I’m reading a book called “The Blue Zones of Happiness” by Dan Buettner. The premise is that there are secrets to attaining greater degrees of happiness which can be identified and replicated by studying some of the places that have the world’s happiest people. The qualities, habits, and characteristics of these so-called “Blue Zones” can, in some ways, be applied to our lives individually, but can also be implemented in our communities to improve overall quality of life.
Buettner identifies overlapping “strands” in these super-happy places around the globe, things like strong local connections with family and friends, availability of healthy food, owning a dog, access to nature, and quality healthcare, and lays out ways community planning and policy-setting can create, or strengthen, those strands.
It’s fascinating to consider the idea that overall happiness — which the authors of the Declaration of Independence thought important enough to include with “life” and “liberty” as unalienable rights for all — can be improved through policy changes at a governmental level by officials with emotional and intellectual maturity who can set aside their egos and desire for power long enough to make decisions for the greater good of all, long-term. Fascinating with a side of despair, as things currently stand.
We might not be able to do much to improve policy on a national or state level at this point, but we are all the governors of our own lives and households. We choose what we focus on, and what we focus on becomes amplified and magnified in our lives, not always to our benefit.
According to Buettner, we can implement policies for ourselves that will improve our personal pursuit of happiness, and by doing so, it might just spread to our neighbors, our cul-de-sacs, our subdivisions, and so on.
Most of us “pursue happiness” the same way we gamble… with wishful thinking and a sense that it’s all out of our hands. What if we could pursue happiness on purpose, by design? What if, instead of expending so much energy getting agitated by social media or the talking heads on cable news, we spent some of our limited energy making incremental changes to increase our happiness?
Buy yourself flowers. Take a walk. Visit a friend. Meditate. Make a list of goals. Sit down and savor a good meal. Give yourself permission to go to bed early. Rearrange your furniture. Clean out your car. Join a club. Pay someone a compliment.
By NIKI TURNER | firstname.lastname@example.org