The Search For Happiness
19 December 2017
Picking up the November 2017 issue of National Geographic, my eye was caught by an article – “These Are the World’s Happiest Places,” by Dan Buettner. The article focuses on three individuals from three distinctly different countries (at the top of the scale for happiness): Alejandro Zúñiga, of Costa Rica; Sidse Clemmensen, of Denmark; and Douglas Foo, of Singapore.
These three individuals represent three different “strands” of happiness which, braided together in complementary and harmonious ways, create lasting joy in living – or, as the French put it, joie de vivre. Buettner calls these strands “pleasure,” “purpose,” and “pride.” Going further, he describes the particular happiness each of these three individuals derive from their daily lives:
Mr. Zúñiga enjoys the pleasure of living the Costa Rican life – simple but full, a life minimizing stress and maximizing joy.
Ms. Clemmensen enjoys the Danish emphasis on purpose – secure in the knowledge that her family’s daily needs are covered, she pursues her passions in her work and her leisure.
Mr. Foo, driving a $750,000 BMW and living in a $10 million mansion, proudly enjoys the satisfaction he derives from the success with which Singapore has rewarded his years of hard work and accomplishment.
While happiness doesn’t come in a “one-size-fits-all” package, a recent report by World Happiness finds that about three-quarters of human happiness is driven by six factors:
• Strong economic growth
• Healthy life expectancy
• Quality social relationships
• Freedom to live the life that’s right for you
The question, then, is: how do we, as individuals, leverage these factors to help us live happier lives?
One approach would be to first, look at your life – what is it that you really want to do – what gives you joy, what gives you purpose, what gives you a sense of pride and satisfaction?
In his first book, “The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Mr. Buettner describes nine factors shared by those who’ve lived the longest and happiest lives:
• Move Naturally – walk to work, ride a bike, walk to a friend’s house, or to church.
• Purpose – have a purpose, know that purpose – this extends your life expectancy, on average, by seven years.
• Down Shift – the world’s longest-lived people have routines which shed stress – remember your ancestors, pray, take a nap – relax!
• The 80% Rule – stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. Eat an early, light dinner.
• Plant Slant – beans, including fava beans, black beans, soybeans, and lentils, are the cornerstones of most Blue Zone diets.
• Meat – (mostly pork) is eaten, on average four times a month.
• Wine – moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, with “moderate” defined as one to two glasses of wine daily, with friends and family, or with food (I, for one, was happy to hear that!).
• Belong – all but five of the 263 centenarians interviewed for the book belong to a faith-based community – denomination seems to have no bearing on the matter.
• Loved Ones First – people who live the longest put their families first – they keep aging parents and grandparents nearby (which also lowers disease and mortality rates for children).
• Right Tribe – the social networks of these longest-lived people promote and favorably shape their healthy behaviors.
By being conscious of what we want out of life, what gives us purpose, and what gives us joy, we can extend our healthy life expectancy and grow our happiness.
Plant your happiness in good soil, give it the best nutrients you can, and watch it grow!