Lillian Wilson

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner

How do you find true happiness? Discover how to achieve your full potential through the habits of the happiest nations in the world.

Thrive Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way

The book has gotten 3.71 ⭐️ on GoodReads.

“…a book about the happiest regions in the world. [Buettner] also recommends 'land-mining your home with photos and memorabilia, so you’re constantly reminded of your history.' Adorning a hallway or a highly trafficked room with sentimental objects is a good way to start.” 
– Real Simple 

Scientists and philosophers were questioning the stem of happiness for centuries. Despite the myriad trials, the answer seems nowhere to be found. However, what they have definitely discovered is the benign effect of happiness and fulfilment on a person’s life and longevity. Interestingly, happy men and women can live 16 years and 23 years longer respectively, when compared to unhappy people.

For the purpose of unveiling the secrets of happiness, a National Geographic Fellow – Dan Buettner – travelled the world and wrote a book ‘Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way’. In this review, we will dwell on Buettner’s extensive research that challenges our understanding of happiness and figure out what are the key life habits that will help us cultivate genuine joy in our lives.

Author’s background

Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow, journalist, and bestselling author who has contributed to the field of longevity by discovering the Blue Zones – areas in the world where people showcase exceptionally long lifespans.

Dan Buettner (r)

Dan spent over ten years travelling the world and studying Blue Zone to discover the secrets of their longevity. He has put the experience into a variety of books, including ‘The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer’, ’Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way’, ’The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People’. All of them became national bestsellers.

Dan Buettner collaborates with governments and insurance companies to introduce Blue Zones Projects in various settings. These projects aim to improve well-being in local environments, policies, and social networks by using the Blue Zones insights. More than 5 million Americans have experienced life improvements due to these initiatives.

What is the book about?

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way’ begins with a chapter delving into the concept of happiness, exploring its measurement, its perceived value, and its potential contagiousness, featuring insights from a range of experts.

Subsequent chapters focus on four distinct locations that have been identified by researchers as leaders in happiness: Denmark, Singapore, Mexico, and San Luis Obispo. It was reassuring to encounter stories of individuals from diverse backgrounds, professions, and family lives, residing in different countries, all thriving in their own unique ways. For instance, in Denmark, citizens willingly pay relatively high taxes, appreciating the extensive support provided by their government, including exceptional education, healthcare, and other services. Singapore residents adhere to numerous rules and face strict discipline, but they find security and success in coexisting with people from various cultural backgrounds. In Mexico, where financial resources are limited and corruption is prevalent, individuals derive happiness from their religious beliefs and family life. In San Luis Obispo, happiness appears to be ingrained in the city itself, evident through subtle signage, bicycle-friendly infrastructure, and the community’s dedication to creating an excellent living environment.

The final chapter, ‘Lessons in Thriving,’ provides practical guidance on building happiness without constant conscious effort. While some lessons may require significant commitment, such as moving to a quiet neighbourhood or limiting work hours, others, like gardening and volunteering, are more accessible.

Key takeaways from ‘Thrive’

1There are multiple roads to happiness

The book recognises that true happiness can be achieved through different paths. Buettner finds thriving and fulfilled communities in countries that vary significantly in their historical and financial backgrounds as well as political systems.

Happiness in these places stems from factors such as the presence of a social safety net or the prospect of upward mobility. Buettner also showcases that strong family bonds contribute significantly to happiness through various examples of people of San Luis Obispo.

Thus, roads to happiness may differ, but what unites them is the health and wellness benefits they bring.

2The happiest people socialize at least seven hours a day

Buettner underscores the significance of relationships in attaining lifelong happiness, highlighting that the happiest individuals in America spend approximately seven hours a day socialising. He also highlights the positive impact of marriage, noting that being married increases the likelihood of happiness threefold, while each new friend boosts happiness by around 10%.

Additionally, Buettner emphasises the importance of cultivating good relationships in the workplace. He reveals that having a best friend at work is a key factor in job satisfaction, even surpassing the influence of salary. To foster such connections, Buettner suggests taking the initiative to organise social events like happy hours.

