Communities that thrive

Hawaii might be the happiest state in America. Hawaii residents have the highest well-being in the nation, according to the 2011 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Hawaii residents also reported the lowest level of mental distress, according to a 2009 “American Journal of Preventative Medicine” study. 

What makes us so happy that we live in Hawaii?

More than any other factor, including income, education level, and religion, the place where you live determines your level of happiness, claims researcher Dan Buettner in his book, “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way” (2010). 

The National Geographic Society sent Buettner around the globe to some of the world’s happiest places, based on people who declare that they are happy – and expect to be even happier in the future.

Though Hawaii wasn’t one of the places he visited, Buettner came across common threads among people who thrive, based on the choices and decisions that we make every day:

* Find security. Live in a secure city, with strict criminal laws and restrictions.

* Build trust. Live in trustworthy places, surround yourself with trustworthy friends, and be trustworthy yourself.

* Be tolerant. Accept other cultures religions, and lifestyles.

* Forget status. Live modestly. Build friendships with those who accept you and don’t make you feel inferior.

* Socialize more. Interact with others by joining associations and volunteering in your community.

Of course, there are also things that our cities and government can do to help us thrive – and things we can do to support our communities:

* Commit to a high standard of government. Government must have fair legal institutions, a lack of corruption, trustworthy legal systems, and a strong democratic process.

* Promote economic freedom. People should have the freedom to start and run a business, free of excessive regulation. Government should not favor one business or industry over another.

* Keep people employed. Having a job gives people a sense of purpose, confidence, and self-worth. Government can help with programs that give people meaningful jobs.

* Support art and community spaces. People are generally happier the more they socialize. Communities can develop parks, art gardens, vibrant city centers, outdoor restaurants, public gardens, theatres, museums, and pedestrian malls to promote social interaction and well-being.

* Encourage walkability. Encourage people to live closer to their workplaces by building wider sidewalks, more bike lanes, and adding pedestrian walkways.

Does living in Hawaii help you be happy? Does Hawaii help you thrive? Take the True Happiness Test at http://apps.bluezones.com/happiness/ and let us know whether you agree with your happiness score.

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