Lessons from the World's Happiest People



all right we're gonna have some fun I'm gonna talk about the world's happiest people and the lessons they give us but first I want to start by identifying the happiest people in the audience and to do that I'm going to ask you to either/or questions first question is about whether you think life is long or short so raise your hand if you think life is long okay raise your hand if you think life is short Wow better get this talk over quick all right raise your hand if you think life is easy now raise your hand if you think life is hard interesting so I want everybody who thinks life is long and easy to stand up anybody think life is long and easy stand up go ahead I won't humiliate you too much okay so sensei stay standing is just another minute so a few years ago a Harvard researcher by the name of Mike Norton asked those very questions and correlated it with happiness civics and generosity and he found and they did this in three continents thousands of people and they found that the least happy people think that life is short and hard and that's the majority of people the people about a third of the people fall in between but the happiest people as represented by the people standing here think that life is long and easy those people are above they're about 40% happier they're about 60% more likely to give money and they're more likely to vote so these are the people you want to hang out with or at least invite to your next fundraiser so over the last 15 years or so with National Geographic I've developed a bit of an expertise at finding extraordinary populations in the world and then learning from them the first project was the so-called Blue Zones we found the statistically longest-lived people in the world five areas and I don't know if you noticed last night the dinner was themed off of Blue Zones food so if you're feeling vaguely and more immortal today that's why but once we found these five places we could do standard I'd methodology to distill down exactly what they do to live a long time and I'm going to tell you the secret it took me ten years to realize the following in places where people live the longest it's not because they tried longevity happened to them you see the same five things clustering together people eat mostly a plant-based diet their nudge into movement every 20 minutes but the reason they're able to do that for long enough to avoid a chronic disease is because they have vocabulary for purpose they have a social network that supports it and they live in an environment that facilitates it here in America we try to pursue health and longevity with diets and exercise programs but in places where people really live a long time it's because longevity ensues it's a completely different paradigm shift so the way you measure longevity is interesting you find a cohort of people born about a hundred years ago say between 1915 and 1920 and then you have to track them for a hundred years you you are correct for immigration emigration and you see how many are still alive and it's a fairly straightforward mathematical exercise that took me three years to find these places but how do you do this for happiness how do you measure happiness happiness is a rather different thing it's spongier than longevity you can look at somebody who's laughing today but they might be masking depression people could be fibbing about their happiness or they may just be laughing and happy because they had a few cocktails so how do you measure something as spongy and subjective as happy and in a scientifically rigorous way well I'm gonna start with the coolest way to measure happiness last year at this very conference I met sundar and talked about the project I was working on and he was kind enough to loan me some of his top analysts and I coupled them with Gallup and University of Pennsylvania's world well-being program and they analyzed five billion Google searches in 200 communities and correlated them with different forms of happiness and interestingly what we search for in google predicts happiness even better than education and income and the project's not over yet but we have a few little gems of insight coming out of this project and I'll share three of them with you first of all it turns out that people who Google about their dogs are happier than people who are googling cats bigger people who are looking to find action movies and comedies are happier than people who are looking for romances and for those of you who prefer romance by yourself people who Google softcore porn are happier than people who Google hardcore porn don't worry it was anonymized data but for this project I took a more forward straightforward approach for the past 30 years or so experts have been measuring happiness using a representative sample survey and they're designed by Nobel Prize winners including Daniel Kahneman and essentially the way they work they take a representative sample population 151 countries and they ask a number of questions and you can start to see what a company's happiness so I'll tell you a little bit more about that how it works so essentially all these surveys they have about 80 questions on them and they ask you various facets of happiness so academically speaking happiness is really a meaningless term because you can't really measure happiness but you can measure life satisfaction you can ask people on a scale of one to ten thinking of their life as a whole how would they place their happiness between one and ten and if you get enough people you can start to you can start to aggregate out subjectivity and approach objectivity people only remember about 2% of their life so asking them to think of their life of a whole is not much data but people can pretty much remember the last 24 hours so if you ask them to recall the last 24 hours how much they smiled laughs felt stress etc you can get a pretty good idea of their daily emotions or their experienced happiness and then there's a question about purpose do you use your strength to do what you do best every day it's a question that's answered and then if you ask a number of other questions about demographics about age gender ethnicity what your values are what you do with your day and you use this clever little statistical trick called a regression analysis you can start to find out what correlates with happiness so for the purposes of my book blue zones of happiness in this National Geographic article I asked these huge databases to tell me where in the world life satisfactions highest daily emotions are highest and purposes highest so you can learn some things from data but often to really understand it you have to go there and it turns out the area with the highest life's of satisfaction is AJ the happiest place in Asia anybody want to take a guess where the happiest place in Asia is somebody's in Bhutan no Bhutan is number 91 Bhutan is happiness is a PR whitewash the happiest place very counter-intuitively is the island nation of Singapore 27 miles long 247 shopping malls but it has one of the highest GDP x' in the world GDP is important for us at a certain point and one of the highest life expectancies in the world 1960s it was basically a fishing village but what you have here are five million people very ethnically diverse Indians Malay and Han Chinese that live in near perfect harmony and the reason they do is because it was very planned Lee Kuan Yew the Prime Minister there made sure that almost everybody in the entire country owns their own house and in these high-rise housing communities every building reflects the ethnic diversity of the entire country so you have no ghettos for the Malay or no ghettos for the Indian or gated communities for the Chinese the kids go to school together it's very safe and secure very tough laws there if you're a man and you commit a violent crime there's a chance that you'll be beaten they call caning if you're caught with more than a half an ounce of opioids you get the death penalty the other side of that coin is they don't have an opioid crisis there so nobody is dying of overdoses or the crimes that come out of it yeah your children or a woman can walk any place in Singapore day or night and not have to worry about being accosted and actually you know there's sort of an inverse relationship between freedom and security actually security is more highly correlated with life satisfaction than freedom is this is a place where the path to success in life is clearly defined work hard often forego enjoyments of the day keep your head down and eventually you'll be rewarded with financial security your mother will be proud of you your friends will be impressed you'll get a level of status and that's their definition of life satisfaction I'm satisfied with my life I have happiness but it's mostly in the rearview mirror you go to the other side of the planet and you have a very different kind of happiness northern