Author and explorer Dan Buettner’s latest title, The Blue Zones of Happiness, just hit bookstores. In addition to reviewing the tome for our hot-off-the-presses autumn issue, we got his take on why happiness matters, why it often seems out of reach and how we can pursue more pleasure today.
My first Blue Zones book took a scientific approach at reverse engineering longevity; I hired demographers to identify the statistically longest lived areas and used established methodology to distill what people do in those areas to live so long. With The Blue Zones of Happiness, I applied the same technique to happiness. After all, what’s the sense of living a long time if you don’t enjoy the ride?
Why does happiness often seem out of reach?
Most of what we think brings us happiness is misguided or just plain wrong. In America, we spend too much time pursuing the wrong goals. We think, for instance, that driving 30 minutes to a job we don’t enjoy that pays well will enable us to buy some imagined better life in the future. But science now shows that we like a short commute as much as we like frequent sex — overall, we’re terrible at estimating what will actually bring us happiness.
Why is this book — and happiness in general — so important in today’s world?
We now know that there are several major measures of happiness: how satisfied we are with our lives; how much we enjoy life moment to moment and day to day; and our overall sense of purpose.
In this book, I show what favors each kind of happiness and suggest ways you can balance your happiness portfolio, just as you’d do with stocks, bonds and cash. At the national level, our leaders incorrectly focus on economic growth as a measurement of national well-being. For a rich country such as America, we’d get a much better return for our efforts by focusing on increasing trust, augmenting public health and creating more walkable, green cities.
What are your top three tips for people looking to jump start their happiness today?
No. 1: Make a new happy friend. It will increase your chances of happiness by 15%.
No. 2: Volunteer. Counterintuitively, even busy and unemployed people become happier through volunteering.
No. 3: Eat five servings of vegetables a day. Not only will this favor your health, but vegetarians are measurably happier.
Wondering where you stand on the happiness scale? Take Buettner’s True Happiness Test for an instant assessment and personalized recommendations.