Dan Buettner on the Happiness Blue Zones

This episode is sponsored by FreshBooks.

Who are the happiest people in the world? New York Times best-selling author and National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner, sets out to discover what factors determine happiness in his new book, The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons for Living Longer From People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Blue zones are populations and locations where people statistically live the longest. In this eye-opening interview, SUCCESS editor-in-chief Josh Ellis and Buettner break down the three threads of happiness: pleasure, purpose and pride. Listen in to learn how you can weave those threads into your own life.


  • For his book Blue Zone Solution, Buettner worked with National Geographic and the National Institutes on Aging to help “reverse engineer” our understanding of longevity by identifying what those populations do to achieve one of three key factors: a high life expectancy, the highest centenarian rate, or the lowest rate of middle age mortality. For his new book about happiness, Buettner applied the Blue Zone methodology to large-scale happiness polls to find the statistically happiest people on earth. 
  • How can one region or country be collectively happier than another? “There’s certain things that make everyone happy,” Buettner says. “Health, as a rule, we are more happy if we’re healthy. Humans like to laugh. Humans like to love and receive love. Those are universals whether you’re in Asia, Latin America, Africa or the United States.”
  • Buettner says there are different kinds of happiness— and they should be balanced like a good investment portfolio:
    • Pleasure, or positive affect enjoying something
    • Purpose, measured by people rating how engaged they are with their lives and if they’re doing something meaningful
    • Pride, or feeling satisfied with your life holistically

Favorite quote from this episode:

“If happiness were a cake recipe and having a good job, marrying the right person, having the right friends, being healthy and making enough money are all ingredients, the most important ingredient in that cake recipe is where you live. Blue zones of happiness offer a blueprint to shape your environment, so you’re more likely to be happy.”

—Dan Buettner

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Josh Ellis is the former editor in chief for SUCCESS magazine. Before joining SUCCESS in 2012, he was an accomplished digital and print sportswriter, working for the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the team’s gameday program, and DallasCowboys.com. Originally from Longview, Texas, he began writing for his hometown newspaper at 16.

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