Oprah: Why is San Luis Obispo a Happy Place to Live?

San Luis Obispo Happy Fire DeptApr 23, 2011 – Well, Oprah Winfrey wanted us to know as part of her recent show on “What Makes Us Happy”. So she sent Jenny McCarthy, actress and advocate of the Autism Awareness movement to San Luis Obispo to find out. Oprah’s guest, National Geographic author, Dan Buettner named the city “The Happiest Place in America” in his recent book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.  Jenny not only visited San Luis Obispo’s Fire Department which is also one of the happiest jobs to have, but she found out a lot of what we might do to make our communites happier too.

Jenny reported that in 1970 the citizens made a conscious decision to make their city a better place to live.
They started by shutting down the main road through town and widening the sidewalks to make it pedestrian friendly. Experts say that if your town has wide sidewalks around a town square, you are much more likely to be happy.
They traded in fast food drive-throughs for outdoor cafés. They had to change city ordinances to do this, but today, fast food drive-throughs are not allow in San Luis Obispo.
In 1990, it was the first place in the world to ban public smoking!
Their miles and miles of biking and hiking trails and being surrounded by beautiful beaches, vineyards and mountains must also add to the happiness factor.

Jenny interviewed a few of the residents.  One couple, who has now lived in San Luis Obispo for eight years said they used to live in Orange County and they had these horribly long commutes.  They wanted to live somewhere conducive to family living and growing.  The mother of the family said she ended up taking a 40% pay cut to move to San Luis Obispo.

Jenny said that with a population of about 45,000, nearly a quarter of the adults here are happy to be working for themselves.  One small business owner said that there is not a lot of jobs in San Luis Obispo, so they create them. And they also do a lot of bartering between each other such as an artist might barter for dental work.

Jenny was surprised to learn that the average income is about $60,000 a year and the average house is valued at about $400,000.  Crime, Jenny felt, seems to be concentrated among the college kids.

Jenny learned from the residents that it wasn’t one particular item that made them happy.  That it was the sum of all the little things like their health, liking their jobs, being happy in their marriage and plenty of outdoor recreation.  She noticed that there seemed to be a charitable, pay it forward, community attitude and they all seem to know their neighbors!

Dan Buettner summed it up by saying “happiness is a cake recipe, and the most important ingredients are; do I have a good job; did I marry the right person; do I have engaging work; do I volunteer in a way that I have a feeling that I’m giving back. But the biggest thing is where you live.”

 

 

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