For the last fifteen years, Blue Zones author Dan Buettner has dedicated his life to helping people live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

For the last fifteen years, Blue Zones author Dan Buettner has dedicated his life to helping people live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

With three New York Times bestselling books under his belt — The Blue Zones, Thrive, The Blue Zones Solution — Buettner's new book, The Blue Zones of Happiness, has just been published by National Geographic.

Buettner's previous endeavors have been largely devoted to the aspect of health, in regard to how to increase one's quality of life. In this newest work, Buettner switches his focus to happiness — a topic he alludes to as the proverbial jelly to health's peanut butter.

“You can't have one without the other,” he said. “They are inextricably linked.”

The thing about happiness though, he said, is that it can't be measured, so he pinpointed three indicators that can be — pleasure, purpose and pride.

At that point, staying true to his method of gathering and analyzing data, Buettner and his team searched the world over to find and study how people who are achieving the highest levels of happiness do it. Then, through reverse engineering, mimic the comparable factors they share — creating a formula or recipe of sorts for wannabes to apply in their own lives.

In order to discover the answers, Buettner first had to ask the right questions — what would it take to succeed?

Past research had alerted Buettner to a fundamental flaw in the way society tries to effect change — simply starting or stopping a behavior does not typically yield longterm positive results for most of the population, as proven by even the most popular trends offered.

“For example, marketers try to sell diets, but there is no evidence that the vast majority of the population will ever truly be able to commit to change that way — the success rate is only about three percent,” Buettner said.

He shared that changing the surrounding environment offers better results.

So, armed with the data-backed approach of targeting change within actual locales or communities — making it easier for people to choose a more healthful lifestyle — drew Buettner to a plan of action he feels has much more potential for success.

In his book, he offers many examples of lifestyle choices from areas found with reportedly high levels of happiness — cities in Singapore, Denmark and Costa Rica.

“In comparison, the United States with its high GDP generally doesn't rank that high; it's about a B+,” he said.

According to nationalgeographic.com, the researchers who publish the annual World Happiness Report found that about three-quarters of human happiness is driven by six factors: strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, quality social relationships, generosity, trust and freedom to live the life that’s right for you. “These factors don’t materialize by chance; they are intimately related to a country’s government and its cultural values. In other words the happiest places incubate happiness for their people,” the website reads.

Buettner said a community's potential for happiness boils down to how well enlightened leaders use their ability to shift away from mindset of strictly economic development to allowing quality-of-life to drive the agenda.

“There are some of these places where obesity rates were lowered because they outlawed drive-thru windows at restaurants,” he said, “or promoted the farmers market, making it an easier option and a more social setting.”

He said the point is a community's leadership has the ability and power to shift focus.

Buettner offered kudos to the City of Shawnee and its recent efforts to initiate Safe Routes to Schools.

“As a society, we have all but wiped out some of the better habits we used to have,” he said. “In 1970, 50 percent of students walked to school — now the average is around 10 percent.”

With Safe Routes, Shawnee is taking away that traffic threat and parental fears, he said.

“It starts to reverse that trend,” Buettner said.

With an obesity rate of more than 35 percent among Americans, he said the country spends trillions in health care on issues that are preventable.

In the same vein of optimizing locales for healthful and happy lives, Buettner's work also has inspired one of the largest community well-being improvement initiatives in America, The Blue Zones Project, which is now established — and thriving — in Pottawatomie County and more than 40 communities across the country, so far.

Blue Zones Project is a community-by-community well-being improvement initiative designed to support longer, better lives through permanent changes to environment, policy and social networks.

For the past several months, area leaders have been working to establish the Blue Zones Project in Shawnee and Pottawatomie County.

Since the community launch in August 2017, more than 1,181 individuals have joined the project.

The community now has three Blue Zones Project Approved worksites — Shawnee Family YMCA, Avedis Foundation, and Oklahoma Baptist University; and two Blue Zones Project Approved restaurants — The Owl Shoppe and St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital Café.

In celebration of the newest Blue Zones Project approved restaurant, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital Café Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Also, the community is invited to attend an upcoming Purpose Workshop the Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County is hosting from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the Mabee Gerrer Museum of Art.

About Buettner

Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow and the founder of Blue Zones, an organization that helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. His groundbreaking work on longevity led to his 2005 National Geographic cover story “Secrets of Living Longer” and three national best-sellers, The Blue Zones, Thrive, and The Blue Zones Solution. He lives in Minneapolis and can be found on Facebook and Twitter and through his website bluezones.com.

About Blue Zones Project

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is inspired by Buettner, who identified five regions of the world — or Blue Zones — with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner’s findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Currently, 42 communities in nine states have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 3.3 million Americans nationwide. The movement includes three beach cities in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth; and communities in Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin.

For more information, visit bluezonesproject.com.