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更新时间:2017/10/25 13:33:37 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

These Scottish islands may hold the secret to happiness

It was nearing midnight and the sky still remained light. The only hint of sunset visible from the kitchen window was a pink smudge above the Minch, the stretch of water that separates the islands of the Outer Hebrides from the mountains of the Scottish coast.

临近午夜,天空依旧明亮。从厨房窗户望去,落日的余晖仅剩下明奇海峡(Minch)上空呈现的一抹粉色,这片水域将外赫布里底群岛(Outer Hebrides)与苏格兰海岸山脉分隔开。

Accessible by propeller plane or ferry from mainland Britain, the Outer Hebrides are home to 26,000 people. Until I moved to New York City three years ago, I was one of them. Now I was back home – for most islanders call it home, no matter how far they travel – for my first summer since leaving.


It was as beautiful as I remembered. Darkness came for only a few brief hours after midnight. During the day, buttercups glowed at the side of single track roads and wisps of bog cotton swayed in the breeze. Heather was beginning to bloom on the swathes of moorland that cover the interior of the islands. A holiday-like atmosphere filled the streets of Stornoway, the largest town in the archipelago, as locals and visitors prepared for the annual music festival, Heb Celt.

故乡还是像我记忆中那般美丽。午夜降临短短几小时后,黑夜袭来。白天,毛茛在单行道两边、在片片棉花草中随着微风轻轻摇曳,闪闪发亮。石南花开始在覆盖群岛内陆的大片荒野上绽放。群岛最大的城市斯托诺韦(Stornoway)的大街小巷弥漫着节日的气氛,当地人和游客纷纷为一年一度的希伯来凯尔特音乐节(Heb Celt)做着准备。

But these islands aren’t known only for their beauty. In the years since I had moved away, the Outer Hebrides had been making headlines as one of happiest places in Britain. According to the annual wellbeing survey published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), respondents in the Outer Hebrides returned the highest ratings for the question “How happy did you feel yesterday?” out of any other residents in the UK. They came out in the top five in terms of life satisfaction, too.


As I rediscovered old haunts and reunited with friends and family, I set out to uncover what makes Hebrideans some of the happiest people in the country.


As my brother and I enjoyed an alfresco lunch at a farm-to-table takeaway on the west side of the Isle of Lewis, and then walked along the sands of Dal Mor, a favourite beach a few miles along the road, my initial thought was that it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. “Who wouldn’t feel happy here?” I thought as the sand crunched under my wellington-clad feet, the clear waters of the Atlantic lapping nearby.

刘易斯岛(Isle of Lewis)的西海岸有一家从农场到餐桌的外卖餐馆,我跟哥哥很喜欢它家的露天午餐,吃完之后就可以沿着我最喜爱的达摩尔(Dal Mor)海滩散步,海滩就在路边几英里处。一开始,我想幸福的秘诀非常简单。"在这里,谁会觉得不幸福呢?"穿着橡胶靴,漫步沙滩上,脚下发出咯吱咯吱的响声,抬眼望去满眼海水清澈,大西洋轻轻拍打着附近海岸。

But what was it about my experience, precisely, that made me feel so happy?


I asked University of Sussex lecturer George Mackerron, who studies links between our environment and our happiness. As part of his PhD in Happiness and Environmental Quality, Mackerron launched Mappiness, an iPhone app that pinged people to ask where they were, who they were with, and how they felt at specific points during the course of the day. The project, which launched in 2010, received 3.5 million responses from 65,000 people across the UK. Not only did Mackerron find that people are happier in natural environments, but unpublished analysis of the Mappiness data based on postcode area corroborated the ONS findings, showing the Outer Hebrides near the top again.

带着疑问,我咨询了苏塞克斯大学讲师乔治·麦克凯文(George Mackerron),他长期致力于研究环境与幸福感之间的关系。麦克凯文创建了一款苹果手机应用"幸福地图",作为幸福与环境质量博士论文的一部分。这款应用引导人们对一天的生活不断进行提问,例如现在何方,和什么人在一起,特定时刻幸福感如何等。项目开始于2010年,收到来自英国各地65,000人的350万条反馈信息。麦克凯文研究发现,生活的自然环境越好,人们的幸福感越强。此外,幸福地图按照邮政区域收集到的数据与国家统计办公室的统计结果一致,这一分析发现尚未正式发布,但再一次证实外赫布里底群岛居民的幸福感最强。

“We find that people are happier in the moment in natural environments, and all natural environments are happier than cities,” Mackerron told me, adding that there is “a kind of hierarchy where the happiest environments, by some distance, are marine and coastal margins.”


