Menu Close

Lessons on happiness from the World’s Happiest Country

Because we could all do with a little more happiness right now.

Finland Northern Lights

Released at a time when the world is battling a widespread pandemic, the 2020 World Happiness Report provides some much-needed relief from a largely negative news cycle.

The annual report by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network ranks 156 countries by their “happiness levels”.

This is calculated based on local perceptions of six key factors: income, freedom, trust, generosity, healthy life expectancy, and social support.

For the third year in a row, Finland has been named the World’s Happiest Country, and with a score that’s significantly ahead of other countries in the top 10.

Its capital, Helsinki, earned the title of Happiest City in the World in the UN’s first-ever ranking of individual cities.

While a true sense of happiness may seem hard to come by right now, it is for that reason that we must remember how important it is to find happiness in the small, everyday things we take for granted.

world's happiest country

Top 10 Happiest Countries:

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Switzerland
  4. Iceland
  5. Norway
  6. The Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. New Zealand
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Austria

“The World Happiness Report has proven to be an indispensable tool for policymakers looking to better understand what makes people happy and thereby to promote the wellbeing of their citizenry,” said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, one of the report’s editors.

“Time and time again, we see the reasons for wellbeing include good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments and healthy lives.”

Why are Nordic people so happy?

Finnish contentment stems from high levels of trust and social cohesion, which also underpin solid rankings across the rest of the Nordic region.

Reliable and extensive welfare benefits, low corruption, and well-functioning democracy and state institutions are also key, as are a high sense of autonomy and freedom reported by their citizens.

“A happy social environment, whether urban or rural, is one where people feel a sense of belonging, where they trust and enjoy each other and their shared institutions,” said Professor John Helliwell, one of the report’s editors.

“There is also more resilience, because shared trust reduces the burden of hardships, and thereby lessens the inequality of wellbeing.”

ice swimming

7 steps to being happy like a Finn

  1. Take a cold shower
  2. Citizen’s living in the World’s Happiest Country love being outdoors, and one of their favourite activities is ice swimming. The benefits of plunging into ice-cold water include improved circulation and, as your body heats back up on dry land, a boost in serotonin and dopamine, two excellent stress-relievers. Try starting your day with a cold shower, or switch between cold and hot water to create a sauna-like experience – which is another Finnish favourite.

  3. Consume some culture

    With more than 55 museums and countless art galleries across the country, it’s safe to say the Finns treasure their art scene. Thanks to Google Arts & Culture, we can now explore some of the world’s top museums from the safety of our homes. The online platform features content from more than 1,200 leading museums and archives – from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum to Mexico City’s Frida Kahlo Museum and everything in between.

    art gallery
  4. Take a coffee break
  5. Finns love coffee so much that they consume 22 pounds of it per person, per year. Accompanying their daily coffee is often a baked treat like Korvapuusti or ‘slapped ears’, a delicious cardamom bun filled with cinnamon and brown sugar. If you have some spare time on your hands, why not make your own and see why they are so popular.

  6. Immerse yourself in nature
  7. Despite the social distancing rules currently in place around the world, getting back to nature isn’t impossible. To bring the serenity of Finnish Lapland into your living room, listen to this playlist and hear such sounds as reindeers grazing in the wilderness, or gentle waters streaming between two fells. Nature therapy has been scientifically proven to reduce anger, fear and stress and increase pleasant feelings. You’ll be feeling calm, relaxed and, most importantly, happy in no time.

  8. Stream the Northern Lights
  9. Aurora borealis (or Northern Lights) is one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena – and now you can livestream it directly into your living room. and Polar Bears International use footage from a camera located in Churchill, Canada, to stream it 24/7 – providing a pretty special backdrop for your self-isolation. Who wouldn’t be happy under such a constant, spectacular light show?

  10. Read, read, read
  11. The Finnish are library-lovers. In a country of 5.5 million people, over 68 million books are borrowed every year. Until it’s safe to take a trip to the library again, why not try an audiobook? Here’s our pick of 7 excellent books to read in isolation.

  12. Enjoy your space
  13. If you’re someone who finds it hard to be alone, quarantine may seem like a living nightmare. However, this is the perfect time to learn how to spend time by yourself – and actually enjoy it. Start by putting your phone down for an hour, so you have no distractions. Use isolation as a way to focus on yourself, do something productive, start a new hobby, learn to cook or think about what you’re grateful for – the possibilities are endless.

Read next: When life gives you quarantine, make cocktails

Leave a Reply