Do you have a happy place?

I’m not talking about the figurative happy place you escape to in your mind. I’m talking about the physical location you migrate too. . . just because. The place that generates a smile, a sigh, a deep cleansing breath the moment you arrive.  

Ahhhh.  Ahhhh. Ahhhh.

I gratefully and thankfully was in one of my happy places (I’ve determined I have many – seriously, many), doing one of the things that makes me happy (writing), when I noticed a thirty-something year old woman walking past me with a huge bright smile on her pretty face. She was walking alone on the white sugar sand beach and looking straight ahead - clearly very content and. . .well,  very happy. I did a quick mental check of myself and realized I was smiling too where I sat at an outdoor café’ under an umbrella, adjacent to the beach. We were both happy to be at the beach - our happy places.

It made me wonder –

Does everyone have a place that by just being there, makes them happy?

Where are these happy places?

I did a little digging into these questions and quickly found many phycology articles about Finding Happiness and Going to Places that Make You Happy. Okay. I was on the right track. In many of the articles, the authors and experts spoke of places like beaches, lakes and cabins in the woods that gave people joy. Some pointed out that not all happy places are outdoors (duh) and definitely they aren’t all the same for everyone (again, duh). If you’d just ask your friends where their happy places are, you’d quickly learn one would say a cruise ship, someone else would say a library and another would tell you their garden in the spring.

But what makes a place a happy place?

Deborah K. Heisz, Co-Founder and Editorial Director of Live Happy LLC, had an answer to that question in an article in MindBodyGreen.

What is important about finding our happy place is that it gives us pleasure, freedom to lose ourselves in the moment, time to build relationships with our loved ones, opportunities to find meaning, and a platform for achieving greatness.

Yes! Sounds pretty AWESOME to me.

And, it’s important if we are to live life with joy. My friend, Lexi Roark, brilliantly said it this way –

“We need more happy. Is everything peachy in the world? No, but we must find (or claim) moments of happiness lest we lose the fight to hopelessness and spiral into despair.”

Agreed.

So, if our happy place isn’t the same as someone else’s, could it be that it isn’t really a physical location but something within ourselves?

While I think it is something inside of us that makes a place extra special to us, we can find happiness in our hearts and head (read on to learn of more happy places). Psychology Today and INC.COM’s publications (PUBLISHED 12/12/2016) have come up with some tips of the things known to make people happy...no matter where they are:

Tips to Be Happy

1. Actively pursuing your goals.

Goals you don't pursue aren't goals, they're dreams, and dreams make you happy only when you're dreaming.

According to David Niven, author of 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, "People who could identify a goal they were pursuing were 19 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 26 percent more likely to feel positive about themselves."

2. Do what you do well, as often as you can.

The more you enjoy what you do and the more fulfilled you feel by it, the happier you will be. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor says that when volunteers picked "one of their signature strengths and used it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed."

Everyone has at least a few things they do incredibly well. Find ways to do those things more often. What is it you do well...that you love?

3. Make good friends. Have a good social network (um, I’m not talking about Facebook and Twitter).

Make friends outside of work. Make friends at work. Make friends everywhere. Make real friends. And, engage often with your family. You'll live a longer, happier life.

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Make good friends

4. Actively express your thankfulness. Be grateful.

Tell your significant other how thankful you are for them. Tell siblings, your children, co-workers. . . .You get it. According to one study said gratitude was like a "booster shot" for relationships.

Write down a few things you’re grateful for every night. One study showed people who wrote down five things they were thankful for once a week were 25 percent happier after 10 weeks; in effect, they dramatically increased their chances of meeting their happiness set-point.

Happy people focus on what they have, not on what they don't have.

5. Help other people.

It feels good to help others and others are pretty darn happy about that you are.

6. Realize that more money won't make you happier.

Money is important. Money allows you to do a lot of things. But after a certain point, money doesn't make people happier. According  to two Princeton University researchers  "Beyond $75,000...higher income is neither the road to experience happiness nor the road to relief of unhappiness or stress . . .”

"Things" provide only momentary bursts of happiness. To be happier, don't chase as many things. Chase a few experiences instead.

7. Live your life the way you want to live it.

No regrets. When a person faces their mortality, one of the main things they think about are the things they wished they had done. Don’t wish...do!  

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Live your life

Now that we’ve established that our happy place can be found in our hearts and heads, as well as at the beach or library, I thought it would be fun to share with you, where some surveys have determined the happies of the happy places are located. Interestingly, while Disney claims their Land and World are the  happiest places on earth, it seems others did not agree. I guess that’s partly because the surveys that determined where the happy places are were based on factors other than the joy gained from mouse-ear shaped ice cream and thrilling rides with cute characters singing to us. The people who created the happy place surveys’ used other data points to reach their conclusions.

In fact, it seems of the numerous surveys done to determine this slippery question, various data points were used- some the same, some...well, not so much. So, here are three lists I think may interest you- I’ll give them to you straight-up. You decide which you think is best.  

‘Things’ provide only momentary bursts of happiness. To be happier, don’t chase as many things. Chase a few experiences instead.


Survey Results One

According to National Geographic Magazine, this survey was developed by Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones of Happiness, and Dan Witters, a senior scientist at Gallup. They looked for data points that correlated with life satisfaction and happiness. You know, things like if you feel safe in your community, whether or not you exercise, feel like you live within your means and whether you feel like you are reaching your goals. Huh. Odd. They left out the data points on happiness that we know should’ve been included. . .like whether there was good access to bookstores, libraries, plus fast amazon delivery.

250,000 interviews were conducted in 190 metropolitan areas between 2014 and 2015. Here is their list of the 10 happiest places in the U.S. Do you agree? Live in any of these towns? Want to add a few more to the list?

