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The Blue Zones of Happiness: A Blueprint for a Better Life

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New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner reveals the surprising secrets of the world's happiest places—and shows how we can all apply the lessons of true happiness to our lives.

In this inspiring book, Buettner offers game-changing tools for setting up your life to be the happiest it can be. In these illuminating pages, you'll:
• Meet the world's Happiness All-Stars—inspiring individuals born in places around the world that nurture happiness as well as Americans boosting well-being in their own communities.
• Discover how the three strands of happiness—joy, purpose, and satisfaction—weave together in different ways to make Denmark, Costa Rica, and Singapore some of the world's happiest places.
• Use the Blue Zones Happiness Test to pinpoint areas in your life where change could bring more happiness—and then find practical steps to make those changes.
• Learn the Top 10 ways to create happiness, as revealed by a panel of the world's leading experts convened specifically for this project.
• Boost your own happiness by applying the lessons of Blue Zones Project communities—America's largest preventive health care project, which has already improved the health and happiness of millions of people across the United States.

Published October 3, 2017

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About the author

Dan Buettner

23 books391 followers
National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for longevity.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 145 reviews
Profile Image for Jill.
332 reviews6 followers
April 24, 2018
I have read a lot on this subject, so most of it was not earth-shattering news to me. However it did give me food for thought as far as what I want out of the next place I choose to call home. I wish every politician would read this book—the info in it should be guiding our policies. Happiness of ALL citizens should be a priority, and I think many politicians, especially Republicans, make the mistake of equating a strong economy with happiness. Certainly a strong economy adds greatly to the happiness of a nation’s or city’s citizens, but there are so many other factors that are just as important. People first need to feel that their basic needs are taken care of, and that is hard when so many people in our country lack access to affordable healthcare. We sink a lot of money into our military and homeland security (the happiest countries tend to have small militaries), while cutting budgets of things that would lead to greater happiness and well-being, such as education, parks, mental-health treatment and transportation.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,741 reviews280 followers
January 4, 2018
Dan Buettner shares research on the happiest places on earth and uses that research to help all of us make our workplaces, our homes, and our communities happier places to live.

There are several wonderful lists in this book, including the Blue Zones Happiness Test, the fifteen "cowbell" factors that signal true happiness, and the Community Blueprint for Happiness, that are alone worth the price of the book.
Profile Image for Rob Schmoldt.
60 reviews7 followers
December 30, 2022
The top ten synthesized findings, starting with the highest effect and feasibility:

1. Prioritize friends and family
2. Get involved—in a club, a team, or a civic or religious organization
3. Learn the art of likability
4. Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise daily
5. Focus on the happiness of others
6. Make a best friend at work
7. Monitor your health
8. Live together, but choose the right spouse
9. Savor life—in the moment or in anticipation of positive future events
10. Set meaningful goals and monitor progress

Not a bad list of things to think about and work on in 2023.

Profile Image for Elizabeth Theiss Smith.
294 reviews82 followers
December 12, 2017


Blue Zones are places where people live longer, happier, healthier lives. These places make it easier for individuals to thrive by incorporating design elements and programs that encourage building friendship networks, eating well, walking, and cycling. For example, communities that limit sprawl and preserve open spaces with walking and biking paths encourage a more active lifestyle. Wide sidewalks encourage people to walk and talk together. Some communities tax sweetened beverages to limit obesity.

The existing economy is organized to maximize GDP growth. This book asks the question of whether government ought not instead to prioritize happiness as the greatest object of society. Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence clearly included the pursuit of happiness as a major responsibility of government. Later he said, "The happiness and prosperity of our citizens...is the only legitimate object of government." So what would the pursuit of happiness look like on a local level? Certainly it would include an excellent education system that prepared the young for fulfilling, healthy lives. It would provide free healthcare, because, without health, happiness is difficult. Buettner suggests a national measure of well-being should be available to politicians and the public, as a measure of government t success.

