American social psychologist, Dan Gilbert, has spent his life studying how people make choices and how those choices link to happiness. One key finding of his research is that a primary predictor of happiness is our social connection, which I believe, is built on a sense of community. It’s not how we live but where we live and how we interact with those around us.
Several years ago, my family was in the fortunate position to decide where we wanted to live. Our only restriction was that it had to be within the Continental U.S. My husband had lived in Southern California for two decades when we met but I dragged him away from his beloved surf beaches and perfect weather because my job was not as flexible and did not offer relocation to California. In the intervening years, he often spoke fondly of life in Southern California and when the opportunity arose a few years ago to move where we wanted, we took our time visiting a number of cities and towns and researching schools, local government and cost of living. In the end, we decided to move to Carlsbad, California located in the northern part of San Diego County.
Carlsbad was the perfect blend for us. It has a small-town beach character, great public schools, libraries and parks, a wide variety of small and large businesses, engaged residents and an effective, responsive local government. Not everyone can choose where they want to live, but regardless of where you live, you canincrease your levels of happiness. How? Get involved with your community by making connections with those who live near you and around you and take an active role in making your community a great place to live for everyone.
After renting for several years and saving for the down payment, we bought a house within walking distance to schools, trails and shopping. On the day we moved in, many people came by to say ‘hello’ and welcome us to the neighborhood. I may not be in Dan Gilbert’s research study, but I would say he is right about one thing: I can’t think of a better decision that has more positively impacted my sense of happiness than deciding to make Carlsbad my home.