Does it seem as though, lately, we’re barking at each other a lot more than we used to? Perhaps the better question is, when did shouting replace talking?

The anger and hostility aren’t necessarily because of the current political climate. There’s the actual climate to consider. Storms destroying major cities and entire Caribbean islands are definitely a factor.

All of which makes it difficult to effectively pursue happiness, which is a state of mind easily overwhelmed by anger and hostility.

Aristotle described happiness as “a state of activity,” which suggests that inactivity breeds unhappiness. Can’t find much of an argument against that notion.

More recently, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was — a feeling you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.”

Interesting thoughts, and important to the subject of today’s essay, which is that our little slice of paradise has recently been recognized as one of the nation’s happiest places to live.

Are you shocked and amazed? Probably not. Those who have lived just about anywhere along the Central Coast know full well what a blessing it is — and one that has been officially recognized by National Geographic.

New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner has identified the region including Santa Barbara to Santa Maria as one of the 25 happiest cities in America.

OK, so technically speaking, the region Buettner named isn’t really just one city, but you get the general idea.

The selections were made based on an analysis of 15 core metrics that help determine degrees of overall happiness. You can probably guess what some of those metrics are — walkability, healthy food options, civic engagement, etc.

The simple truth is, we have it all, or at least enough of the right stuff to be ranked 12th in the field of 25 cities nationwide.

Glenn Morris, president and CEO of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce said it best: “We are honored to be deemed a happy and extraordinary place to live, play, work in and visit. There’s so much to enjoy here and along the Central California Coast. …”

That goes double for those of us choosing the easier, bucolic, laid-back lifestyle here in the Santa Ynez Valley.

But local folks wanting to keep our wonderfulness under wraps so as to fend off a stampede of happiness seekers had best steel your nerves for the inevitable onslaught, because National Geographic’s November cover story is all about “The Blue Zones of Happiness,” in which Buettner lists the rest of the world’s happiest places, and explains environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to the overall happiness in the chosen regions.

It also should come as no surprise that eight of the 25 happiest cities are right here in California. Even with our earthquakes, wildfires, drought and all the other natural and man-caused calamities, this remains the very best place in the United States to call home. Maybe that’s why, despite the calamities in abundance, we’re here, and happy.

So, armed with the knowledge that we are now one of the happiest places in America, perhaps we could all make an effort to tune out the negative noise from our political leaders, and work toward achieving the ideals of happiness.

In other words, let’s not get complacent about being such a happy bunch, and work to spread the joy to everyone.


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