Photo illustration of few people with cold weather equipment, snow covered trees, moss wood and Finnish flag.

Photo credit: Quinn Lemmers/Yahoo News; Photos: Getty Images

What does it take to be called the happiest country in the world? For the sixth year in a row, Finland has received that award, once again taking first place in the annual World Happiness Report, which makes its decision based on measures such as healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, low corruption, generosity, and more. and freedom. The United States ranked 15th in happiness, while Afghanistan was found to be the least happy country.

So has Finland learned something about happiness that other countries have yet to learn?

“In general, we Finns are surprised and proud of this achievement,” says psychiatrist and leading consultant Christian Wahlbeck. He spoke to Yahoo News via email with Mieli Mental Health Finland. “We don’t look particularly happy and we wouldn’t have thought about it without this international research.”

What makes people so happy in Finland?

A portrait-clad couple stands at the edge of a body of water facing the northern lights.

A couple watches the northern lights at Lake Kusamo in Pohjo-Pojanma, Finland. Access to nature is considered sacred and “everyone’s right” in Finland, the “happiest country in the world”. (Getty Images)

Wahlbeck says Finns tend to find happiness in things like family and good friendships, spending time outdoors or enjoying a good cup of coffee.

“Many Finns find joy in their everyday lives,” he said.

Despite the country’s long, dark winters and often cold temperatures, nature plays a central role. Finnish law known as “Everybody’s Rights” For example, it says: “Everyone living in or visiting Finland has the right to enjoy the nature of the Finnish countryside, regardless of land ownership.”

But is it possible to quantify exactly what makes people happy in Finland and other high-end countries? Meik Wiking – CEO of the Danish Happiness Research Institute and author of several popular books on the Danish lifestyle “The Little Book of Hygienic” He helped popularize the Danish concept of comfortable living and enjoying the little comforts – he spends all day doing just that.

All five Nordic countries consistently rank 10th in the World Happiness Report. Denmark, where Wiking comes from, was voted second happiest this year. In an email to Yahoo News, Wiking said there are three main reasons why Finland, Denmark and other Nordic countries rank high in happiness: work-life balance, taxes and trust.

“Nordic countries have some good balances between work and family life: shorter working days, paid holidays, subsidized childcare, maternity and paternity leave,” Wiking said.

Regarding taxes, Wiking said the Nordic countries “turn their wealth into well-being” by investing in programs that allow all citizens to “prosper socially, physically and mentally.” Health care and elder care are free, college is free, child care is heavily subsidized and unemployment benefits are readily available to anyone who needs them.

“In the Nordic countries, we pay the highest taxes in the world. However, people in the Nordics often say (we) are happy despite high taxes, but because of them, Wiking says.

By paying our taxes, we invest in quality of life – which is more important than individual wealth. 88% of people in Denmark say they are happy to pay their taxes.

Trust in authorities, institutions and government, as well as in neighbors – also plays an important role. In addition to freedom of speech and low levels of corruption, Finns have a lot of trust in each other. The latest “lost bag” experimentFor example, in various cities of the world – mainly Europe – he tested the loyalty of citizens by dropping wallets in parks, parks and shopping centers and seeing how many wallets he made home. In Helsinki, 11 out of 12 wallets were returned to their owners.

What is happiness?

Black and white portrait of several dozen men in military uniform with rifles standing in a row on skis.

Finnish troops on the Russo-Finnish border in October 1939. “Sisu” is a Finnish word synonymous with grit or resilience, often associated with helping Finns maintain their independence from superior Soviet forces during World War II. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Fortunately, happiness by these standards need not be limited to native Finns. When immigrants participated in the World Happiness Report survey for the first time in 2018, their results “Same soon.” For the general public – to reject the idea of ​​being happy “in Finland”.

In fact, John Helliwell, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and co-editor of the World Happiness Report, told the BBC that the research isn’t really about happiness – or at least not how we normally think about happiness. It is more closely related to the satisfaction that comes from a higher quality of life.

“Happiness is not just an emotion, that is, a feeling of joy and happiness,” Wahlbeck explains. “There’s also a deeper side to it, a sense of living a meaningful life and a good quality of life.”

