Happiness in the Blue Zone

Research shows that our inclination to be happy is only 50% dependent on our genes.  So what if you weren’t born with the happiness gene?  The great news is that the other 50% is largely dependent on external factors and circumstances.  It is true that we can’t control everything that happens in life, but there may be a way to lean into a happier life. 

New York Times best selling author, Dan Buettner has been gaining a lot of publicity recently with his new book release, THRIVE: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. 

Buettner has teamed up with National Geographic to research some key happiness contributers and their relationship to longevity.  It has led them to areas known as the “Blue Zones”, where people are reporting a high level of wellbeing.  The team found that there were essentially six life domains, or thrive centers that were common denominators for life satisfaction.  They include the following:

1. Community – the places people thrived most were those that made them feel safe and those that provided opportunities to walk – cities that had large sidewalks, outdoor cafes, parks, and gardens (way to go, San Luis Obispo, CA! – noted to be the happiest place to live in the U.S.)

2. Work – Do you enjoy your work?  Do you work close to your home? Do you regularily take vacations?  Turns out that all three factors contribute to your wellness.

3. Social Life – I once read that you become the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with most.  If that were the case, wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with positive people?  Having a close knit of dependable friends is crucial for wellbeing, according to Beuttner.

4. Financial Life – apparently, the old saying “money can’t buy happiness” may be true.  According to the research, after the basic necessities of life are met (food, shelter, health insurance), money will bring about only short-lived happiness.  The key to long-term financial wellness is to “save mindlessly and spend thoughtfully”.

 5. Home – Creating an environment that is clear of clutter, planting a garden, and surrounding yourself with items that hold meaning to you will all facilitate a happy demenor.  Beuttner also recommends creating a room where you can engage yourself in challenging, yet meaningful activities/hobbies. 

6. Self – This takes us back to Monday’s post.  It is incredibly important to know your own strengths, values, talents, and passions.  Turns out that the people that were happiest in life knew what made them unique.

I think Beuttner’s book gives us a lot to think about.  It shows us that happiness is something that we can lean into by making a few adjustments in our life.  I can’t wait to read the whole book!

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Stretching our wings

When was the last time you really stretched your wings?  In other words, when did you push yourself a little bit beyond your comfort zone?  Taking a risk and challenging ourselves in our life journey is a big contributor to our wellness quotient.  It helps us to evolve and grow.  In my experience, it is the dichotomy between fear and exhiliration.  I remember making the decision to leave my hometown and  move to New York City for a while.  I was incredibly nervous  about the move , but, at the same time, the thought of moving excited me! (and, the experience was great!)

This week, I would like us all to stretch ourselves a little bit.  It could be as simple as driving a new route to/from work to something complex like finally making that decision to go back to school to pursue a dream.   There is a large range in between – maybe you want to take that salsa class or learn how to paint.  You might finally sign up for that 5K, 12K, or 1/2 marathon!  What is something new that you’ve been wanting to try?  Remember, you can’t fail!  Add some spice to your life this week by adding the ingredient of “risk” – a calculated one, nonetheless – to your wellness quotient.   Do ONE thing this week that stretches you.  It will send your soul flying!  ***Check back Monday for more reasons to stretch your wings****

Deepali’s piece of wellness:  You’ll never realize your true potential unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone.