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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Finding Happiness the Blue Zone Way

The book "Thrive, Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way" by Dan Buettner, was feature on NPR and talked about how people in Denmark are one of the happiest people in the world, partly due to all people's income being about the same no matter what their job. This leads to people choosing jobs they like rather than jobs that pay well. Well, for me, that was enough to make me want to read the book and learn more about happiness and the Danish culture.

The book is a National Geographic book, which, I hate to admit, surprised me. I guess I thought books from National Geographic were mostly about third world countries and primitive societies. But here was a book discussing a society that I had heard of and had products I had seen (like IKEA). It was a book I could relate to.

The book is well written and easy to understand. I embraced many of the authors concepts and started to think of how I could even make some changes in my own life to see how it would affect my own "happiness factor". When a book has that type of an affect on you, that is the ultimate compliment.

Here is a summary of the lessons the author shared regarding why people in Denmark are happier than other people:

Build an Environment of Trust
The Danes are the most trusting and trustworthy people on the globe.

The Danes are tolerant of other races and lifestyles. Danes were among the first to give women the vote, to allow gays to marry.

Seek Status Equality
In Denmark a garbage collector fits seamlessly into an upper class neighborhood. There is no pressure to keep up with the Joneses.

Seek Economic Equality
Denmark devotes about half its annual budget to smoothing out society’s inequities. Economic equality contributes to a sense of security.

Care for the Young and Old
In Denmark, young people get an excellent education and health care with a strong liberal arts education. Older people are similarly well cared for. Adults spend little time worrying about retirement.

Freedom teaches people how to make good decisions and in Denmark, children are taught from an early age to make up their own minds. This helps everyone learn to think for themselves and express themselves. This helps them learn how to make good decisions.

Get the Right Job
In Denmark taxes are high and consume most of people’s wages. Ambition is frowned upon in the society and as a result, people take jobs that interest them. This gives people a better chance to feel satisfaction in their careers.

Work Just Enough
Most Danes work 37 hours a week and go home to their families are associations. They also take an average of six weeks of vacation.

Cultivate the Art of Living
Danes have a liberal arts education and through this have develop an appreciation of art. This appreciation will last a lifetime and they take the time to notice art and nature in their lives.

Make Cozy, Well-Lit Home Environments
Winters are long and dark in Denmark and to compensate, Danes have created cozy environments with candles, hearth, and the gathering of friends.

Nudge People Into Interaction
While Danes are not particularly outgoing, they have a tradition of joining associations and volunteering; 19 out of 20 people belong to a club.

Optimize Cities for Activity
Danes tend to be fit. It is hard to be happy when you are unhealthy. Recreation is accessible to everyone. They have walkable and bikable cities with high quality parks.

More than 30% of Danes volunteer their time to benefit their community.

Use Taxes
In Denmark everyone has health care, young are nudged into education because it is free, and all citizens have a safety net should they find themselves down on their luck or eager to find a job that better suits them. In 2006-2007, Denmark had the largest greenhouse gas emission reductions of EU countries.

The information about how the author collected the information and how he reached these conclusions are well worth getting the book. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

You can read more about this information at the author's website; BlueZones.