These Two Questions Will Tell You How Happy You Are

While the United States does not rank particularly high on the World Happiness Report compared to many other developed nations, the city of Boulder, Colorado, is the happiest city in America. Its healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, and trust all make residents a pretty happy bunch. Dan Buettner joined a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival 2018 with Mayor Suzanne Jones from the City of Boulder to discuss some of the factors that make Boulder so happy, which include civic engagement, built environment, walkability, and healthful food options. Watch the video below.

Dan opened the floor by asking two simple questions to predict the happiest people in the room.

  1. Do you think life is long or short?
  2. Do you think life is easy or hard?

If you answered long and easy, you are at the top of the happiness scale. Research shows that people who think life is long and easy are happier than those that think life is short and hard, those that think life is long and hard, and those that think life is short and easy. People who continually ask themselves introspective questions, including “What gets me up in the mornings?” are on the road to creating a happier life of purpose and meaning.



This test, based on the leading scientific research into well-being, will show you your happiness level and will give you personalized recommendations to help you improve your environment to maximize your happiness.

Key Points

On Polling for Happiness:

Dan and researchers from Google, Gallup, and the University of Pennsylvania created an algorithm to predict happiness using Google searches. They found that people who own dogs and Google about dogs are happier than cat owners. Those who search for action and comedy films are happier than those searching for romance.

Using another huge pool of data, they took the World Values Study database that polled people from 155 countries and asked these questions.

  1. When you think of your life on a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you?
  2. How much did you smile in the last 24 hours? How much joy did you experience? How much stress?
  3. How often do you get to use your talents?

By asking these three questions, researchers were able to measure happiness by way of life satisfaction. Happiness itself, academically speaking, is a meaningless term because you can’t measure happiness. BUT, you can measure life satisfaction.

“Happiness itself, academically speaking, is a meaningless term because you can’t measure happiness.”

The Happiest Place in America:

Boulder is a naturally beautiful place with a high quality of life. They have invested a lot in preserving and enhancing the natural beauty and their clean air and water with local ordinances. They’ve tried to foster diversity and religious freedom by working to make sure people feel welcome in Boulder, and that they feel free to live out their values. They have become a sanctuary city to embrace diversity.

The happiest places in the world and in the United States didn’t just end up happier for no reason. Research shows us that anywhere from 50 to 100 years ago, leaders in these happy spots shifted focus from purely business and economic development to quality of life concerns, and then passed policies that fostered happiness. They worked to maintain green spaces, create places to meet and recreate, and provide access to healthy food for everyone.

What Can Cities Do Today?

So what can your city do if you didn’t have a leader step up 50-100 years ago to prioritize policies that correlate with happiness and well-being? It’s not enough, or never just enough, to change a person’s habits. The secret to creating happier people and happier places lies in optimizing the environment. Dan’s work with the Blue Zones Project has reverse engineered happiness and changed public policies and the built environment in more than 42 communities and 10 states in the U.S.

What makes the Blue Zones Project special is that it’s all about choice. If you try to tell a city or a community or a county what to do, they’ll show you the door. What the Blue Zones Project does is give options so that the healthy choice is the easy choice, but it’s not the only one. By infiltrating the Life Radius, Blue Zones Project goes into schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and local businesses to create an environment that supports and encourages healthy behavior nudges.

By Aislinn Leonard

Aislinn Leonard is the business coordinator at Blue Zones. She studied Communication & Journalism and French at the University of St. Thomas and is a hockey player, national champion hurler and lover of all things health and fitness.

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