places, maybe if I ever get rich enough to travel I will visit them all. I agree with those that said happiness should be found withn. For years I wasted time looking for the so-called rainbow of happiness over the next hill. I've scaled mountains and never been completely content. Until I slowed down and began looking at myself; inside myself.

I found that if we are not content with ourselves, do not like ourselves, then we will not be happy. My children and grandchildren make me happy - but it's fleeting, unless you live with them 24/7. When you go home you are alone with yourself and that's when happiness and contentment come through - or lack thereof.

I am content for the most part, but still have some things to work on before true happiness will shine thru - an ongoing process, which has been both eyeopening and frustrating, especially when I find something within I didn't realize about myself - not always positive. Of course, there's the need to make changes - also not always a positive experience, but worth it.

4:11PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

wonder why the lesson from Mexico is to go to church & believe in something outside ourselves... The ladies met w/ each other & enjoyed each other's company. It had nothing to do w/ churches - they can be very unpleasant places. Over in Florida a lady who had attended for more than30yrs disagreed w/ the pastor about something and he told her to "shut up" because her role was to be quiet & only have an opinion if she was asked for one". Well, the poor lady was in shock but continued going to church,I guess because she had no other friends. I would never show up again, but that's me.

3:44PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013


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These are all pretty easily remedied!

Thank you

Very good advice, thank you.


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