According to the new “Happy Planet” report from British nonprofit group New Economics Foundation, if you’d like to live a more rewarding life, it might be work trading in your Rolex for a surfboard and heading south to Costa Rica.
According to the new “Happy Planet” report from British nonprofit group New Economics Foundation, if you’d like to live a more rewarding life, it might be work trading in your Rolex for a surfboard and heading south. Their comprehensive new report, which compares nations according to their populations’ life expectancies, life satisfaction, and ecological footprint, combining all of the factors to create a “Happy Planet Index” score, ranks the sunny, fun-loving Costa Rica as the number one place in the world to live, followed by the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guatemala, Vietnam, Colombia, El Salvador, Brazil, and Honduras to round out the top ten.
The results may come as a shock: after all, Cuba’s known for Fidel Castro’s human rights abuses, Colombia’s famous for a violent drug trade, and even Costa Rica, while a vacationer’s paradise, is a relatively poor country, statistically speaking. But what these countries may lack in material wealth, they make up for in happiness.
Standing in stark contrast to the materialistic, independent attitude of the United States and many other rich Western nations, “Latin Americans report being much less concerned with material issues than, for example, they are with their friends and family,” claims the report. “Civil society is very active, from religious groups to workers’ groups to environmental groups.”
Even more striking is the fact that Costa Rica’s ecological footprint is one-quarter as large as the United States’—which means that we Americans use up the earth’s resources at four times the rate they do. Individual lifestyle plays a part here, but Costa Rica’s government has made a conscious effort to implement eco-friendly practices: the country currently gets 99% of its energy from clean, renewable sources, and is working hard to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country. With so many natural resources and native species to protect, it’s well worth the effort.
While Costa Rica’s eco-consciousness and focus on community play large roles in the country’s overall happiness, it also comes down to a local philosophy: pura vida.
“Pura vida is a popular expression in Costa Rica which is used somewhat like the English term ‘cool,’” says the report. “It translates literally as ‘pure life’ and represents in itself an attitude to what is important.”
While many Americans measure their worth according to how much money they made in a year, or how fancy our cars are, Costa Ricans and the rest of the happiest countries base their fulfillment levels on more elemental questions: How green is my lifestyle? How much time do I spend with my family and friends? How often do I do the things I love?
Whether or not you feel like packing up your life and making a move to South America, we can all probably learn a few lessons from the happiest nations about what we need to do to get our priorities in order. Read the full report at NEF’s “Happy Planet Index” website.