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The Secret Behind the World's Happiest Country

In first place — for the sixth year in a row — is Finland in the United Nations World Happiness Report 2023. So, what makes this Nordic region the happiest country in the world and how can the rest of us be more like them?

The survey asked participants to rank their answers on a scale from zero to 10, with zero being the worst and 10 being the best. Every country was ranked according to their average life assessments during a span of three years, from 2020 to 2022.

The World Happiness Report is created by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and is based on data from the Gallup World Poll. It delves into the state of happiness today and reveals variations in happiness at personal and social levels.

Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway ranked high in the report regarding six elements: life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. Looking at Finland raises some questions as it isn't the wealthiest nation nor known for its sunny and cheerful weather.

As we look at the results, what tips can we adopt from this chilly northern country?

A common destresser

Finland has a robust sauna culture — an activity that benefits heart health, boosts mood and overall well-being. With over three million saunas in Finland, there are options for private or public spaces to get your sweat on. Many Finns have a sauna in their home for daily visits.

Typically heated between 70 to 100 Celsius or 158 to 212 Fahrenheit, Finns use dry heat with humidity between 10% to 20%. Throwing water on rocks or stones increases humidity and which makes you sweat. After a sauna visit, some people will jump into a cold lake or roll around in the snow. Others just jump in the shower.

Appreciation of nature

A 2021 survey published in Sitra says that 87% of Finns are in tune with nature and prioritize it. They utilize nature to connect to their mental state, using it as a time to reset and be peaceful. In the survey, 62% of Finns say it gives them energy to be in nature, and 56% say nature helps them recuperate.

In a country filled with lakes and vast forests — and 40 national parks — it makes sense that their connection to nature is strong.

Work-life balance

Finns are able to enjoy nature because they also get more vacation time — approximately four weeks of summer holiday.

Moreover, in the summer months, the sun doesn't set meaning Finns get to soak up all of that sunlight 24/7.

Relationship with the community

Even though leaving their community every now and then is enjoyable, Finns trust and adore their communities immensely. In 2016, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that citizens who trust their country are happier.

In 2022, a "lost wallet," experiment looked at the honesty of citizens when someone drops a wallet around 16 different cities around the world. In Finland's capital, Helsinki, 11 out of 12 wallets were returned to the owner. Having a trust in who is surrounding you can boost mood and an overall appreciation for life.

Lack of pollution

The WHO released data that announced that Finland has some of the cleanest air in the world with the lowest airborne particles.

With a population of 5.5 million and all industrial waste being far away, people don't breathe in toxic fumes — which a 2023 JAMA study says could lead to depression — and there aren't very many people to create pollution in the first place.

A Finnish concept

"Sisu," a unique term in Finland, can't exactly be translated into English but has a meaning of will, perseverance, and logical thinking.

This mindset is ingrained in Finns and may be what may continue to keep them on their winning-streak for the World's Happiest Country year after year.


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