3Experience actually increases the zest for life

The author also points out that we are happier when investing in experiences rather than in possessions. He recommends pursuing interests in sports or the arts, which offer long-lasting satisfaction compared to a single purchase. According to him, the value of an experience can actually increase over time. Learning to play a musical instrument or mastering a new language, for example, can yield benefits for years or even decades.

Table of contents

  • Searching for Happiness
  • The Truth About Happiness
  • Denmark
  • The World’s Happiness All-Stars
  • Singapore
  • Can You Manufacture a Happy Nation?
  • Mexico
  • The Secret Sauce of Happiness
  • San Luis Obispo
  • A Real American Dream
  • Lessons in Thriving
  • The Truth About Living Longer

Strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews


  • The book is based on extensive research and interviews conducted by the author, Dan Buettner, who applies a methodology similar to his previous work on longevity.

  • Gives real-life examples of individuals from diverse backgrounds, careers, and family lives, the book illustrates how people find happiness in various circumstances.

  • Provides practical lessons and takeaways that readers can apply to their own lives. It offers actionable steps and insights on building happiness, such as cultivating trust, caring for family and social connections, promoting equality, and fostering a sense of freedom.

  • Serves as a source of inspiration and motivation for readers seeking greater happiness in their lives. By sharing stories of individuals who have found happiness in different circumstances, the book instils a sense of hope and encourages readers to pursue their own path to thriving.


  • Limited focus on individual happiness, with more emphasis on communities.

  • Challenges in implementing recommendations tied to specific societal conditions.

  • Potential generalisations and stereotypes in portraying happiness.

Best quotes from ‘Thrive’

”More than any other factor, including income, education, and religion, the place where you live determines your level of happiness. As one study suggested, for example, if you're an unhappy person in're more likely to get a boost by moving to Denmark than you would be by staying put and winning the lottery, marrying the person of your dreams, or earning a PhD.” 
”I wake up in the morning and I see that flower, with the dew on its petals, and at the way it's folding out, and it makes me happy, she said. It's important to focus on the things in the here and now, I think. In a month, the flower will be shriveled and you will miss its beauty if you don't make the effort to do it now. Your life, eventually, is the same way.” 
”Gratitude always comes into play; research shows that people are happier if they are grateful for the positive things in their lives, rather than worrying about what might be missing.”

Final takeaway

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way’ by Dan Buettner is a captivating and enlightening read that offers valuable insights into the pursuit of happiness. This book is highly recommended for individuals who are curious about the factors that contribute to happiness across different cultures and communities. It is ideal for those seeking inspiration and practical guidance on building a more fulfilling and joyful life. Whether you are interested in understanding the role of social connections, trust, or personal growth in happiness, ‘Thrive’ provides a wealth of knowledge and real-life examples to inspire positive changes.

Where to buy

You may purchase ‘Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in Kindle and paperback, hardcover and audio versions, so you are free to choose the format that suits you best.

Healthypedia FAQ

Dan Buettner emphasises the importance of relationships in attaining lifelong happiness. He highlights that the happiest individuals socialise for approximately seven hours a day and that being married increases the likelihood of happiness. Buettner also emphasises the significance of having strong relationships in the workplace, suggesting that having a best friend at work is a key factor in job satisfaction. He encourages readers to actively cultivate and maintain meaningful connections in their personal and professional lives.

The book provides practical guidance on building happiness without constant conscious effort. Some suggestions include setting up automatic savings plans and prioritising financial security over material possessions. Buettner also recommends engaging in activities such as sports or the arts, which provide longer-term satisfaction compared to one-time purchases. Additionally, the book suggests creating a supportive and enjoyable living environment by adorning one's home with photos and memorabilia that evoke positive memories and a sense of history.

Dan Buettner's research challenges the conventional understanding of happiness by showcasing thriving communities in different countries and cultures. He highlights that happiness is not solely determined by factors like income or education but also by the presence of a social safety net, upward mobility, and strong family bonds.

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