If you are looking for a book that provides research-based guidance on how to transform your community into a Blue Zone, this is not that book. I wish it were. Rather, Buettner provides a panoply of examples and waxes enthusiastic about many bromides that are already part of the community development canon.
In a few places, he misses the mark entirely like when he suggests that everyone going to church would create better communities, and that the law should require parent so young children to consider staying together and to co-parent (with abusive spouses? With alcohol and drug-addicted partners? Are you sure, Mr. Buettner?).

I did manage to finish this book but wish it had been a better one. I'm still on the lookout for a book that would help guide my own community to become healthier and happier. Let me know if you've found one.
Profile Image for nukie19.
534 reviews
March 2, 2018
I very much enjoyed Buettner's original The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest so I thought this would be another slam dunk. Unfortunately, this really fell flat to me. By about half-way through, I got bored with the information as it got very repetitive and started to feel like filler just to make the book "long enough." I also really hated how so many of the recommendations definitely cannot apply to many people. One big example of this was all the shade Buettner threw at introverts: "Act extroverted, even if you are an introvert." I just don't believe that telling someone to act outside of what makes them feel happy (i.e., being recharged by having time alone) is good advice.
Profile Image for Matthew.
146 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2017
Lots of great info in the book! The first part will seem a tad redundant if you read Dan Buettner's early Blue Zones book, but still a nice recap. The best part of the book is the third part with the tips on how to bring greater amounts of happiness into the concentric circles of your life.
March 30, 2018
Unrealistic

Example: a thought exercise: imagine you have ten million dollars. Name 5 things you would do. Now make a three year plan to achieve at least one of those goals. ??? My goals were to retire early, put my 2 kids through college, travel a lot, and do some home remodelling. Since those all require lots of money, how am I supposed to achieve them in 3 years with imaginary money. False statement: you should be around lots of people and have the goal of socializing for at least 6 hours a day. Even introverts [like me] are happier when they spend lots of time socializing. Also, he says that you should be in a committed relationship with a compatible mate, because loners are unhappy. ??? He assumes a one-size-fits-all prescription for happiness that doesn't take individual differences into account, and makes sweeping generalizations based on septic examples. Also I don't think he understands the difference between correlation and causation. It was an entertaining read, but I annoyed my husband with my constant exclamations of incredulity and reading outrageous passages aloud to him. Maybe this book could be helpful to some people but in my opinion it is likely to do more harm than good.
Profile Image for Daniel.
606 reviews81 followers
December 16, 2017
Alright Singapore was featured so of course I have to read it. Singaporeans are happy because we work hard and are proud of our achievements. Danish people are happy because they don’t need to worry about basic necessities of life. Costa-Ricans are happy because they take life easy and talk to people.

The author provides to do lists to be happy: get married, spend time with family and close friends, get involved with religion or a club, learn to be likeable, exercise, focus on other’s happiness, savour life and find a purpose.

Unfortunately I didn’t find the book very engaging - it reads like a manual. Nonetheless a good summary on happiness.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,207 reviews29 followers
January 11, 2019
I think that he raises some good points about changes that we can make in our lives that could make us happier. I also think that many of the suggestions are untenable for people who work full time, if you socialize for 6 hours and sleep for 7.5 hours, when are you supposed to work, exercise, meditate and spend time with your family.

I also disagree with his take on Singapore. I live in Singapore and people work too hard, are stressed out and have no universal health care. Older individuals are forced into menial labour so that that they can survive.
Profile Image for Sara Strand.
1,143 reviews33 followers
October 26, 2017
I don't hide my personal struggles with mental illness since the birth of my fourth child. Her birth was traumatic, I died, I was revived, and I haven't been the same ever since. My depression is the worst it's ever been, my anxiety is through the roof, I now battle PTSD, and suicidal thoughts. If there was anyone meant to read this book- it's me. I jumped at the chance to review this specifically because I'm essentially desperate to be happy. I don't even want to be SUPER happy, but anything is better than wanting to die everyday, so I went into this book ready to take notes and make changes.

The book itself is a rather fast read and it covers all major areas. The author talks about happiness in different parts of the world, things that could affect your happiness, places that happiness could happen (your job, your community, your financial well-being, personal life, etc) and of course- what IS happiness? We say we want to be happy, but what does that really mean? Of course, it's subjective- what makes me happy won't necessarily make you happy or rate high in your life and vice versa. This book sets out to help you figure out what areas you need to make changes, how to prioritize the things that make you happy, and what to do if you're stuck. Sometimes it might mean being brave and quitting that job you hate and do something that (maybe) isn't as financially rewarding, but it could open up new doors to happiness for you.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was discussion on building happiness within communities. Of course, it could mean the city you live in or communities could be smaller circles of people that you operate in (clubs, groups, school, etc) and what you can do to foster happiness within the community. I found it interesting because the city I live in has gained a reputation of being the lamer of the Twin Ports cities, we have a lot of bars and dingy areas, we need more jobs and essentially an entire revitalization of the city. We're making progress but when you go to city meetings or even look at the community social media pages you find two groups of people: the we've-always-done-it-this-way group who offer no positive solutions but love to give criticisms, and the dreamers, the people who have a positive outlook and are excited at the strides we're making. I find that when you have those people, and you hear their enthusiasm, it's catchy. All of a sudden I'm doing what I can to join the revolution, so to speak. So that's my really long way of saying I think this would be a really good book for young adults. Seniors in high school, college students, those just starting out in the workplace as a grown up- we (as communities and a nation) need more dreamers, more happy, positive people with the goal of making everything better.

If I had to find a critique, and you know I try to always balance a review, I didn't get a lot of information about mental illness. I'm depressed, how do I get happy? How do I turn the ship around? It's most geared towards general happiness versus specific solutions to specific problems, if that makes sense.

Overall? A solid 4/5 stars. I really flew through this and I could see this being adapted for a public speaking engagement or morale boosting sessions.
Profile Image for Kend.
1,249 reviews67 followers
January 28, 2019
I don't know; this book felt very insular. It's not terribly helpful to tell people trapped in cycles of poverty and economic exploitation that they just need to pay down their credit card debt and live in spartan homes with only minimal decorations. I know this isn't what Buettner is intending to say—and the forward points out that as with any book, one ought to take the parts that apply and leave the parts that don't—but the book is just list after list of recommendations, and it's hard not to take them as representations of an unattainable ideal. For me, the most appreciable section was the one dedicated to changing the policies that underpin our social behaviors, but even then, the recommendations felt like the sort of things that financially secure retirees with lots of spare time might be able to do, but not the average American (or average resident anywhere). The book also makes some major missteps when it comes to dealing with depression; I'm saying this as someone who both has depression and someone who has made a point out of reading up on the neuroscience of it.
Profile Image for Britt Hemingway.
49 reviews4 followers
February 28, 2018
Full disclosure: this is NOT a self-help book. This is a not a list of "tips and tricks." Rather, Buettner presents both anecdotal evidence as well as data from research studies regarding the world's happiest populations, adding a few suggestions for application at the close of each chapter. Unfortunately for [probably] most Americans, many of the suggestions (working less than 40 hours a week, moving to a new environment, changing legislature to support these findings) seem less than achievable. I did find the research fascinating and appreciate Buettner's weaving of travel stories and research, and found all the tips were at least thought- and conversation-provoking.
Profile Image for Simple .
255 reviews13 followers
October 23, 2017
If I can't find another good book to read I will read this book again and again and again. Great book.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
78 reviews2 followers
December 9, 2018
I admire and agree with the overall theme of this book: set up your life (home, city, friends, etc.) in a way that intrinsically promotes happiness. BUT some of Buettner’s examples on how to do this are a bit outlandish. Just fall in love with someone who is financially responsible- why didn’t I think of that! In all seriousness though, it is important to look at your life and surroundings to see how you can better set yourself up for success and happiness.
Profile Image for Donna.
175 reviews8 followers
November 10, 2021
Because I felt I got what I needed from other (multiple) Blue Zone materials, including 'Thrive', I did a rapid read of this book. Of particular interest in this edition is the 'Blue Zones Happiness Test,' which gives the reader overall scores for Pleasure, Purpose and Pride. My results surprised me and gave me pause. If you do not have a copy of this book, you can take a similar test (by the Blue Zone group) for free online.
My lower rating of this book could simply reflect me currently being a bit Blue Zoned out. As another reader pointed out, it's become quite the franchise!
Profile Image for Abdulrahman.
116 reviews55 followers
December 20, 2021
من اجمل ما قرأت هذه السنه. بحث رائع جدا حول العالم لأكثر المناطق و الافراد سعاده، ما هو تعريف السعاده لهم باختلاف الثقافات و الدول، و كيف يعيشون حياتهم بجوانبها (الروحيه و الاجتماعيه و الاقتصاديه و البيئيه..الخ) اللتي جعلتهم في مستوى ان يصفوا نفسهم بأنهم "سعيدين".

