Yesterday I went over to Grant Ave in Sennett to run some errands. On the way back I listened to NPR's Talk of the Nation. Neil Conan had a re-broadcast of an interview with Dan Buettner who wrote Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. I was fascinated.
His contention is that there are places on earth in which people are happier than others, and that happiness is in some part a function of what you do and where you live. Since I was driving, I couldn't take notes. But as with any project that is heard only auditorily, I grasped at items to remember that meant something to me. So of course I compared our lives in Central New York with his happiness claims.
He cited four cities that were the happiest statistically on each continent. Singapore was one, and I must admit I didn't pay much attention as to the why, as well as a city in Mexico, I believe. (Yes, get the book, as will I!)
Denmark (must have been a city attached) was quite happy, even with their 70% tax rate (take that, New York!). Or actually because of the 70% tax rate. Everything is done for them - all education through college is paid for, all medical care...the stress level is quite low so therefore the happiness level is quite high. They also have an equality of class and opportunity. The highest salaries are not far from the lowest, therefore all people live relatively well without a class struggle. No mansions vs. shacks, so therefore no envy.
San Luis Obispo was the city in the United States. As it happens, I drove there on a February break probably 18 years ago, helping a psychologist who was moving there. I saw "road trip" of the highest order, with an ending for me in San Francisco to see an old friend, and went for it. But San Luis Obispo, although on the ocean, was not what I had imagined, at least not in February! Trailers dotted the hillside, stores were sweet and small but mostly closed against the cold wind (but any place can have a bad day!)....Apparently a mayor was elected years ago who went about changing the culture to make it more stress-free - bike paths, community areas, etc. - and it seems to have worked. The residents exude well-being.
We have a great deal of the elements here in Central New York. We have short commutes, cited as a huge factor in contentment. We have access to the outdoors - easy access. We are close to water which seems to be important on the happiness scale. Safety is also a prime ingredient. And frankly, most of these boil down to reduction of stress...and you can find that here, near the water and outside in all weather.