By Bill Fox/Columnist
Dan 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.” 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.”
According to researchers, the five geographic areas where people statistically live the longest are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece, and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. 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 common traits of the happiest people in these communities. In very general terms, I have listed these here and added a few extra ones I have researched:
-The happiest people loved someone compatible with their own interests and values. Of course the opposite is true in that loners are the unhappiest. I recently read about other studies showing that even pet owners are happier and have a better chance of living a happier, longer life, especially if their pet needs to be exercised.
-The happiest had an inner circle of at least three happy friends that they could depend upon in times of need. I recall that many of our parents were concerned at times about the less than great company we kept as youngsters…the same lesson applies here. Remember negativity breeds negativity. Harold, a good friend, sometimes characterizes negative people as in their minds saying, “poor me, poor me, pour me a drink!” Research has shown, especially during COVID, drinking to excess doesn’t help.
-The happiest people get out of their homes and join teams, clubs, or organizations that interest them. Right now this may have to be done virtually but there are plenty of options online. This also includes volunteering and being involved in a faith community.
-People learned to be likable by cultivating generosity, empathy and, therefore, developed positive social skills. “Happiness and unhappiness are contagious and they both start with you.”
-The happiest people in “The Blue Zones” had a daily routine of physical activity. It’s recommended we exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day, not necessarily in a gym but just by walking, etc.
-Buettner’s team found that the happiest people would “focus on meaningful things, set goals, and monitor progress.”
-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.
-Happiness in the study was also enhanced by choosing a home near nature, and by having lots of plants in our homes. Luckily in Oshawa, we have nature abounding within walking distance for most of us.
-Choose to live in a community that supports your well-being. We are fortunate to have many educational opportunities and parks in Durham Region.
-Try out “Plant-based Cookbooks! During the rest of the time we are locked down, try five plant-based meals, which you can even find online. I guarantee out of the five you are going to enjoy at least a few of them. I noticed now even Burger King in recent advertisements are promoting their plant-based burgers. You likely won’t taste the difference.
-Call somebody you like! Reach out to somebody who has helped you in your past. Force yourself to do a couple of phone calls, FaceTimes or Zooms during this lockdown period. I recently had a phone call from an old work friend from years ago – it made my day!
-Finally try to build positive feelings such as awe, joy, love, gratitude, and serenity. Hope, 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.
I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to reach out.