Denmark or who specifically we found the highest purpose people find more purpose in their life than anyplace else so this is a place where status is not really celebrated but equality is you can actually measure equality trust and tolerance and Denmark has the highest levels of each of these three every man woman and child in this country is guaranteed free education free health care and a comfortable retirement you don't have to worry about having enough when you get old like about 83% of Americans this is a place where people are taxed to the mean so people don't take a job just for money in America according to Gallup only 30 percent of Americans like their job in Denmark it's about 80 percent because they don't have to worry about paying for their insurance and they kind of realized that status isn't celebrated they're better off getting a job that addresses their passion and their flow so you think things like furniture design and architecture they work for 37 hours they knock off at 3:30 p.m. and then they go enjoy their hobby a B it rabbit jumping or bicycling all naturale don't try this at home so the part of the world where people enjoy their life most from day to day is in Costa Rica the Central Valley in the middle of the country gorgeous place went by three volcanoes verdant green best coffee in the world too and everywhere in Latin America there's some sort of a Latin American secret sauce if you control for everything else Latins are happier than everything everyplace else and the needs are taken care of in Costa Rica so these Latin values of family of religion and the notion that they'll never forego a great social experiment experience to do stay at the office and do a little extra work the happiest people in the world are socializing face-to-face with people that mean something to them about five to six hours a day and they get that here in Costa Rica so mater where are you so no matter where you go in the world people need food shelter they need some health any meaningful work they need some ability that's why Bhutan isn't the happiest they don't meet that minimum requirement but in the happiest places in the world at a certain point enlightened leaders 50 to 150 years ago shifted from economic development and put their focus on education for all but especially education for women and mothers for a universal health care health care for everybody but more important than health care preventive health and that everybody had access to quality social services and this starts an upward spiral of happiness so you have educated mother who have fewer kids those kids are better educated they're healthier they grew up to be more productive they have they're better parents themselves they vote for better leaders and the spiral goes up so where you go in the world you find measurable Happy's that it's not a coincidence there's a very clear genesis to it and there are very clear policies most most of which by the way our current president is unwinding but I won't get into that so when it comes to individual is the pictures a little bit different about 40 percent of our happiness on average is dictated by our genes about 15 percent is dictated by our life circumstances very hard to be happy if you're congenitally depressed or chronically in pain or you advertise with Facebook but up about 50 about 50% of it I'm just kidding about 50% of our our happiness is really up to us and now there's this ocean of data where we can see very clearly how to favor these three facets of happiness so you have life satisfaction you have purpose and you have daily emotions and I like to think of this as your financial portfolio you want a balanced portfolio you don't want to overdo any one of them but if you want to favor life satisfaction you go ahead and work hard make at least $75,000 a year and save your way into financial security for purpose it's more important to do an internal into inventory and know what you're good at when your passions are what your values is and there's an outlet for that and if daily emotions most important make sure you're getting your seven hours of sleep you're taking six weeks of vacation you're laugh every day there are a few things that favor both of them two things like having kids are good for life satisfaction and purpose but they don't do much for your daily emotions meditating is good for purpose and daily emotion and it seems that having sex at least twice a week is not only good for those daily emotions but life is pretty satisfying and then there's the sweet spot here in the middle getting the right job not a job that just pays you money socializing that seven or eight hours a day owning a dog having a committed partner and then living in the right place and this is actually way bigger than we give it credit to for if happiness were a cake recipe and having a good job having your health marrying the right person giving back they're all important ingredients the most important ingredient the ingredient with the most variability is where you live and we know this by following immigrants when immigrants moved from unhappy places like Moldavia and Africa to happier places like Denmark and Canada within one year they start reporting the happiness levels of their adoptive home regardless of their age their gender their ethnicity their sexual orientation all they did was move so not all of us can move but I'm gonna give you a few ideas on how you can shape your own environment your own ecosystem to favor happiness so this is about stacking the deck in favor of happiness so most Americans spend most of their life within 5 miles of their work or their homes I call that the life radius and the smallest domain is right in here yourself but very few things you can do for the long run I don't believe in trying to change your habit that never last very long diets never last very long behavioral change doesn't work but it seems that people will undergo a deep meditation experience they're trained for months or they do bipasha Anna are able to live in the present better than people who don't it's a certain rewiring of the brain in a permanent way when it comes to finances buying a new piece of clothing or a new gadget give you a bump and utility but only for about nine to fourteen months depending on what it was financial security I however will last decades or a lifetime so if you have extra money and that doesn't really apply to people here but in general if you have extra money paying down your mortgage buying insurance or getting into automatic savings plans is a better way to manage your finances than filling out your closet for your home having a front porch favors social interaction more than a back deck having good light I create this thing called a pride shrine we're one of the most trafficked areas of my house I put up pictures of my family of great vacation spots of awards I've gotten and every time I walk by that you get a little burst of of positive emotion when it comes to your social network every new happy friend you add to your social network increases your own happiness by about 15 percent unhappiness and even loneliness are measurably contagious so really curating those people who you're traveling through life with is one of the most dependable way to Chris your head create your happiness when it comes to work the biggest driver of whether or not you're happy at work it's nothing to do with your pay or your job or your boss it's whether or not you have a best friend at work it comes from two million gallops or bass so getting to work and making a best friend is really important and finally where you live is gonna have a huge impact I as part of this project I end up with Gallup and we found the 25 happiest places in America Boulder Colorado was on there Santa Barbara Minneapolis Minnesota the happiest places in America and this is done from data is correlation tend to be bikable there's easy access to green spaces and there's a good food environment it's very easy get fruits and vegetables so those are a few things you can look for when it comes to happiness so the takeaways are this when it comes to happiness think about a diversified portfolio of pleasure pride and purpose and don't try to change your behalf don't run after happiness trying to run after happiness or get change your behavior to be happier as it is a recipe for neuroses it occasionally work in the short run it'll almost never work in the long run so I want to close with a blessing this comes from a guy named Armando Fuentes he's a columnist in Mexico they they call him the soul of Mexico and after speaking for him with to him for two hours I asked him for his advice and he thought for a minute it said yes here's what I recommend to you for happiness he said eat without gluttony drink without getting drunk love without jealousy argue but don't go to bed mad and occasionally with great discretion misbehave thank you very much [Applause]