دروس رائعه جدا يمكن تفعيلها على المستوى الشخصي في بيتك، مع عائلتك، بيئتك، عملك، وصحتك، و حتى دروس للحكومات بكيف تصميم حياه مدنيه ترفع مستوى الرضى لدى الافراد.
Profile Image for Lindsey.
Author 2 books22 followers
August 25, 2018
3.5. What I loved most were the actionable suggestions to set up an environment that supports habits that are a foundation for happiness (rather than trying to "seek" happiness). Also enjoyed the views into different kinds of happiness (pleasure, pride, purpose) and cultures/places in which people exemplify them.
Profile Image for Nopadol Rompho.
Author 4 books331 followers
December 21, 2020
If you wander why people in country like Costa Rica, Denmark, or Singapore seem to be happier than those in other countries, read this book. Happiness comes from three elements: pleasure, purpose, and pride. I love the concept and the summary at the end of each chapter in this book as well.
Profile Image for Kevin Sweet.
68 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2018
It was refreshing to read a profile of Boulder, CO. The author mentions dreadlocked, puffy-wearing guys hanging out on Pearl Street, which could have very well been me!

This has a lot of good info and tips for increasing three types of happiness: pleasure, purpose, and pride. However, much of the book builds up to the conclusion that you should simply live in a better place to be happier. Someone who is unwilling or unable to uproot their life to seek out a better location will find a good chunk of this book useless. That said, it's hard to argue with that conclusion. After having lived in two vastly different places--Boulder, which does a great job of cultivating happiness, and South Korea, a place that does the opposite in so many ways--I wholeheartedly agree that location is hugely important in a person's mental health.

The second half of the book provides more insight into behaviors we can change to increase happiness. My biggest gripe was the repeated calls to join faith-based communities. Again and again, the author advocates that even if you're not religious, you should try to find a faith-based community, and that communities that aren't faith-based don't work as well. It seems plausible that believing in God makes people happier, but regardless of whether or not that's true, is a modest boost to happiness worth the delusional belief? Is believing a lie and organizing a good portion of your life around it worth the extra happiness?

This is a book I'll probably read again as a reminder for how to better live my life with pleasure, purpose, and pride.
Profile Image for Gail.
28 reviews
January 22, 2018
Nice complement his other books. Good tools for practical thought and application.
Profile Image for Sally.
215 reviews19 followers
January 2, 2018
I first read about the Blue Zones, areas in the world where people have the longest lifespans, in National Geographic a decade or so ago. Since then I’ve been intrigued with learning more about how these cultures and communities support longevity and well-being.

Blue Zones - 5 geographic areas where people statistically live longest:
- Okinawa, Japan
- Sardinia, Italy
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Icaria, Greece
- Loma Linda, California (Seventh-day Adventists)

This book offered a look at how those living in Blue Zones arranged social institutions, community, and their daily lives to support happiness. Dan Buettner, the author, notes that there are three distinct, yet interrelated, strands of happiness that compliment one another and create happiness: pleasure, purpose, and pride.

