National Geographic : 2017 Nov
36 W ho is the world’s happiest person? It may be Alejandro Zúñiga, a healthy, middle-aged father who socializes at least six hours a day and has a few good friends he can count on. He sleeps at least seven hours most nights, walks to work, and eats six servings of fruits and vegetables most days. He works no more than 40 hours a week at a job he loves with co-workers he enjoys. He spends a few hours every week volunteering; on the weekends he worships God and indulges his passion for soccer. In short he makes daily choices that favor happiness, choices made easier because he lives among like-minded people in the verdant, temperate Central Valley of Costa Rica. BY DAN BUETTNER / PHOTOGRAPHS BY CORY RICHARDS AND MATTHIEU PALEY Dan Buettner, a New York Times best-selling author, has been exploring what makes us healthy and happy for the past 15 years. His fourth book, The Blue Zones of Happi- ness, just published by National Geographic, is available wherever books are sold. To learn the secrets of happiness, join Buettner this June on a private jet trip to Bhutan, Denmark, Greece, and Japan. For more information, visit natgeoexpeditions .c om/bluezones. Sidse Clemmensen is another possible candidate. With a loving partner and three young children, she lives in a tightly knit cohousing community with other families who share chores, childcare, and meals in a communal kitchen. She’s a sociologist, a job that challenges and engages her every day. She and her family bicycle to work, the store, and the children’s school, which helps keep them fit. She pays high taxes on her modest salary but gets health care and education for her family, as well as guaranteed retirement income. In Aalborg, Denmark, where she lives, people feel confident the government will make sure that nothing too bad happens to them. And then there is Douglas Foo. A successful entrepreneur, he drives a $750,000 BMW and lives in a $10 million house. He’s married, with four well-behaved children who excel at school. He put himself through school working four jobs and started a company that eventually grew into a $59 million multinational enterprise. He works about 60 hours a week between his business and his philanthropic pursuits. He’s earned the respect of his employees, peers, and the larger community. He’s worked hard to achieve his success, but as Foo readily admits, he probably couldn’t have created this life anywhere other than Singapore. Zúñiga, Clemmensen, and Foo illustrate three different strands of happiness that braid together in complementary ways to create lasting joy. I call them pleasure, purpose, and pride. They also live in countries that encourage those strands. By meeting each of these people and exploring their home countries, we’ll discover the secrets to what makes the people in these places so much happier than those in other places.