16 thoughts on “Lessons from the World's Happiest People”

  1. Life is long and hard, but through struggle you find your happiness. Only when overcoming challenges you can be truly satisfied. To have a dream is to have the will to live. So Dream and win a much as you can.

  2. Some aspects of socialism are fine yet capital gains and savagery have taken us here. Consider these ideas and create your future but stay the course of our great constitution.

  3. This is interesting, I feel it’s important to remember that people in these happy zones may do things a certain way, but this doesn’t mean everything they do is what is causing their happiness,
    I feel laws like killing someone with opioids who may be an addict is not what causes people there to be happy so I feel we should be cautious to think that we should simply copy everything in the culture if we want to be happy, This does not treat the underlying issue, it buries it(referring to the opioid law) it simply causes fear that may be what’s leading to abstinence but I do not think that is what causes their happiness. suppression when someone already has a wound that leads them to desire something like the escape of drugs, will only lead to that wound manifesting in other ways..Obviously here in the west were not doing much better, we’re still criminalizing this addiction which is built on a foundation of psychological illness and trauma, you cannot fix a broken bone by putting it in a cast forever and never going through the process of physical therapy to get it back to a healthy state

    You lock someone away who is broken inside with the permanent cast of prison time and a criminal record, how can you ever expect them to be rehabilitated to function in society.

    I’m sure my metaphors have holes in them
    But I am sure people will understand what I’m trying to convey

    These are just my ideas from my own personal experiences and knowing people who have struggled with addiction and as a product ended up with a criminal record which in turn made it almost impossible to break free and reintegrate as a functioning member of society.

    We are all broken people in one way or another bit if we are kept in casts forever(either because we were put in one or we put ourselves in one) we will never go through the full healing process and regain our full potential.

  4. You know all these statistics are great.
    But I think the happy people just don’t give shit.
    They eat simply most times because they are poor.
    They eat what they grow. Therefore they exorcize.
    They don’t have a lot of financial problems because they are poor.
    They live with there families because it’s valued and because they are poor.
    They don’t care about a million dollar smile because they are poor.
    And they worship there God.
    They don’t drink a lot because they are poor.
    They don’t smoke a lot because they are poor.
    Life is a lot about choice lady’s and gentlemen.

  5. When we heard this is Costa Rica, we laugh, we are not happy, but to those outside we always pretend to be since we depend on tourism.!!!

    This guy is lying.

  6. Have no Material attachments or Attachments towards Anyone ,u will be the most happiest person in world

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