The Blue Zones of Happiness: How to Design a Happier Life

December 22, 2017

“This is a book about designing your life to make it happier.”

With a description like that, how could I resist picking up this book?

There’s plenty of food for thought in Dan Buettner’s new book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People (2017, National Geographic). Buettner, the author of several best-sellers about the “Blue Zones”—five places in the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives—focuses this book on what makes people live happier, not just longer. He introduces readers to some of the happiest people in the happiest cities in the world, shares the research-based “Three P’s of Happiness” (pleasure, purpose, and pride), and plenty of strategies and suggestions for creating healthier and happier habits for a greater sense of lasting well-being.

I especially liked the recognition that there are multiple factors that boost happiness. I think everyone is different in what makes them truly happy, and it’s reassuring to think that if one area of your life isn’t bringing satisfaction, other areas can help to make up for it. 

Other takeaways:

1. We should set up our lives to make it easier to feel happy—no willpower involved. We have finite amounts of willpower, and even something as seemingly no-brainer as doing something to make yourself happy shouldn’t rely on willpower:

“What does lead to greater happiness is making changes to your surroundings—to your home, workplace, community, and ultimately your nation. The more you design your home to favor good habits, the better your family will feel simply by living in it. The more friends you make at work the more you’ll look forward to getting the job done. The more your community nudges you out from behind the steering wheel and onto your feet, the better you’ll feel. The more trust you put in your government, the more secure you’ll feel. The challenge is to reshape your life so that you’re constantly being nudged into well-being.”

2. How many moments of happiness we should have to offset negative experiences and feelings:

“Moments of joy, serenity, or inspiration can be easily quashed by worries, doubts, and demands. As a result of their urgency, negative emotions such as fear or anxiety packed a bigger punch than positive ones such as amusement or awe. So people who want to experience an upward spiral of positive experiences could start by organizing their days to include at least three ‘heartfelt’ positive feelings for every ‘heart-wrenching’ negative one. That appears to be the difference between people who are flourishing and those who aren’t, [Barbara] Fredrickson said.”

3. Seeking happiness doesn’t just benefit us—it helps others, too. People who experience more happiness are more resilient when setbacks occur. And happiness ripples through social circles, so that if you become happier, you will likely help those who know and love you become happier also.

4. Happiness boosters, if done too often, can become routine and fail to provide the positive feelings we seek. Learn which happiness boosters to try and how often, and keep varying them.

There are plenty of suggestions throughout the book of practical (though not always easy) steps to take in order to boost happiness. Towards the end, you’ll find the “Happiness Power Nine,” which includes such things as sleeping 7.5 hours+ a night, engaging with the world by getting out of your house and participating in a club or team, volunteering, living in a community that supports well-being, and looking forward by setting goals and monitoring your progress.

If you’re interested in creating a happier life—one of true well-being, not just superficial pleasure—The Blue Zones of Happiness is a worthwhile read.

Please share your happiness habits in the comments below!

For more information:
Take the Happiness Test to see how you rate on the Three P’s of Happiness 

The Blues Zones of Happiness website

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