There’s evidence, too, that being near the water, or what is called ‘blue space’, can potentially make us happier – and the sea is never far away in the Outer Hebrides. On the west coast of the Isle of Harris, the water is every shade from deep navy to bright turquoise. In North and South Uist, it can feel as if it is following you as sea lochs stretch their fingers inland. And whether on a leisure cruise or a ferry trip to merely access the islands, being out on the water itself is, of course, a common activity.

有证据表明,近水区域又称为"蓝色空间"可以让人感到更幸福,而外赫布里底群岛不就在海边。在哈里斯岛(Isle of Harris)西海岸,海水的颜色从海蓝渐变为浅绿松色。而在北犹斯特岛和南北犹斯特岛(North and South Uist),狭长的海湾一直延伸到内陆,就好像海水一直跟随在你身后。无论是乘船游览还是渡船到海岛,在水面上活动无疑极为常见。

I joined an afternoon boat trip to the now-uninhabited Shiant Isles, located four miles south-east of Lewis. Experiencing a familiar landscape from an unfamiliar vantage point, not to mention watching thousands of puffins and guillemots dive into clear waters, filled me with awe.

下午,我乘船前往人迹罕至的希恩特群岛(Shiant Isles),距离刘易斯岛东南部四英里。从不同的观景点欣赏到同样壮丽的大海风光,更别提还看到成千上万的海鹦和海鸠,时不时扎进碧绿的海水中。

But while natural landscapes can make us happier, I knew from experience that they aren’t always as beautiful as they are on these summer days. When that scenery is hidden by rain, the winter days are long and dark, and the wind can reach 100 miles per hour, what else keeps people in the Outer Hebrides happy?


“It’s the people,” said Donald Macsween, a crofter and broadcaster from Lewis. “I enjoy nipping to the shop and having a yarn with everybody that’s there, and when you do communal activities… it’s a good laugh. Every community needs social hubs. We’ve got quite a few here, and every community in the Western Isles will have their own.”

"是人"来自刘易斯岛的佃农兼播音员唐纳德·麦克斯温(Donald Macsween)给出了答案。"我喜欢去商店,和其他人谈天说地,当你参与社区活动时……总是充满欢声笑语。每个社区都需要建立社交中心。我们这里建了许多,西部群岛(Western Isles)的每个社区也都有各自的社交中心。"

Macsween has lived here all his life. He regularly visits Glasgow, where he attended university, but is always happy to return to the islands. “It’s the people that keep me here,” he said.


I understood. I thought of the old friends I’d sat talking late into the night with earlier that week; the neighbours who’d known me since childhood; the distant relatives I’d bumped into in the supermarket. I knew exactly what Macsween was talking about.


When it comes to our sense of well-being, research confirms the importance of these kinds of social ties. “A sense of community belonging has the largest impact in explaining inter-community differences in average life satisfaction,” said economist John F Helliwell, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. His research in Canada has found that smaller communities have, on average, a higher sense of community belonging, higher levels of trust in neighbours and more time spent with family and friends. No one I spoke to was surprised.

研究结果证明,这类社会联系对幸福感的产生至关重要。"社区归属感是导致社区间平均生活满意度存在差异的最重要因素,"经济学家、英属哥伦比亚大学荣誉教授约翰·赫利维尔(John F Helliwell)如是说。通过对加拿大进行研究,他发现社区越小,通常社区归属感越强,邻里之间的信任程度越高,与家人和朋友相处的时间越多。这一点获得了普遍认可。

“Why is this place so happy? I put it down to the people,” said Claire Macleod, who returned to the islands after 18 years on the Scottish mainland, and is now co-director of Orbit Agency, a digital media company. “We have an amazing environment here, visually and lifestyle-wise. It’s got scenery, it’s got big skies, clean air, pure waters; safety’s a big factor. But for me it’s such a family-orientated, community based place to live and to work.”


“It sounds quite romantic, but as Hebrideans, we always carry the place in our heart,” she continued. “I think it’s deeper than community; I think it’s connection. I keep calling it a sense of place… There’s something for everyone, but what makes it unique is the people.”


As my Hebridean summer came to an end and I boarded the first of four flights that would take me to my adopted home, Macleod’s words lingered in my mind. As I watched the moorland, lochs and beaches disappear beneath the clouds, I knew she was right. We carry the place with us wherever we go, near or far. With a connection to people and place that deep, it’s no wonder the Outer Hebrides is one of the happiest places in Britain.