When you think about living in Minnesota during winter, happiness may not be immediately what comes to mind. But earlier this year, Minnesota was ranked as the second happiest state in the United States, according to a report released in September by WalletHub. Falling just shy of the number one spot held by Utah, Minnesota was ranked according to emotional and physical well-being, community, environment, recreational activities, and work satisfaction.
And if you think it’s a fluke that a cold-weather state would rank so high, consider that North Dakota ranked third in the report, followed by Iowa in seventh, and South Dakota in ninth. Similar studies of happy countries also mirror this trend, with the Nordic countries—Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden—topping the list of happiest countries to live in, as determined by the Legatum Prosperity Index.
The numbers can be spun any number of ways, and different studies take varying factors into consideration. Still, it is interesting to note the similarities in the areas—trees, forests, and an abundance of water. Here in Minnesota, we have water for days—lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds. A recent book suggests that this might be one element that contributes to our overall level of satisfaction.
According to marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols in his book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do, "water provides the most profound shortcut to happiness out there." So here in Minnesota, we’ve got a distinct advantage.
According to Wallace, water induces a mildly meditative state that he calls “blue mind.” When in this state, our brains take a break, entering what scientists refer to as “the default mode network.” When the brain is in this state, we release the flight-or-flight response that is triggered by our modern levels of stress, and, instead, embrace creativity and innovation.
And it doesn’t need to be the pristine waters of the BVI, or even an unfrozen lake, for that matter. Any kind of water can induce this state—when we stop to notice it in our lives. Whether it’s your neighbor’s backyard hockey rink, being submerged in an evening bath, or walking around an icy lake at midday, water—even frozen water—gets your brain one notch closer to being in a meditative state, ticking your mental state a notch closer to happiness.
While it might be a challenge to appreciate water in Minnesota in the winter time, this meditative effect occurs even when you’re not aware of it. Given the science behind the book, so on some level, even those who hate winter might actually love snow, right? Yeah, that might be a stretch.
Licensed Associate Working with Sharlene Hensrud of RE/MAX Results, and HomesMSP — Sharlene, John, Angela