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How Much Does Where You Live Have to Do with Happiness?

Posted Mar 09 2012 4:00pm

Happiness is a funny thing because in a society that places so much value on wealth, fame, and good looks; those that have it all seem to be plagued with substance abuse problems, multiple marriages, and serious mental health issues. Celebrities are rich and can have just about anything their little hearts dream of but in the end, it’s not enough

Can You Control Your Happiness?

But how much does where you live actually have to do with your happiness level? Happiness researchers--yes there are people that do this for a living (it makes you unwittingly wonder how happy they are)-have found that  50 percent of happiness comes from genetics, 10 percent from unplanned events in life, and 40 percent from the actions that you take. 

So we can’t control genetics and we can’t control life events, but 40 percent is still a huge piece of the happiness pie. We have a good bit of control over our happiness and a lot of that control involves where you choose to live. But here's the thing, it has little to do with possessions and wealth in where ever you end up and more do to with how you live.

A recent survey  outlined the happiest and the least happy states in the nation. The survey included 352, 840 adults living in the U.S. It looked at six categories of happiness: emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behavior, basic access to healthcare and public safety, and community satisfaction. 

Hawaii was the happiest state to live in once again followed by Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, and Minnesota. The states at the bottom of the list included West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama. 

Experiences Vs. Material Things

According to a  study  done at San Francisco State University, it’s life’s experiences rather than  material things that makes us the happiest. These experiences include physical activity and movement; natural surroundings, green spaces, and water; and trying new challenges. 

If you take a look at the states at the top of the list you’ll notice that they’re mostly rural states, with lots of wide open spaces, natural beauty, and wilderness. They offer all sorts of exciting outdoor challenges whether it be surfing, hiking, rock climbing, skiing, and so many more. And the more outdoor physical activity you engage in, the happier you are, according to  the survey.

The rural nature of many of the happiest places also means that the populations are lower and we’re usually happier when we have room to breathe. With less people, communities become tighter and depend on one another--a good sense of community is another key to happiness. 

I’d also venture to say that barrier to entry also makes for a happy life, especially in the cases of Hawaii and Alaska. While the climates of these two places is very different, it takes effort to live in both of them. This is especially true for the people that move in from out-of-state. They put in the leg work to drop their lives in one place and move to a place where they think they would be happier, because again, 40 percent of happiness comes from the actions you take. 

Photo: Thinkstock

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