Friday, August 12, 2005



I am going to Santa Fe this week to see the opera "Turandot." I've never been to Santa Fe, but have many friends who have. One of them told me today, "It's like they have valium in the water there. Everyone's so relaxed."

Others have told me about the many spas (10,000 Waves), the adobe and fireplaces, the cold nights, the Native American influence, all the art and culture, the beauty, and the clean air. Of course the Santa Fe Opera House is legendary.

Now it happened that today ran a list of the 10 best places to live in the US, and the 10 worst. Unfortunately I can't access it any longer.

They made some general comments and drew some conclusions. In the study, they found that high suicide rate and high divorce rate generally went together. In turn, those two often went with cities where there was also high unemployment. Certainly a sign of out times. And if they didn't factor in "the traffic," I think they should've. I coach many midlifers, and all who are planning to retire mention first thing that they want to "get away from traffic." singled out three of the "best" places to talk about: Miami, Santa Fe and Hawaii. I don't know about you, but my first thought about Miami is crime and traffic, and when I hear Hawaii I think of all the people who've told me how high the cost of living is.

I've talked with people who live in Miami, and they say the traffic is some of the worst in the nation. They mentioned that Miami and Hawaii certainly have many of the same stressors as other cities, but that the people don't seem so bothered by them. Does something strike you about these three places?

Something occurred to me, having read "The Pleasure Prescription," by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. Paul is a psychoneuroimmunologist, so I've studied his writing, which is heavily backed by years of research. Our emotions directly effect our immune system, which is our health. "Neuro" of course refers to "brain."

In this book, Paul talks about the Western way, the Eastern way, and then what he calls the Oceanic way. As I recall his mother was Hawaiian and he's spent a lot of time there. The passages about the Hawaiin (native) way of life are beautiful. Pacific Rim, I guess. For instance, once you marry you are married for life. Whether you stay together or not, though most do. Isn't this true? Do we ever "get over" the first husband or wife? The Italians say, "The first woman a man marries is his wife. The second is for companionship. The third is nonsense." We share history, and children. And then come the grandchildren.

Another is what is called "Talk Story." The couple gets together and one of them does "talk story." It is talking. Talking until you're through talking. The other just listens, without judging, and usually without comment.

Hawaii ... has the Oceanic outlook, which is, you should pardon the expression, Pacific.

I have to add here that Samoa has a very high suicide rate, especially among the youth. There isn't time to go into why here, or my theory as to why, but if you're interested, go to and look at the creation myths from the different countries and pay particular attention to Samoa's. It is different from any other in one crucial aspect. (Email me if you're interested!)

Miami ... there's a high rate of crime, and it's a bustling city with bad traffic, but what there is there is a lot of family. This is basically what Pearsall says about Hawaii, and what is so missing for so many in the United States. We move away from nuclear family, then get divorced.

I spoke with a client today who moved from California to Texas to live near a cousin. She's a single parent with a young son. Soon after moving, she and the cousin had a falling out, so she lives in a city where she doesn't know a single soul. There is no one she could call to help with her child if she became ill. She's decided to move back "home" where her folks live, and I certainly advise it!

Miami is now 60% Hispanic. (So is the town where I live, San Antonio, Texas). Harvard professor Samuel Harrington has written a book called "Who Are We?", controversial, in which he says, Miami has been Hispanicized "without precedent in the history of major American cities." He talks about how influential this majority is and claims they are not assimilating, though Thomas Boswell, a professor of geography at the U. of Miami says they are assimlating, whatever that means, and has the data to back it up.

Miami is also unusual in that more than 2/3rds of Hispanics in Miami are foreign-born.

In an interview, Mother Theresa was asked, since you've seen the cholera, small pox, AIDS around the world, what do you think is the worst disease? She replied, without missing a beat, "the isolation in the West."

Are these communities, and Santa Fe, especially good at avoiding isolation? We know that isolation is worse for our health than (research says) high blood pressure, obesity and smoking, combined. And one reason we study EQ is to keep people from isolation. You can be isolated in a room full of people if there's no connection, and connection occurs through emotions.

Now, we might think Miami and Hawaii are so pleasant, so "best," because they're near the ocean. Just staring at water causes the release of calming chemicals. But then so is Seattle, which used to be the suicide capital of America, though I think it's been replaced.

The third one ... Santa Fe. They mentioned the beautiful Native American influence, and the beautiful countryside, and all the retirees flooding the area. I haven't looked at the demographics to see what the population makeup is.

At any rate, I'll be looking to see why it's one of the best, and why my friend said it seems like there's a tranquilizer in the water supply, and hoping I take some it home with me!

It can't be the ocean; there isn't one there.

It is for sure we in the US need to look at our lifestyles ... why the stress is so high, why so much depression and auto-immune deficiencies ... and keep working on the individual level to make sure our own "worlds" are among the 10 best. It isn't the stress, it's how we handle it. How are you handling yours? How isolated or connected are you? Do you live (inside) in one of the 10 best places in the US?

"The Pleasure Prescription," by Paul Pearsall: The list price for this book is $13.95. To purchase it from for $10.46, a 25% discount, go HERE. It's a good read. Worth the price just to read his take on anger.

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