Author of The New York Times bestseller BLUE ZONES
Are there places around the globe that actually nurture happiness?
Groundbreaking new book explores four parts of the world where people are happiest and reveals cultural dimensions and personal habits that contribute to the unusually high level of well-being.
“A must read for living happier. Dan Buettner has found the world’s happiest places and brought back the secrets to living a fulfilling life. This guide tells us exactly what changes we need to make — and best of all — they’re easy.”
— Dr. Oz
WASHINGTON (Oct. 21, 2010)—What lifestyle secrets can we learn from the world’s happiest people? In THRIVE (National Geographic Books; ISBN 978-4262-0762-4; Nov. 2, 2010; $26), New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner reports on the surprising findings from his five-year global study of the keys to personal happiness. In addition to sharing his extraordinary insights of the world’s happiest people, Buettner examines how their lifestyles and varied environments explain their extraordinary well-being. Finally — and most importantly — Buettner details how to incorporate these powerful characteristics into our daily routine so that we, too, can THRIVE.
Various scientific data measuring happiness all point to the same handful of places around the world where people experience the highest levels of satisfaction and well-being. In a quest to determine their unique lifestyles and secrets to happiness — and how to adapt these secrets to fit our lives — the National Geographic Society sent Buettner on assignment to the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark; the Mexican state of Nuevo León; San Luis Obispo, Calif., where Buettner found arguably the happiest people in America; and perhaps most counter-intuitively, the highly regulated city of Singapore, which is the happiest of the four regions that Buettner profiles in the book.
To unravel the mystery of how these four geographic pockets, and specifically their culture, geography, government policies and behavior of their citizens, stack the deck in favor of happiness, Buettner plumbs the most comprehensive databases — tens of millions of data points collected over the past 70 years and representing 95 percent of the world’s population — to determine which factors most directly impact happiness. He also draws on the expertise of social scientists, economists, politicians, writers, demographers, physiologists, anthropologists and even comedians in each location.
But to fully demonstrate what it means to thrive, Buettner shares the stories of remarkable individuals — a real estate tycoon, a homemaker, a lawyer, a teacher, a prime minister, a businesswoman, a wine maker, a faith healer, a talk show host and a garbage collector — people who rank themselves as very happy now (at least an 8 on a scale of 10) and who believe they will be even happier in the next five years. These people are called Thrivers. They embody the lifestyles that explain the world’s highest levels of well-being. Through them and Buettner’s in-depth profiles of each culture, four portraits of happiness emerge.
In Denmark, Buettner illustrates that the path to happiness isn’t about scaling peaks of emotional highs, but rather living at a high plateau of satisfaction. He debunks the cliché that the secret to Danish happiness is low expectations. Danes actually have high expectations. They surround themselves with trustworthy friends and are trustworthy themselves. They tend to specialize in high-flow careers and work passionately, but also have time to devote to friends, family, engaging hobbies and community clubs.
You may wonder what Singapore — an engineered Utopia of sorts — can teach us about happiness. According to THRIVE, Singaporeans cite security as the most important factor in their happiness. After a rare interview with Lee Kwan Yew, the mastermind behind the country’s well-being and extraordinary prosperity, Buettner points out that maximum happiness does not mean maximum freedom. In Singapore, ethnic harmony has been praised as one of the best parts of living there.
Despite serious problems in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, such as malnutrition, lack of education, high levels of corruption, poor civic development and questionable governance, the data point to this region as having the highest level of happiness in the Americas. Based on his research, Buettner explains that this is due to several cultural and geographic elements, including the “sun bonus” (a term statisticians use to explain higher levels of happiness in sunny areas), a unique brand of humor that enables the people to effectively shed stress, a cultural preference for social interaction over wealth accumulation and unusually high levels of religiosity.
Lastly, via the city of San Luis Obispo, Calif., which had the highest level of overall well-being in the United States according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™, Buettner shows how an American community can proactively change to create an environment where people live happier lives. Not only does the town have an aggressive green belt, it also supports the arts, favors pedestrians, makes self-employment easy, and has made the town square an icon of civic pride and a place to meet socially.
Buettner explains that throughout these vastly different regions, there are distinct commonalities among the individuals who thrive — and they’re not what you think. “Too often, we connect physical beauty, financial success and the esteem of our peers to happiness,” he says. “But the evidence I found while exploring regions that rank as world leaders in happiness and getting to know the people who consistently experience unusually high levels of life satisfaction and well-being points in a different direction.” The people profiled in THRIVE tend to possess enough money to cover their basic needs and focus their energy on developing a caring group of healthy friends. They often eschew status in order to work in meaningful jobs. They take time for many short vacations and engage in enriching hobbies. They stay in reasonable shape, volunteer and belong to faith-based communities.
But does this mean we need to move to Singapore or quit our job to become a garbage collector in Denmark to be happier? Not at all. As Buettner makes clear in his book, the secret to finding a higher level of happiness is to make small, but permanent, changes to our environment that favor well-being — such as picking the right job, preferably close to home; living in a quiet environment; socializing for at least seven hours a day; developing an appreciation for the arts or a sport; and owning just one TV and watching it not more than an hour a day. THRIVE, a compelling and research-backed guide, shows us exactly what areas of our lives we need to focus on.
About the author:
Dan Buettner is an internationally recognized research, explorer and author. He founded Blue Zones®, a lifestyle brand specializing in individual health products and community well-being programs. As a pioneer in exploration and education, he has traveled the world to find the best practices in health, longevity and happiness. Buettner’s November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story on longevity, “The Secrets of Living Longer,” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. His 2008 book, “The Blue Zones,” was a New York Times bestseller.
More about Dan Buettner and his work applying healthy lifestyle principles:
This fall, Dan Buettner and his partner, Healthways, will begin applying the principles of BLUE ZONES and THRIVE to an American city to measurably increase life expectancy and well-being. Buettner’s previous community health program, the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project, won nationwide praise. Writing in Newsweek, Walter Willet of Harvard University’s School of Public Health called the results “stunning.”