What the rest of Canada can learn about happiness from B.C.

Do all those above-zero winters, yoga pants and hikes really make West Coast women happier?

Photo, Istockphoto.

Photo, Istockphoto.

Last year, Chatelaine surveyed 1,000 women, ages 35 to 45, about pretty much everything — love, money, health, career, kids, sex — and found that results often varied drastically from province to province, leaving us with a lot of burning questions: Why do Quebeckers cook more often than everyone else? Why do Albertans have more sex? Why do Atlantic Canadians feel like they’re killing it at parenting, while the rest of the country wallows in kid-rearing guilt?

To better understand our fellow Canadians — and steal their best practices — we asked experts to explain our differences in a series of posts. This time, we go west. Fifty-two percent of B.C. women said they were happier now than they were 10 years ago (compared to a national average of 44 percent), and only two out of every 10 said they were less happy. Here, five experts weigh in.

Related: The Canadian woman at 40(ish)

 John Helliwell, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, who co-edited the United Nations World Happiness Report
“The things that make people happy are the same everywhere, like time with family or friends and having people to count on in times of trouble. Starting at age 35, people are usually less happy with their lives until they’re about 50, then they turn the corner and start getting happier again. In general, that’s because life is very busy in those middle years, with not enough to time be with friends and family. That said, there are some systematic differences that allow people to exercise more in B.C. — doing various kinds of organized sports, walking, climbing, you name it. Outdoor activities can provide more connections with friends; but it takes some work. Rushing in and out of the gym doesn’t mean you’re making good social contacts. You have to do more than that, like buy a latte for the next person in line. People blame the rush of modern life, but at some stage they have to slow down and look around them—that’s sort of true everywhere. I should also add that your survey shows B.C.’s women have a slightly higher rate of happiness than elsewhere, but, in larger samples, Quebec and Atlantic Canada are actually the hubs of happiness.”

Katie Thacker, a yoga instructor living in Victoria
“I grew up in Alberta, and I’ve been living in B.C. for six years. I definitely get outside so much more than I did before, which contributes to my happiness. Leaving the house no matter what the weather’s like, making that effort to connect to your community and living an active and healthy lifestyle—all of those things are preached to us. People really do embody those value more here than in the other provinces.”

Related: Does happiness really have no effect on health?

Agata Zasada, recruiter and director of talent operations and at Hootsuite in Vancouver
“Happiness is about being able to follow your passion both personally and professionally. There are a number of tech company headquarters B.C., like Hootsuite, Luvo and Kit and Ace, which are within blocks of each other. We have an interesting ecosystem of companies that are vastly diverse compared to other parts of Canada, so you can chase passions in the tech sector, food or fashion.”

 Abbie Hodgson, a business and life coach and human resources professional with Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC).
“We have a different climate so we are fortunate, for instance, to get less snow on the ground than Toronto. That allows for people to bike or walk more days out of the year than other cities in Canada. Conversations in the office can often be about what new trail or outdoor activities people are doing this weekend—life isn’t only centred around work. Vancouver as a city has it’s own, unique work vibe. Women here are no less driven for success, inspired or hard-working, but I think the focus on having balance within who you are, taking inventory of your life, and getting clear on what you really want is also exercised.”

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