Viking happiness is a broad concept. It can mean different things to different individuals, but the happiest people experience overlap.

“In our study, we use ‘happiness’ as an umbrella term, which encompasses individuals’ life satisfaction, daily emotional experience, and sense of purpose.” “Happiness can be defined as the experience of happiness, satisfaction, or positive well-being combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

Many associate Finland not with homosexuality, but with. “Content” – Finnish character similar to stubbornness or persistence, or the ability to persevere with dignity even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. is it. It is used to explain The small country’s ability to defend against invasion by Soviet forces and maintain independence during World War II. In 1940, the New York Times ran a headline, “Sisu: A Word for Finland.”

This quiet strength may be the epitome of Finland and helps explain the country’s ability to survive and even thrive, but it’s a departure from what most people think of as happiness. A Zimbabwean immigrant who recently lived in Finland as a teacher and business owner for decades He told the New York Times. When she returned to her home country – ranked the world’s fourth unhappiest country this year by the World Happiness Report – she was surprised by the “good energy” to come, the Times wrote, “not with contentment but with joy.”

“What I miss most, when I enter Zimbabwe, are the smiles,” she said.

“The Dark Side of Happiness.”

Colorful houses lined with sailboats along the water bank.

Houses in the Nyhavn area of ​​Copenhagen, Denmark. Denmark is the second happiest country in the 2023 World Happiness Report. (Getty Images)

Even in Finland and other countries that rank high in happiness surveys, there is what Wiking calls “the dark side of happiness.”

“Not everyone in Finland is happy,” Wahlbeck said. “Suicide rates are falling among the well-off, but not among Finns in lower socioeconomic groups. Suicide rates are high among people who have multiple concurrent problems: loneliness, poverty, mental and other health issues, and alcohol or drug dependence. We need to be much better at preventing stigma.

Wiking calls it the “suicide-happiness paradox”: happier countries have somewhat higher suicide rates. According to A TedxCopenhagen talk in 2016A similar pattern exists in the United States, with individual states also ranking high in happiness surveys. Suicide rates are slightly higher. For example, Hawaii was the second happiest state in the US Fifth-highest Suicide rate.

So why is the world’s happiest country at the bottom of the suicide list? Wiking said it has a lot to do with the fact that being unhappy in an otherwise happy society can be even more painful. If everyone around you seems happy and fulfilled, being the odd one out can feel even more isolating. It’s the same reason, Wicking argues ironically, that “in an environment where unemployment is high, suicide is high, and unemployment is high.”

It may be easier to find a new job with low unemployment than with high unemployment, but there are also many social exclusions. If you’re the only one unemployed, you don’t blame the economy — you start questioning yourself,” Wiking said. “Social comparison is important.”

How to be happy in your own life

People walk along and across shop-lined streets with green-and-yellow streetcars.

Busy street in Helsinki. Finland’s capital was the “most trusted” in a recent “lost wallet test” of big cities. (Getty Images)

Happiness can be hard to sustain if it is only sought after by immediate gratifications, such as promotion or achieving a goal. Psychologists such as “The Hedonic Treadmill.”Major life events can cause temporary spikes in extreme happiness or sadness, but eventually people return to their baseline level of happiness before that life event occurred.

Instead, Wiking suggests realizing that happiness is an ongoing process.

“Perhaps we should consider how we can turn the idea of ​​the pursuit of happiness into the joy of the pursuit,” he said. “People who want to find something meaningful are happier. They know that happiness is the result of the process, not the pot of gold at the finish line.

For a happy life, Wicking says it’s important to lean on community, friends and family, and stay mentally and physically healthy through small actions like going for a walk with a loved one. Learning to address wealth and security is something that Denmark and others in the Nordic countries can learn from, Wiking added. “Once our basic needs are met, we realize that more money does not lead to happiness.

“Find joy in the little things,” suggests Wahlbeck. Being active, meeting friends, living a healthy life, being aware of your surroundings and learning new things brings happiness.

By W_Manga

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