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Happiest Places in the United States/Buettner & Witters

  1. Boulder, Colorado

  2. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California

  3. Charlottesville, Virginia

  4. Fort Collins, Colorado

  5. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California

  6. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

  7. Provo-Orem, Utah

  8. Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut

  9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

  10.  Anchorage, Alaska



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Survey Results Two

WalletHub’s survey was based on various findings of positive-psychology research across three key dimensions — emotional and physical well-being, income and employment and community and environment. These three dimensions included 31 key indicators, ranging from depression rate to income growth, and rate of average leisure time spent per day. Phew, that’s a lot to digest. Bottom line, of the 180 cities WalletHub looked at using their correlators, this is the list they came up with.

The 10 happiest cities/WalletHub.

  1. Plano, Texas

  2. Irvine, California

  3. Madison, Wisconsin

  4. Fremont, California

  5. Huntington Beach, California

  6. Fargo, North Dakota

  7. Grand Prairie, Texas

  8. San Jose, California

  9. Scottsdale, Arizona

  10. San Francisco, California

There’s one city that made both top 10 lists- San Jose!

Which of these lists do you think is most accurate?

And, while we’re looking for the happiest places, I figured we shouldn’t limit our scope to the US. So, I dug further. What are the happiest places in the world? Not excluding Disney’s World and Land, of course.

According the Forbes Magazine (March 27, 2018 issue), a United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network report ranks 156 countries using six factors, GDP, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom and corruption. And this year for the first time the UN has also assessed the happiness levels of immigrants in 117 of those countries.

The 10 Happiest Countries In The World In 2018

  1. Finland

  2. Norway

  3. Denmark

  4. Iceland

  5. Switzerland

  6. Netherlands

  7. Canada

  8. New Zealand

  9. Sweden

  10. Australia

And. . .in case you’re wondering what the least happy countries in the world are - Burundi, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Tanzania. ☹ Sigh.

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Survey Results Three

I really like this report (TODAY.com 4/24/2017) that was done, measuring how Americans feel about their physical health, social ties, financial security, community and sense of purpose. I’d want all of those things...plus great access to books!

THE 10 COMMUNITIES WITH THE HIGHEST WELL-BEING ARE

  1. Naples–Immokalee–Marco Island, Florida

  2. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

  3. Boulder, Colorado

  4. Santa Cruz–Watsonville, California

  5. Charlottesville, Virginia

  6. Lynchburg, Virginia

  7. North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton, Florida

  8. Santa Rosa, California

  9. Prescott, Arizona

  10. San Luis Obispo–Paso Robles–Arroyo Grande, California

Five states account for 17 of the top 25 well-being communities? California, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia. Interesting. . .Very interesting. Do you agree?

So, there are some really MARVELOUS places. You may even live in one of them, but what about the stats on Book-loving cities? I found that list too. 24/7 Wall St. (published on MSN) has identified the 50 most well-read cities in the U.S. I've got the Top 5 for you here. To determine which US cities were most well-read, the number of public libraries per capita and the number of colleges and universities in the surrounding area were used (along with a few other things).

Top 5 Most Well-Read Cities in the U.S

  1. Ithaca, New York - 28 public libraries and three non-Ivy League colleges, and has been the home of writers Carl Sagan, Alex Haley, and E.B. White.

  2. Pittsfield (Berkshires), Massachusetts - 38 public libraries and six colleges and universities.

  3. Champaign-Urbana, Illinois -58 public libraries, five colleges and universities, and nearly 95 percent of its adults holding high school diplomas, Champaign-Urbana, Ill. is a book-lover's paradise.

  4. Ames, Iowa- 18 public libraries, and has fostered the writing of a number of great authors, including Jane Smiley and Neal Stephenson.

  5. Watertown-Fort Drum, New York-34 libraries, two colleges, and plenty of gorgeous park-spaces to make use of when you need a break from your reading list.

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BTW, Number 8, Portland-South Portland, Maine – has an impressive 99 public libraries, 17 colleges and universities, and more than 94 percent of its adult residents have high school diplomas.

So here is my final list for this blog. I’ve included it because I figure some of you or someone you may know thinks their sofa is their happy place. Here is the WalletHub Top 5 Couch Potato Paradises:

  1. Little Rock, AR

  2. Memphis, Tn

  3. Jackson, MS

  4. McCallen, Tx

  5. Birmingham-Hoover, AL

See the entire list at https://www.theactivetimes.com/travel/couch-potato-paradises-most-inactive-cities-america/slide-11

Lists are fun to look at, see if your hometown is on it (or not) and ponder for about thirty-seconds what it all means. In my humble opinion, all we really need to know about happiness is in our hearts - I am a Romance author after all.

The bottom-line. . .life is meant to live happily. Please choose to be happy and if you are unable to make that choice, consider talking to experts on the subject. You deserve to be happy and there are many beautiful, wise people who can help steer you in the right direction.

To wrap everything up nice and tidy, here’s my take away on all of these Happy Places and Happiness Practices Lists.

  1. There are a lot of places that make people happy in the US and the world.

  2. There are wonderful things we can do to be happy and places to do them.

  3. We should do those things and be in those places that make us happy. . .often.

  4. Money is good, but it doesn’t make us happy.

  5. There are a heck of a lot of lovely libraries around. . .that means a lot of awesome books.

  6. Bring an awesome book from a lovely library or bookstore to your happy place and read there and do other things you like. . .often. Then, tell your friends (because you should have them) that you are thankful for them.

  7. There’s even a list for Couch-Potato Paradises (who knew?).

Until the next time we chat,

Tina

Tina DeSalvo

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Tina DeSalvo32 Comments