What is it about the Finnish people that inland has ranked as the happiest country in the world for five years in a row, as per the World Happiness Report.
Frank Martela, a Finnish researcher who studies the fundamentals of happiness, ties to answer that question. Writing in cnbc.com, he lists three habits of the people of his country to maintain a high quality of life, and shares tips on how we can be happy too.
Don’t compare yourself to neighbors
Finnish poet’s Eino Leino’s often quoted line goes: “Kell’ onni on, se onnen kätkeköön.” Roughly translated, it means: Don’t compare or brag about your happiness.
Finns have taken this precept to heart especially when it comes to their possessions or the country’s standard of living. Recounts Martela, “I once ran into one of the wealthiest men in Finland. He was pushing his toddler in a stroller towards the tram station. He could have bought himself an expensive car or hired a driver, but he opted for public transportation.”
That’s what success looks like in Finland: to be just like everyone else, he adds.
Happiness tip 1: Focus more on what makes you happy and less on looking successful. The first step to true happiness is to set your own standards, instead of comparing yourself to others.
Bask in the benefits of nature
Finns overwhelmingly feel that nature is important to them because it provides them with peace of mind, energy and relaxation, according to a 2021 survey. Employees here are entitled to four weeks of summer holiday. Many use the vacation to hit the countryside and immerse themselves in nature. They favor fewer amenities, even to the point of no electricity or running water.
Writes Martela, “A lot of Finnish cities are densely built, which means that many people have access to nature at their doorsteps. I live next to Helsinki Central Park, where I go on regular walks.”
Happiness tip 2: Spending time in nature increases our vitality, well-being and it gives us a sense of personal growth. Find ways to add some greenery to your life, even if it’s just buying a few plants for your home.
Honor the community’s circle of trust
Research shows that the higher the level of trust within a country, the happier its citizens are.
A “lost wallet” experiment in 2022 tested the honesty of citizens by dropping 192 wallets in 16 cities around the world. In Finland’s capital Helsinki, 11 out of 12 wallets were returned to the owner.
Finnish people, says Martela, tend to trust each other and value honesty. “If you forget your laptop in a library or lose your phone on the train, you can be quite confident you’ll get it back. Kids also often take a public bus home from school and play outside without supervision.”
Happiness tip 3: Think about how you can show up for your community. How can you create more trust? How can you support policies that build upon that trust? Small acts like opening doors for strangers or giving up a seat on the train makes a difference, too.
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