At first the thought came up that these people were just happy, and that got us talking about how many Americans are not happy. We are so focused on results and goal achievement that we do not do the things that lead to happiness. This strikes me as odd because I consider myself a pretty happy person, but I tend to focus more on results and goal achievement than on things that are supposed to make us "happy." The student I was talking with told me he was the same way. After some more thought we decided that it was not happiness that people need to live long, but it was contentment, or fulfillment. In all of the areas that people usually lived a lot longer, the people had a strong sense of purpose that keep them active and working towards the well being of people that were important to them. This fit perfectly along with how I felt, and I have felt this way for a long time but putting it into words when I discussed it with my student was refreshing.
What we realized is that we don't need happiness to be "happy." We need to feel contentment and fulfillment from what we do; we need to have a sense of purpose. Too many Americans it seems are working really hard to reach happiness, but the activities that they do on a daily basis to get there do not provide contentment. I don't think that working 15 hour days makes anyone "happy" but if your work gives you a sense of purpose that leaves you content with the work you have done, then it doesn't matter that we are not happy, because we have something better than happiness; we are fulfilled. The trick to it then is to find what it is that will give you this feeling. From my personal experience and from what I have seen from observing others that seem "happy," the kind of life that does this is one filled with passion for what you do, and in every instance I can recall it involves helping others as much as if not more than yourself. If you can derive fulfillment and happiness from others being fulfilled and happy then it matters very little how "happy" you are by the common standards because you can create happiness for yourself any time by helping others.