Woman walking 10,000 miles for happiness research makes way through Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Woman walking 10,000 miles for happiness research makes way through Craig

Paula Francis makes her way past the Yampa Valley Electric Association building in Craig on her way to the end of a 10,000-mile walk for happiness research.
Clay Thorp/staff

A woman whose journey has spanned some six years and 7,000 miles — all on foot — included a walk through Craig this week to help Americans understand their own well-being.

After studying how other countries use measurements of a population’s happiness to form public policy, Paula Francis of Vermont said she made it her mission to study what makes people happy.

So, she set out in 2012 on a 10,000-mile walk across the country to collect data through interviews with people she meets and asks what matters to them most in life. So far, Francis said she’s collected more than 2,000 interviews she’ll use as data for her study.

In an interview Tuesday as Francis made her way on foot from Hayden to Steamboat Springs, Francis said her research was needed.

“It had to be done,” she said. “We don’t have a national measure of well-being. To me, it’s such a necessary part of what we need to be focused on.”

Francis said a pattern is beginning to emerge from her research asking folks what they value most in life. Spirituality is a common theme — the belief in something or someone higher or greater than ourselves.

One theme presents itself time and again.

“It’s probably not surprising at all, but the main thing that matters most to people are social connections — our family, friends, neighbors,” Francis said. “Some people go beyond that to our world community, but definitely connections to people.”

Francis plans to end her walk sometime this year and publish the results of her study. She hopes her study, in conjunction with the grassroots group Gross National Happiness USA, will help Americans view their lives less through the prism of Gross Domestic Product to see the potential value in subjective well-being.

Francis said fans have assisted her along the way — helping her translate her more than 7,000 miles into some 15.5 million steps.

“You can do anything a mile at a time,” Francis said.

As for something everyone can do to be more happy, Francis said folks can simply be gracious for what they have in life.

“Focus on gratitude,” Francis said. “It’s been proven to rewire our brains positively. From that place, perhaps we can come from a more creative place to build happiness in our community.”