This month, Charlottesville ranked # 3 in happiest cities in the United States in an article published by NationalGeographic.com! The rankings were the result of a study conducted from 2014-2015 in 190 U.S. metropolitan areas. Author Dan Buettner (The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People) and social scientist Dan Witters of Gallup joined forces to create an index that measures features of happiness. Witters established 15 metrics, which included financial security, healthy diet, vacation time, intellectual growth, civic engagement, and—of all things—dental checkups. Meanwhile, Buettner observed that happiness often manifests as “pleasure, pride, and purpose,” which contribute to a robust sense of wellness.
But another key factor, as George Stone of National Geographic reports, is place. He writes, “In happier places, according to Buettner, locals smile and laugh more often, socialize several hours a day, have access to green spaces, and feel that they are making purposeful progress toward achieving life goals.”
While the article doesn’t reveal what all 15 metrics were, or go into detail about to what degree they aligned with the ranked cities, it’s not hard to imagine what metrics contribute to the happiness of Charlottesville residents.
In 2016, HealthLine ranked Charlottesville one of the top 10 Healthiest Small Towns in the U.S. Our small city has several gyms, a plethora of yoga studios, as well as other boutique fitness studios, and a thriving farm-to-table movement. In addition, we have two excellent hospitals: the University of Virginia Hospital and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.
Buettner says, “There’s a high correlation between bikeability and happiness in a city.” Charlottesville has recently established new bike lanes that help accommodate our two-wheeled citizens. There is also a reliable transit system affectionately known as the CAT (Charlottesville Area Transit) and a free trolley that runs a loop from downtown to the university, which help cut down on traffic. The City maintains lots of green space as well in the form of numerous public parks and walking trails. And certain regulations protect our beautiful skyline from being obscured by billboards.
As Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia approaches its bicentennial (2019), it continues to rank well in the U.S. News & World Report, recently snagging # 3 for Top Public Schools. Likewise, Albemarle County ranks # 3 and Charlottesville City # 6 in Best School Districts in Virginia, according to www.niche.com.
Charlottesville provides ample opportunity to volunteer for a cause you believe in and help your neighbors. Whether your passion is education, housing, the arts, domestic violence prevention, or advocacy and social justice, Charlottesville has numerous organizations in need of volunteers who want to make a difference in their community.
Pleasure, Pride, & Purpose
Our modest metropolis has a reputation for being fertile ground for cultivating the arts. Theaters, galleries, art studios, dance studios, and a writing center can all be found here. And while some may wonder what the point of art is, many would argue that envisioning and completing a painting or play or choreographed dance and sharing it with the community can fill one with a sense of pleasure, pride, and purpose. For others, it may be viewing a sculpture, film, or musical set that inspires these responses. Either way, the opportunity to experience this kind of happiness abounds in our artistic city.