Happiness Lessons from the Blue Zones

I am lucky to live close enough to my office to walk to work. It ends up being about a thirty minute commute each way and I typically listen to a podcast or audiobook on the way.

My latest audiobook listen was The Blue Zones of Happiness, by Dan Buettner. I found it to be a well researched and interesting read (well, listen, I guess) with a ton of great practical advice for a happier life.

The main conclusions for increasing your happiness were summed up in a list of the ‘Power 9’ lessons for happiness. These provide some excellent fodder for lifestyle experiments! I thought it would be interesting to evaluate where I’m at for each of these ideas and opportunities to improve. Here we go…

Lesson: Inner Circle

Having at least three close friends who are happy people will make you happier.

Where I’m At: 6/10

As someone who would likely be described as very introverted, this is an area I could work on. My friends are generally happy people, but I can easily forget to prioritize social time. When I do spend time with friends, it almost always increases my happiness.

Future Goals: Spend more time with friends. Put in the effort to get closer to existing friends and make new ones.

Lesson: Engage

The key here is being part of a group or community with shared interests. This could be a club, team, volunteer organization or religious group.

Where I’m At: 0/10

I’ll have to give myself a big fail on this one. I don’t currently belong to any clubs, teams or other groups. Something to work on!

Future Goals: Show up more and become part of the community at my favourite yoga studio. Try out volunteering. Brainstorm other group-friendly interests to explore.

Lesson: Sleep Seven Plus

Getting adequate sleep is so important for everything you do in life!

Where I’m At: 10/10!

I’m tracking my sleep with my Fitbit and doing well at getting at least 7.5 hours.

Future Goals: Keep tracking my sleep. Look at experimenting with some lifestyle interventions to optimize this even more.

Lesson: Shape Surroundings

This is a big one, as it refers to setting up all aspects of your life to favour happiness. The idea is to make the happier options easy so that drastic behaviour modification or relying solely on willpower is not required. This can be everything from living in a walkable community, to finding the right job, to setting up routines and daily habits.

Where I’m At: 7/10

I’ve made great progress on this in the last few years. My lifestyle is set up to encourage exercise and healthy food choices, minimize stress and maximize sleep, but there’s always room for improvement!

Future Goals: Keep experimenting with designing a happier life and document it here at Calling In Well!

Happiness Lessons and Goals

Lesson: Love Someone

Being in a happy marriage or committed relationship is a huge predictor of happiness.

Where I’m At: 10/10!

I feel incredibly fortunate to have been very happily married for seven years (and together for fourteen!).

Future Goals: Don’t take my most important relationship for granted. Practice gratitude

Lesson: Right Community

Where you live can greatly influence your happiness. Living in a community that is safe and walkable, with green spaces and easy access to healthy food makes a big difference.

Where I’m At: 10/10!

Despite the rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest, I love where I live and it excels in all the criteria mentioned above.

Future Goals: Enjoy where I live and practice gratitude. Make an effort to get outside (and take sunny vacations if possible) in the rainy months.

Lesson: Move Naturally

I think everyone realizes that exercise is good for you, and especially for your mood! Getting at least thirty minutes a day is key, and it doesn’t have to be in the form of a traditional gym workout.

Where I’m At: 10/10!

My walking commute covers the thirty minute requirement, but I also really enjoy working on my fitness. Currently, I’m into yoga and at-home P90X workouts.

Future Goals: Keep it up! Switch up the workouts and set new goals every few months.

Lesson: Learn Likability

Happiness is contagious, and good social skills can go a long way. Traits like generosity, empathy, good listening skills and positivity, are all associated with increased wellbeing.

Where I’m At: 7/10

This is something I’ve been working on. I would say I’m generally fairly likeable (I hope so!) but could work on generosity and combatting negative thoughts.

Future Goals: Continue my meditation practice and work on being mindful of thoughts. Cultivate generosity, kindness and empathy.

Lesson: Look Forward

Happier people tend to set goals and monitor their progress.

Where I’m At: 9/10

I love setting goals and monitoring progress, and this is something I want to continue to improve, with the help of this blog!

Future Goals: Hmmm, a goal about goal setting…let’s just go with it. I want to explore some new methods (apps?) to track and monitor progress and also make sure I’m reassessing my goals and progress regularly.

How are you doing on these nine steps to increase happiness? What goals would you like to work on?

Thanks for reading!

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