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Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 19, 2010
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|Nordea Bank in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of Europe’s largest banks. The owners believe that a well-lit, well-designed workspace makes for a more efficient and profitable workforce. Its corporate headquarters and philosophy are typical of most large Danish companies. Photo by David McLain||The Rabbit Jumping Association in Arhus, Denmark, is 30 members strong and partially funded by the municipality. Approximately 96% of Danes belong to a vast array of associations that have served to institutionalize social networking and reinforce a sense of community and belonging. Photo by David McLain||A government-sponsored outing for young couples called “Movies on the Beach” is designed to promote love. In Singapore, the government plays a heavy-handed role in social policy, promoting everything from love to cleanliness in a seemingly endless array of social education campaigns. Photo by David McLain||Approximately 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing and approximately 90% own their own home, giving Singapore one of the highest rates of home ownership anywhere on Earth. Photo by David McLain||Making room for bikes is the only way to go in San Luis Obispo, Calif., a town that prides itself in making recreation and social interaction easier. Newer establishments often have a bike valet service. Photo by Dan Buettner|
About the Author
Dan Buettner is an internationally recognized researcher, explorer, and author. He founded Blue Zones™, a project of Quest Network, Inc., to research and publicize the world's best practices in health, longevity, and happiness. As a pioneer in exploration and education, he has traveled the world to answer some of science's biggest questions. Buettner's National Geographic cover story on Blue Zones was one of the top-selling covers in the magazine's history and his 2008 book, The Blue Zones, hit The New York Times bestseller list.
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Regardless, I enjoyed reading the book and made a few pages note that reminded me of good quotes. I appreciate the author’s effort.
If I hadn't known one of this places so well I would have probably enjoyed the book a lot, but I really think that the author's experience is very misleading.
Author Dan Buettner distilled ideas from books and interviews from world experts on happiness, which is measured subjectively by interviews and surveys. One expert declares that 50% of our happiness is determined genetically, 10% by life circumstances, and 40% by our thoughts and actions.
The author takes us on a tour of four of the happiest places on the planet, interviewing people from each region, and summarizing what it is that makes them so happy. One of the happiest places is Denmark, where high taxes are the price for security--no one fears not having enough for retirement, students actually get PAID to go to the university, and everyone trusts the government and each other. The disparity between rich and poor is minimal and there is a near equal status among all. Even the garbage collector earns $80,000 a year and works only 21 hours a week! Most people work only 37 to 40 hours a week. We learn from them that tolerance, trust, equality, and a balanced life are important for happiness.
Next stop is Singapore. How can people be happy in a government which still uses caning (severe thrashing that causes bleeding) and hanging as punishments? From them we learn the importance of security. Their administraion is also paid a lot, so government corruption is nil. Their booming economy, which has multiplied by about 11 times in the past century, inspires a desire for cash, credit, condos, club memberships, and cars--and there is ample opporutnity for all. Racial harmony is the norm among the Chinese, Indians and Malays. The government provides jobs instead of welfare for the poor, increasing their self esteem and sense of purpose ("workfare, not welfare"). When I was there in the 1980s, I noted the streets are so clean you can eat off them--even gum is illegal. There are no ghettos in Singapore. There are also tax incentives to keep the elderly in a family.
Our next happy spot is Mexico, where we learn the importance of social life (which is often 9 hours a day!!), laughing (they laugh at sickness, poverty, and the corruption of their government and police), and being part of a religious community.
Finally we visit San luis Obispo in California, which has become a happiness hotspot due to an asethetically pleasing downtown, farmer's markets, thriving arts, less pollution, and an environment conducive to socializing and health. For example, there are many bike lanes, smoking and drive through restaurants are mostly banned, and there are plenty of walking places by nature.
The latter part of the book puts together all the lessons we can learn from these happy people. It is broken down into 6 areas: community, workplace, social life, financial life, home, and self. For example, we learn that a commute diminishes happiness to the extend that one would need a 40% increase in salary to compensate for a one-hour commute. But having a boss you get along with goes a long way. Having just one happy person in your life increases your own happiness by 9%. We should chase after intrinsic happiness (which comes from things like challenging or rewarding work and social life) instead of extrinsic happiness (fleeting highs from shopping, getting an award, wearing the latest fashions, etc.)
I learned some pretty shocking things while reading this book. For example, the place you live influences your happiness more than any factor, including income, education level, religion. Joining a group that meets once a month will increase your happiness as much as doubling your income. A family of four that makes $5,000 a month will not increase happiness by earning more money. (The assumption is that after your basic needs are met, money doesn't add to happiness.) The sun increases happiness by increasing your vitamin D level, a vitamin that boosts endorphins and serotonin. TV and the Internet have decreased our happiness because they have stolen our social life.
Read this book if you want exhaustive insights into what can make you happier!