There were practical tips that anyone could apply:
- Socialize at least 6 hours a day (work with people you like)
- Bike / walk to work (commuting makes us so, so unhappy)
- Sit on your front porch (engage in the community)

There are individual choices one can make (exercising, eating fruits and vegetables), however a large portion of what impacts individual happiness is based on social institutions, government and the environment. The way nations, neighborhoods, and family households organize directly influence individual well-being. Individual happiness is intimately related to the governmental and cultural values.
Profile Image for Debbie.
293 reviews
August 27, 2018
Before picking this book up at the library, I read an interview the author gave to the Huffington Post.

Question: Did your research change or confirm the way you perceived happiness? How?

Buettner: Yes. I lost my faith in motivational courses and the like. Achieving happiness is best attainable through setting up your life and surroundings so you're nudged into positive behaviors and away from negative ones.

Yet when I checked out his website, he is advertising a 2-part online course called Staying Alive: 9 Habits for Living a Longer, Healthier Life. What gives?

For this reason the author started out on thin ice with me. He and his research team singled out Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore as having the happiest people. Their metrics must be off because he writes that what the Singaporeans value most by their own admission are the five C’s: car, condo, cash, credit card and club membership. To attain these material possessions and keep up with their neighbors, they work long hours. Work and shop – that’s what they do. And these people are trotted out as happy people we should emulate? Like I said, poor metrics.

Happiness – defining it and attaining it – are hot topics in society today. So many pretend to be happiness gurus and offer to enlighten the rest of us if we will but open up our pocketbooks to them. I would suggest passing on this book. He repeats himself often, giving me the impression he didn’t have quite enough material to make a book
Profile Image for Megan.
90 reviews23 followers
March 24, 2022
Ever finished a book feeling super inspired? Because YUP THAT'S ME! Disclaimer... I work for Blue Zones Project and have met Dan Buettner a few times so I may be a little biased. I also will say that I have a hard time separating my previous knowledge of Blue Zones from the contents of the book so my thoughts and feelings truly are towards Blue Zones as a whole.

Dan Buettner does an awesome job explaining how happiness isn't just something individuals create for themselves. Happiness also derives from optimizing your environment, ensuring policies putting well-being first are in place, and shifting into a positive and purposeful mentality. Before you know it, you'll be nudged into living a happier, healthier life.

My favorite part of this book are the stories collected from around the world. All individuals that speak with Buettner come from very different communities/backgrounds and have unique life experiences; however, all seem to weave together the three strands Buettner focuses on: pleasure, purpose, and pride.

I strongly believe in the Blue Zones mission and I am so grateful for Dan Buettner, his research, and the current work done in our communities. Since joining the project and reading Blue Zones of Happiness, I can honestly say that I've become a much happier and healthier person.
Profile Image for Paula.
434 reviews
November 5, 2018
I received this book from the Goodreads Firstreads giveaway program. Thank you author/publisher for the opportunity to read and review The Blue Zones of Happiness!

Five stars!

I enjoyed The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World's Happiest People! This book was definitely of interest to me. The author, Dan Buettner, has been conducting scientific research on happiness for years. How we can achieve it is a main topic in this book.

The book starts off with a quiz that helps determine your current state of happiness. Pleasure..Purpose..Pride are the main quotients to this quiz.

The author then tells us about the Blue Zones, locations where people are happiest, healthiest, and living the longest. Denmark, Singapore, Costa Rica are the three locations focused on. Several examples of how they all live their lives differently and still achieve maximum happiness.

The book goes on to help us build our own personal Blue Zone. Our environment is the key to happiness. Things that can be done at our workplace, home, and within our communities that will generate greater happiness in our lives are discussed.

