A recent Gallup Poll, called the Healthways Well-Being Index, has rated Boulder, Colorado, the #1 healthiest and happiest city in the country. It was based on an analysis of 353,000 Americans in 2009. The interviewers asked individuals to assess their jobs, finances, physical health, emotional state and communities.
Having just visited my daughter, Grace Boyle, who lives in Boulder, I was not surprised. The restaurants are excellent, the town is surrounded by boulders, mountains, and forests with Boulder Creek flowing through the center of the town. Boulder is surrounded by a wonderful greenbelt with 120 miles of trails and there are 9 bookstores between 9th and 18th streets. Does reading books make us happier? I’m pretty happy when I spend time in bookstores!
I think the 300 days of sunshine per year in Boulder contributes to feeling happy. In Iowa, I think we have almost 300 days of gray skies. Okay, this isn’t official data but it seems true. I think the sunshine alone adds to their happiness level as I’ve written about in many posts about how 20 minutes/day of skin exposure to sunshine is needed to manufacture Vitamin D in our bodies.
I have two conflicting opinions regarding living in locations that ‘make’ you feel happier. First, I think the Zen saying is somewhat true, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ My interpretation is that if you have problems while living in Huntington, WVa, you more than likely take the problems with you, even if you move to Boulder. (Huntington, W.Va was poorly rated at #162 at the bottom of the large and medium sized cities in the survey.)
However, I have noticed in my life that I have felt better in Italy, Florida and Colorado. I have been pretty happy wherever I have been, but there are places that I feel more alive. If there are more jobs, healthier choices available, and like-minded people, the quality of your life could significantly improve. But, again, this doesn’t guarantee peace of mind or happiness.
Boulder’s weather offers a chance to be outside in the fresh mountain air almost everyday. In addition to the focus on health and exercise, the jobless rate is 5.7%. In the US it is 9.7%. Salaries vary in Boulder but between Denver and Boulder there are 171 start-ups. Health is an essential contributing factor to happiness, and if you live in Boulder and you’re not in shape, you are a minority. People of all ages enjoy biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding and more. Bike lanes rule.
The measures used by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index makes sense to me.
According to their website, “the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™ has been developed to provide the official measure for health and well-being. It’s the voice of Americans and the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to measure what people believe constitutes a good life.”
“Over the next 25 years, the Well-Being Index will collect and measure the daily pulse of the nation’s well-being and provide best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. By helping Americans understand how work impacts life and health and conversely how life affects work and health, we can work together to improve well-being for a better way of life.”
According to the Gallup Poll, the next nine happiest cities in the U.S. are:
- #2 Holland-Grand Haven, MI on the shore of Lake Michigan, western Michigan
- #3 Honolulu, HI
- #4 Provo-Orem, UT
- #5 Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
- #6 Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
- #7 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- #8 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
- #9 Ogden-Clearfield, UT
- #10 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
How about you? Are you in a happy city? Does reading make you happier? How about sunshine alot of the time? Let me know.
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.