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The road to happiness

Bill FoxBy Bill Fox/Columnist

As mentioned in a previous column Dan Buettner has been working for years to identify hot spots around the globe where people enjoy exceptionally long, happy, and healthy lives.  He calls these places “Blue Zones.” Buettner thinks people everywhere can adapt the habits and practices common to these Blue Zones.

Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow and a bestselling author.  He is an explorer, educator, author, producer, storyteller and public speaker and is the founder of the concept of  “Blue Zones”.

According to researchers, the five geographic areas where people live statistically longest are:  Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece) and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.  He offers an explanation, based on empirical data and first hand observations, as to why these populations, in general, live healthier and longer lives.  He says, “When a community takes steps toward health and longevity, the people living there grow happier as well.”

So towards the end of his book, “The Blue Zones of Happiness” he lists nine common traits of the happiest people in these communities.  In very general terms I have listed these here:

  1. The happiest people loved someone compatible with their own interests and values.  Of course the opposite is true in that loners are mostly unhappy. I recently read about other studies showing that even dog owners are happier and have a better chance of living a happier, longer life.
  2. The happiest had an inner circle of at least three happy friends that they could depend upon in times of need.  Each happy friend you have could increase your own happiness by 15 per cent.  Many of our parents were concerned at times about the less than great company we kept as youngsters…same goes here.
  3. They get out of their houses and join teams, clubs, or organizations that interest them.  This includes volunteering and being involved in a faith community.
  4. People learned to be likable by cultivating generosity, empathy and developed positive social skills.  “Happiness and unhappiness are contagious and they both start with you”.
  5. The happiest people had a daily routine of physical activity.  It’s recommended we exercise 30 minutes a day, not necessarily in a gym but just by walking, etc.
  6. Buettner’s team found that the happiest people would, “Focus on meaningful things, set goals, and monitor progress”.
  7. Sleep seven plus hours nightly.  If you sleep less than six hours a night, a Gallup poll indicated you are 30 per cent less happy than if you slept a full eight hours.
  8. Set up your surroundings to create happiness.  This could be by doing positive things to your home or workplace, or by organizing your finances, social networking or having an inner spiritual peace or religious affiliation.  Happiness can also be enhanced by choosing a home near nature, and by having lots of plants in your home.
  9. Choose to live in a community that supports your well-being.  Educational opportunities and parks such as we have in Oshawa are a start, but there are many more suggestions I may again expand upon in a future column.

Finally try to build positive feelings such as awe, joy, love, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement and inspiration and happiness will come easier rather than with negative feelings such as fear, anger, etc.

Again I highly recommend you read “The Blue Zones of Happiness” and suggest that it become mandatory reading for students, and their teachers!