Welcome to the happiest place in America

Dominique Dawes
Weekend Edition

Are you really happy? It's a question that has crossed all of our minds. Just a month prior to interviewing researcher, explorer and best-selling author Dan Buettner, I had been wrestling with this question myself. Am I really happy? I am passionate about the work that I do. I love my family and friends, or at least the ones I choose to keep in my small circle. My faith is at the core of my being. And I really appreciate the little things in life: a rainy Monday, the color of fall (one of my favorite times of the year), my morning coffee that lasts for hours, that special song that sparks a memory, and the laughter of children — especially my niece and nephew. For me it's these little things that seem to make me happy. But is that really enough?

I learned a lot from Buettner, who traveled the world in search of the keys to happiness. His new National Geographic book, "Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way," reveals secrets from the world's happiest people. Based on his research, these people reside in Mexico, Denmark, Singapore, and San Luis Obispo, California. And, since the majority of us do not live in those places, he comes up with the "special sauce" to happiness that we can add to our lives so that we, too, can thrive.

According to Buettner, there are six areas that we should focus on that lead to ultimate happiness: home, self, financial life, social life, workplace, and community. Each area contributes to our overall well-being or lack thereof. Where you live, volunteering your time, connection in a faith-based community, socializing regularly, picking a fulfilling job, and choosing the right mate are all important factors in finding happiness, no matter where you live. Check out the video at the top of this page for more tips from the happiest place in America.

One thing I'm personally going to work on: Spending money on experiences and not on things. I am not a shopaholic or anything, but I have not invested much money on experiences. So I've signed up for a pottery class, tae kwon do lessons, a knit-and-crochet workshop, a knife-cutting session at a culinary school, and I am thinking about booking myself on a two-week-long African safari.

And what are you going to do to live a happier life?