The Blue Zones of Happiness was informative. I plan on keeping this in my personal library. While I live a life filled with pleasure..purpose and pride there is always room to improve!
Profile Image for Evelyn.
42 reviews
June 19, 2019
The premise was interesting until the author suggests that the government should implement programs to enable people to find happiness.
What a tragedy if we feel that it is an outside source that allows us to find true happiness and contentment in life.
I shudder to think of a world where there would be a "Ministry of Happiness", truly Orwellian.
Profile Image for Nicole.
525 reviews1 follower
March 17, 2018
This book has a good premise but too bad it ended up pushing a variety of political agendas throughout its pages. I believe you can make your own “blue zone” of happiness wherever you are without the government stepping in to make it happen.
Profile Image for Garth Calder.
30 reviews1 follower
May 2, 2018
Alright alright alright it’s REVIEW time…

Blue Zones of Happiness here we come. As mentioned in my other review of non-fiction this will be more a review of things that I want to remember rather than a typical this is why I liked this book…

For those that don’t know the “Blue Zones” project originally started looking for places in the world were people lived the longest live, in order to find the causes for that. Since then the “Blue Zones” has been expanded to Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living like the World’s Healthiest People and many more. It’s quite the franchise.

The Blue Zones of Happiness as the title might suggest is what the Blue Zones can teach us about living a happier life. The unique contribution of this book it to look at the issue not just from an individual level but also a social and community level. This is done through the concept of life radius which starts with Communities, then workplaces, social networks, home, wellbeing and finally inner life. A useful concept when working with someone to identify possible individual intervention strategies, as well as informing societal social work strategies.

So what does it say? Well the book can be summed in words 3:

PURPOSE
PLEASURE
PRIDE

Mix these 3 ingredient together in an individual and enable their pursuit in a society and vola! Happiness. The book summaries further though into the POWER of 9!

1. Love Someone – Commit to someone compatible with you, your interests, values and company you enjoy.
2. Inner Circle – Create a circle of a least 3 friends with whom you can have meaningful conversation, can call after a bad day for help and are generally happy (for every new happy friend that enters your social network, your own happiness increases by about 15 per cent).
3. Engage - Get out of the house! Engage with a group of people around your interests
4. Learn Likeability – Learn to be likeable to others, give genuine compliments, be a good friend, be happy yourself.
5. Move Naturally – get at least 30 min exercise per day
6. Look Forward – Focus on meaningful things, set goals, monitor progress. This will help you get more of what you want out of life.
7. Sleep Seven Plus – GET SOME SLEEP! Establish sleep routine (use sleep hygiene)
8. Shape Surroundings – Look at shaping your different life radiuses to favour happy decisions. Eg. don’t keep junk food in the fridge
9. Right Community – Live in a community which fosters wellbeing. Example: Immigrants moving from less happy countries to happier places such as Canada adopt the happiness levels of their new country within a year!

The rest of the book was good but to be honest lacked a lot of meat and seemed to be more interested in anecdotal evidence rather than real science. While I’m not a fan of just page after page of statistics I felt like this book erred on the side of not having enough weight behind some of it’s statements (Hence the low rating) it did however provide some useful stories and a good frame work when working with people.
Profile Image for Irene McHugh.
570 reviews35 followers
January 18, 2021
Pleasantly surprised by this quick read filled with actionable advice.

While I've heard or read about these same techniques before, the presentation here is what makes them work for me. Buettner argues that adding activities like keeping a gratitude journal, meditating, or most of positive psychology strategies creates a scenario where people have to adjust their life to the strategy. He compares the reality of this change happening to dieting and exercise.

As someone who has tried numerous strategies and struggled to work them into habits, I appreciate Buettner's approach to leading a happier life. I cannot tell you how many different times I've started a gratitude journal. I've tried incorporating that habit so many different ways into routines and none of them have stuck.

Buettner prefers to evaluate the environment and find ways where the surroundings nudge people into making good choices for their happiness.

I highlighted many passages in this book that I will list in my 2021 planner so that I can choose different strategies to reflect on as I adapt my environment. With an upcoming move in the next six months, this book presented some great material for me to reflect upon as my husband and I choose how we want to organize our new home, and build relationships in our new community.

Additionally, I really enjoyed reading about various cultures and their approach to happiness. While I already knew some of these details, I certainly learned more.

I've already put several of his other books on hold with my local library. While I'm sure there will be repetition, the hold times are all over the place, so reading one of his books every few months is just good reinforcement.
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