I was doing some web site maintenance when I found this post from 9 years ago ( June 2006 ). It was about then the new and novel field of scientific research into happiness had started to be publicized.
I heard a piece on the radio while driving and was stunned by what I heard. Some of the poorest, most depraved people on the planet are among the happiest people and many of the things that contribute to happiness also seemed to overlap with what I read elsewhere about longevity.
Nine years later, there is now a documentary about happiness research. The trailer is above.
Among many other interesting facts in the documentary is that money does buy happiness, but only up to about 80K per year in US money. After that the amount of happiness returned per extra dollar goes way down with a lower middle class person often being happier than a billionaire.
Bottom line, watch the video, read the old post, and look up some of the many articles on this amazing science. You should do all of those things because the things science has actually measured as creating happiness for people are within the reach of most people regardless of their resources and has nothing to do with McMansions, big screen TVs, iPhones or SUVs.
Sometime last year while I was driving to work I was listening to the news segment on one of the local rock stations. There was a report about a large study done by an international organization on the nature of happiness. To my lasting regret I never memorized the name of that group nor the study. I searched on google, but came up with nothing.
What struck me the most was the finding that the happiest people in the world turned out to be some of the poorest people in the world. They lived in squalor in such places like Mexico or India. The greatest concentrations of depression were found in the most developed countries of the world.
The study listed these factors as being common among the happiest people in the world:
- Belonging to a community
- Having a sense of purpose
- Feeling needed.
- Rewarding relationships with family and friends.
After reading the October 2005 issue of the National Geographic magazine I was amazed again. That issue was devoted to longevity and looked at three areas of the world where the inhabitants enjoyed some of the best longevity in the world.
- Sardinia ( a remote mountain village in Italy )
- Loma Linda, California
You read #3 correctly, Loma Linda California. A smoggy suburb of Los Angelas. Also the home of a large community of Seventh Day Adventists. The oldest members of that community ( still active and healthy ) credited their longevity to their vegetarian diets, straight edge lifestyle, staying socially engaged and their faith.
There were no surprises in any of the communities examined in regards to nutrition or exercise. All of the communities ate very little if any animals, ate large amounts of fresh produce, and were regularly active.
The people interviewed in these communities placed importance on those things, but they also emphasized various psychological factors and lifestyle choices I have read over the years as being associated with people who live to very old ages:
- They are happy
- They put family first
- They stay socially active and socially engaged.
- They have a sense of purpose
That list looks familiar doesn’t it?
It would seem that things that make us happy also make us live longer. Jogging everyday and living off raw broccoli may not guarantee a long life if you live life alone and with a cranky attitude.
Conspicuously absent from these lists are things like bigger SUVs, over priced suburban homes, expensive college degress, a fancy position in a big company, dvd players, and cell phones.
Who would of thought?
In the world where I live and very possibly where you live also, it is very hard to make it through life without some of those things. Yet, maybe we should remind ourselves of these lists and redirect our resources when we can to different things.
Maybe in getting through the days we lost sight of where we want to be going through the years.