Two OC cities rank among happiest towns in USA

For those who live in Orange County, CA as I do, I was happy to see that according to a survey conducted by the  Vermont Complex Systems Center at thecropped-familyeatingphoto1.jpg

University of Vermont, two nearby cities ranked in the top five happiest American destintions in the nation. But before I reveal what those cities are (don’t peek), let me tell you how they determined which cities made the list.

University researchers looked at the geo-tagged Twitter messages of people who lived in 373 urban cities—about 10 million messages to be exact. They analyzed these messages and gave scores to 80 million words in the tweets and were looking for those that pertained to levels of happiness. They focused on how often people used positive and negative words in their tweets. Words like wine, food, cheers, gift and beach were considered positive while words like boo, ugh and hate were more prominent in the unhappier locales.

Okay, did I give it away when I said wine? Yes, wine country Napa, CA ranked number one as the happiest town in America based on this research study. But coming in fourth place on the list was a tie between Mission Viejo and San Clemente—two in my own backyard! Idaho Falls ranked second and Longmont, Colorado third and fifth was Simi Valley, CA.

The researchers decided to look only at the actual words themselves and not the words in context to come up with their results. They also did not separate tourists from residents, again focusing only on the actual words used in the tweets. Since only a portion of Americans use Twitter—this is only a slice of the research pie. However, it gives a look into what cities people are in when they have the happiest tweets. What American city do you either live in or visit that makes you feel the happiest?


Got Friends? It’s good for Your Health!

Did you know that people who have strong social connections with a few or more people will actually live longer than those who don’t?

Yes, it’s true. According to a study published in 2010 by Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah

researchers discovered that just as exercising regularly, not smoking and getting enough sleep contribute to livinglongerople living longer and healthier lives,  so does having positive social bonds with a group of friends —regardless of how many. Those with positive family bonds counted just as those with friends–it is the interactions that count not necessarily where they come from.

They found that those with a few or more social ­­connections are 50 percent more likely to live longer than those who had similar backgrounds but lived alone and rarely socialized with others. I found it interesting that they compared having little to no social bonds to be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, drinking too much or being obese.

According to author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, associate professor of psychology at BYU,

she believes that this research shows that people should take having good social relationships as seriously as being healthy in other areas of their lives. Their conclusions came from reviewing more than 148 published studies that measured how often humans interacted with one another and the impact it made on their lives.

This study unfortunately came out before the social media craze hit like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so it didn’t speak to the actual qualitative nature of relationships on people’s health. I will be doing more blog posts on that research as I find it. However for me, I like the idea of having both social media connections and the old fashioned ones of meeting up face-to-face, whenever possible, or at least connecting by phone. See my related post on bringing back the art of real conversation.

Part of the reason having social connections affects people’s health, says BYU researchers, is partly because having others in your life who know how you are doing in general helps us when we might veer down an unhealthy path. The right friends will help you get back to where you were and want you to be happy and healthy. So that makes sense to choose your friends wisely don’t you think?

Do you think your close relationships help you to be happier and healthier in any way? If so—how do they? Let me know your thoughts!