We’ve long been told that we have to play the hand life dealt us—but what if you could improve that hand? According to longevity researcher Dan Buettner, author of the Blue Zones series of books, you can, and he offers specific ways to stack the odds in our favor.
“What’s new in the field of happiness is the ability to measure the facets that create it,” he says. “In my previous work with Blue Zones, studying some of the longest-living areas of the world, I’d say there is about an 80 percent overlap of characteristics of a place where people lived a long time and a place where people report the greatest levels of well-being.”
Based on that research, Dan has found a few factors that make you happier—and help you live longer:
We are more likely to be happy if we get five to seven hours of meaningful social interaction a day.
Doing something that you find rewarding, whether it’s at your job or through volunteering, is crucial.
Living near a park or in an area with trees has a direct link to increased happiness and greater longevity.
Walking and biking options
Being able to get around on foot or bicycle, rather than sitting in traffic, is better for your health and your mood.
Quality food environment
“Having access to healthy food and vegetables is shown to have a direct link to happiness and good health.”
If you live in a neighborhood where all the homes are basically in the same price range, you’ll be happier than if you owned the least expensive house on the street (or the most expensive one). “The least expensive house reminds you of what you don’t have, and having the most expensive house puts more pressure on you.”
Finally, a significant factor in your happiness is location, location, location. “If you live near water, you are 10 percent more likely to be happy,” Dan says. “The same effect is seen with mountains. The overall thesis of changing your behavior is a waste of time; for both longevity and happiness, the most important thing you can do is change your environment.”
How happy are you? Take our quiz to find out.
Read more: Be Happy to Live Longer
Read more: What Do Telomeres Tell Us?
Paula Felps is the Science Editor for Live Happy. Quiz by Plasticity Labs.