Why you should pack your bags and move to a Blue Zone

Have you considered making a geographic switch during retirement to shake things up a bit? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve had numerous clients who decided to make major moves once they hit retirement. The impetus behind relocating typically had to do with being closer to friends or family.

One client decided to move from metro Atlanta to St. Simons Island to live near a close friend, and my client is loving that decision. Another client couple moved from Georgia to California to be near their grandkids. They, too, have never looked back.

But there may be other good reasons to consider moving someplace new. According to National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones of Happiness, some places are just plain happier than others.

Blue Zones are places across the globe where folks tend to live longer. In their extensive research into Blue Zones scientists have found that the strong social connections formed by residents of these areas account, in part, for their longevity.

Related: Town has taken a unique and remarkable approach to health care based on data from “Blue Zones”

Buettner’s book explores the happiest places on earth. His conclusion? If you’re feeling “blue,” perhaps think about putting down roots somewhere different. After all, it only takes one sprout – one friend, one family member – to grow a network of solid connections and community involvement.

The findings on the happiest of locales are straight from Buettner’s on-the-ground research. During his time traveling for National Geographic, he spent time exploring these places and investigating what made folks so darn cheerful. His conclusion: “There’s no other intervention anybody can tell me about that has that dependable and lasting impact on happiness than your geography.”

Simply put, if you’re unhappy, make a move.

Buettner says the happiest places he’s found in the US include San Luis Obispo, California; Boulder, Colorado; and Portland, Oregon. He is a firm believer in the health benefits of sociability and pleasantness of these thoughtfully developed metropolises.

Related: What we can learn from “Blue Zones” about living a longer, healthier life

So, if you’ve already started packing, consider one of these cities as your possible new home. If you have ties in another town, think about that place too. Before you call the movers, though, be sure to research where you’re going. Buettner believes cities with walkability, low rates of obesity and a plethora of healthy food options should top your list. During his travels, he’s found that these qualities correlate to higher happiness, too.

Whatever you do, remember that when you set up housekeeping somewhere new, the key is plugging into relationships.

Sure, moving may not be the first step we think of when we visualize increasing our happiness. Things like seeing a therapist, journaling, or upping our social engagements may top the list. But if we’ve tried these things and are still not as happy as we’d like to be, maybe a fresh start is in order.

“The most important variable in that happiness recipe, the ingredient with the most statistical variability, is where you live. If you live in an unhappy place, the best thing you can do is move to a happier place,” says Buettner.

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