boulder

Arriving into the city of Boulder, Colorado last week, I encountered the happiest-looking panhandler I have ever seen. His curly hair flowed freely in the breeze, his shirt was made of a towel sewn with pink pom-pom balls, and he was laughing as he danced along the median – in a pair of shiny black stilettos. Stopping next for coffee, I met the friendliest barista on the face of the planet. Without a hint of hipster snark, he engaged every person in line with a personalized comment: “Nice beard. Cool name. That orange juice is really good, but it’s a little expensive. Enjoy your latte!

All throughout my stay in Colorado’s liberal island city, I met smile after smile, from easygoing people who seemed genuinely happy and nice. Tulips sprouted from the sidewalks, finely dressed street musicians played with no need of permits, and strangers greeted me kindly at every turn.

It was almost disturbing. Have I lived too long in LA? I asked my friend, who has made her home in the area for 11 years, what was up with the freakish friendliness.

“Do they put lithium in the water?” I asked.

“It’s called the Boulder Bubble,” she said. “They live in a separate reality.”

It seems like every week, the city of Boulder receives another award for high quality of life, education, art, health and general well-being. The city has the lowest obesity rate in the nation, and has also bee ranked as #1 of Gallup’s Top 10 Happiest Cities, #1 on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, #1 on Forbes’ America’s Top 25 Towns to Live Well – and on and on and on.

But seriously – why is Boulder so damn fit and happy?

  1. Boulder boasts a renowned bicycle culture, with hundreds of miles of pathways, lanes and underpasses that can be used year-round. When it’s easy to exercise, humans exercise more! The city also has a top quality public transportation system.
  2. Boulder has a sunny, dry climate, with over 300 days of blue skies and sunshine each year. With little humidity, the cold winters and hot summers aren’t as intense – or exhausting.
  3. Boulder has mountains in its backyard. Drive up 1.5 miles from downtown and you’re on top of the world at Chautauqua. Rocky Mountain National Park is only 40 miles away, and you’ll never run out of outdoor adventures: hiking, kayaking, climbing, skiing, tubing, swimming and more.
  4. Boulder has an excellent food scene, with numerous farm-to-table restaurants, local establishments and gourmet coffee/chocolate/brunch/vegan etc. outlets – plus a high-quality farmers market.
  5. Boulder has plenty of beer. Home to seven microbreweries, the city always has an ice cold brew on tap – and a casual rooftop patio where you can enjoy it.

There are many other reasons this city seems to be charmed, but perhaps the most important is social contagion – a self-fulfilling cycle. If everyone around you is happy and exercising, you’re more likely to be happy and exercising.

So even if you can’t move to Boulder, you can surround yourself with positive personalities who encourage you to get outdoors and move your ass instead of slump on the couch and complain. Adopt a little Boulder into your life – perhaps a small rock – and start spreading your own bubble of happiness and fitness to the world.

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Image: Jasen Miller