Living Where You're Not So Unhappy

Is your city one of the happiest places to live? If it's not, would you still live there? And how do you choose happiness as a matter of geographical location, anyway?


These questions came to mind with the release of a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

According to a write-up of the report on

...among the biggest metropolitan areas, the Big Apple is the unhappiest. Scranton, Pennsylvania, takes the honor of the least happy metro area of any size. Meanwhile, Richmond is the happiest large metro area, and Charlottesville, Virginia, is the happiest of any size.

People aren't leaving New York in droves because it's supposedly so unhappy. I'm not sure I'd find Richmond a fun place to live, especially compared to Austin, Texas, where I live. (And I'm perfectly happy living a few months a year in Calgary Canada, too.)

And if people just sought out happy places to live -- or happy places to live that are called happy by studies such as this - Richmond would be bigger than New York by far. And it's not. By far.

Happiness isn't where you live. It's what you do. I wouldn't want to live in a war zone, or in certain countries. But I don't. I'm lucky enough to be able to work at a distance, thanks to the internet and the kind of profession I'm in, that of a marketing and audience-engagement consultant.

People often live not far from where they grew up (I grew up in Utah, but don't live there any longer). Yet even in our economically unequal country, Americans still move in search of something better, whether that's a way of life, a job, a landscape. Or happiness.

As the philosopher W.H. Sheldon wrote, "Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation."

So people go where they feel they can live without regret. That might not translate into happiness per se, but it's a lot better than living in regret.