The neighborhood and area you live in has a significant impact on how happy you are. In fact studies have shown that where you live has a greater impact on your happiness than education level, religion, or even income. The design of your home itself can have a large impact on happiness as well. Here are 10 Tips for a Happier Home. For this article I want to show you some of the most common characteristics of happy neighborhoods. If you’re unhappy with where you live, let us help you goBE HAPPY, by moving to an area with more of these characteristics.
These tips come from economist Bruno S. Frey and his article titled The Economics of Happiness.
Communities with open space help create more happiness among its residents. This is more than just parks and public gardens, it also includes city centers, outdoor restaurants, and pedestrian malls. Communities with open space provide more opportunities for members of the community to come together and socialize. Because socializing is a major key to happiness, communities that make it easy for citizens to socialize are generally happier. Communities with open space also tend to have more community activities in those areas to encourage people to come together.
A community can also improve happiness by making it easy to get around on foot or bike. In general, healthy people are happier people. Therefore a community that encourages activity is happier. Look for a lot of sidewalks and bike-lanes that connect homes to make it easier to walking around. Activity levels in these areas are as much as 35% higher! It is also easier to be social if you don’t have to cut across a lawn or walk into traffic to interact with your neighbors.
Communities can also encourage activity by offering businesses and activities within walking distance. www.walkscore.com provides walking scores for different neighborhoods. It looks at the walking distance to churches, parks, grocery stores, and museums. We know that walking increases activity and opportunities for socializing, but your community also needs to have things that you want to walk to.
Communities that provide opportunities for community involvement in the arts are generally happier. Whether you contribute financially as a sponsor, or support through your patronage, your contribution increases life satisfaction. Being involved in the arts also facilitates discussion with other people interested in the arts. Once more we see that increased socializing facilities higher levels of happiness.
It is important to live in a safe neighborhood, but even more important to have a sense of safety. If you do not feel safe you will not be likely to take advantage of all the community features that encourage happiness. In fact the single thing that prevents the most physical activity, is a sense of danger. Feeling safe also helps you feel comfortable letting children play outside. If the children are stuck in the house how does that affect your happiness? By now you should be noticing a theme in these neighborhood features. They help draw you out of our house and nudge you into activity and socializing.
Happy communities provide employment opportunities for their residents. It does not mean you are guaranteed a job by moving to the neighborhood, but there should be nearby employment. Communities that provide nearby employment opportunities are happier for three reasons: socializing with other community members, contributing to the community, and a shorter commute.
Can you imagine being able to walk to work? How about working from home? Happiness studies have consistently shown that commuting to work is considered the least enjoyable part of the day by most people. While this seems obvious, you might not know that commuting home is the second least enjoyable part of the day. That means it doesn’t matter if you’re heading to work or heading home, the commute reduces happiness.
Salt Lake Realtors donate over $30,000 to promote clean air through mass transit.
Limit Business Hours
In addition to limiting your commute, if you can limit your working hours you will also increase happiness. There are some communities that limit the hours that businesses are open and consequently shorten the hours of the employees. Limiting work hours provides more time for social interaction, education, culture, sports, and volunteer work. Shorter work hours can also prevent chronic family problems.
Diversity / Tolerance
Studies have found that diverse communities strengthen the tolerance of their citizens. A community that is accepting of various lifestyles, customs, and perspectives is happier than one that allows or encourages discrimination.
Quality of government
We are fortunate to live in a country that allows us to participate in the selection of local leaders. Being involved in, and supporting, the selection of honorable and quality leaders will ensure a higher level of satisfaction with the community. Not only because the community will run better, but because we will have greater sense of civic pride and ownership for the community decisions.
Limit shopping hours
It makes perfect sense to limit work hours from the employee perspective, but what about the consumer? Don’t 24/7 stores make you happier because you can always get your needs met? Actually, no! Purchasing things only provides a temporary and fleeting sense of satisfaction. Less shopping opportunities frees you up for more productive activities that will provide lasting happiness. Frey’s suggestion is to limit the hours that stores are open, but this can be difficult to find. Another option is to choose a home that is distanced from shopping centers. Access to these fleeting means of satisfaction is more limited. Even if they’re open 24/7.
It is amazing how adaptable we can be, but sound is one thing we struggle to adapt to. We learn to deal with the crazy Utah weather and can even cope with living on an unattractive street. But we do not adapt well to excessive noise. Will you have to deal with jet planes, buzzing transmission lines, honking traffic, or loud music from neighbors? All of these represent potential attacks on your happiness.
The general pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” has more of an impact on your happiness than you might think. It is important to your happiness that you live in a neighborhood with your own economic class. If you try too hard to look more wealthy than you are or move to a neighborhood with people of a higher economic class, you’re sabotaging your happiness. Doing so puts you in a position where you are constantly reminded of the things you do not have. One study shows that people would rather make $50,000 a year and live with other who make the same, than make $100,000 a year and live among people who make $250,000 a year.
Too often we judge an area or neighborhood based on the average income per household, or the average size of the home. While it is true that people living in wealthy communities are happier than those living in poverty, the benefits of a higher income taper off. Once income rises about the level necessary for meeting your basic needs it become less significant for your happiness than other factors.
One Response to “Utah’s Happy Cities”
Neighborhoods and Homes can be designed to promote happiness. Check out my article on: 10 Features of a Happy Home.