I put this on hold at the library ages ago – it must still be really popular even though it was first published in 2010 (why does it still freak me out that 2010 was TWELVE years ago?!). Anyway, I wanted to read it because I’ve read a bunch of other stuff by Dan Buettner and listened to him being interviewed a few times and he just sounds like a really cool guy.
Thrive starts off with a chapter about the ‘truth’ of happiness – how do you measure it, is it overrated, and is it contagious – with answers from a variety of experts.
Then there are chapters on four places identified by researchers as the world leaders in happiness, all for very different reasons: Denmark, Singapore, Mexico, and San Luis Obispo. It was comforting to read the stories of people from vastly different backgrounds, careers and family lives, who live in vastly different countries, and are all thriving in their own ways. For example, in places like Denmark, people pay what some would consider very high taxes, but they are happy with being very well looked after by their government, with exceeding education, health care and other services. In Singapore, they have a lot of rules to live by and face strict discipline if they aren’t followed, but people feel safe and live successfully among those from other cultural backgrounds. In Mexico, there is not a lot of money for most and an extremely corrupt government, but people find happiness in their religion and family life. And in San Luis Obispo, happiness seems to have been planned into the city itself, with their lack of lairy neon signage, ease of getting around on bikes, and dedication of citizens to make it a great place to live.
The last chapter – Lessons in Thriving – helps to distill the lessons from the aforementioned places that can help you to build happiness into your life without having to think about. And they are great lessons – but just not that easy to implement for most people, I think. ‘Move to a quiet neighbourhood’, ‘limit your workweek to 40 hours’ and ‘marry the right person’ are certainly great lessons, but require a massive commitment to put into place. There are some other ideas that would be easier to implement, like ‘grow a garden’ and volunteer’.
To sum up though, it was a really great read, if not only to learn about what makes people happy, but also how the other half lives.
It loses one star for having a recommendation by Dr Oz.