urban happiness

What role does geography play in our happiness?  Can we increase our happiness by changing our zip code?  The journalist Charles Montgomery studies how urban design affects human happiness, and he believes that we can manufacture joy through the urban landscape.   Specifically, he believes that we can “redesign our cities, our minds, and our own behaviors”…  “to build a city that is more convivial, more fair, more fun, and more happy.”

Montgomery offers a number of ways to make the city more fun, and my favorite suggestion is starting conversations in elevators.   He recognizes our inclination for personal space,  but he believes that the benefits of a good conversation outweigh the potential awkwardness : “Even a casual conversation with strangers has the potential to flood your system with feel-good hormones. Go ahead. Talk about the weather.”

I decided to encourage chatter by hanging conversation starters in elevators.  I’m not sure that anyone will answer the questions, per se, but perhaps they will chat about why someone hung silly paper all over the place.  Either way, mission accomplished. ImageImageImageImageImageImageSpeaking of urban happiness, I’m planning another rah rah rah project with my friends Kaitlyn and Sarah (TheDuck&TheOwl), and we want you to join us.  Are you up for it?


The plan is to spread happiness to the public heroes that make our lives better every single day.  Grateful for the librarians that keep the bookshelves stocked?  Thankful for the firemen that continuously defend the city?  Let’s show our appreciation by giving them goodie bags filled with sweet treats and thank you notes.

I plan to spread happiness in Minneapolis, and Kaitlyn and Sarah will bring smiles to Milwaukee.   We’re both planning to blog about the project on Monday, and we’d love to read about how other bloggers got involved.  If you choose to participate, send us a link (in the comment section of the post) so that everyone can read about your random act of happiness.  Ready, set, RAH!

10 thoughts on “urban happiness

  1. I’ve always wanted to talk to everyone in the elevator, but never actually done it. I love this idea!

    PS – Did you know the top picture is lyrics from one of my favorite songs?! It’s called “Bowl of Oranges” by Bright Eyes. I just about squealed when I saw it. 🙂


  2. Every time I step into an elevator, it seems as though there is something really interesting on the floor because that’s where everyone is gazing;-) After looking to make sure I am not missing something, I will strike up some sort of conversation with my riding partners.

    The awkwardness of the silence is much “worse” than any trivial conversation. And often, I have drummed up conversations that go beyond the time allotted together on our commute upwards 😉

    Great idea and one I hope other people take to heart, thanks for sharing!

  3. I try to smile and say good morning/afternoon/evening to others when I am in the elevator in my building. Everyone smiles back and responds. It’s another random act of kindness. 🙂

    I love your rah rah project and can’t wait to hear all about it! 🙂

  4. I believe you and him are right! I always feel great if I’ve been able to strike up a conversation and manage smiles with some strangers that day, or get to chat away to the shopkeepers in my neighbourhood 🙂

  5. Too cute! I would totally think about the question if I saw this in an elevator. Not sure if I would ask a random person next to me what they think but I would mull it over in my head. What a great way to think about life.

  6. I used to live just down the street from the fire station and would take cookies or cupcakes over to them every now and again. I figured if they’re willing to run into my burning house if it catches on fire, then the least I could do is give them some baked goods 🙂 BUT, ever since moving I haven’t done anything like that so I’d for sure like to join in and pass on some goody bags.

Tell me something happy:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s