Irrespective of experiencing 200 days of winter with complete absence of sun, Finland has maintained it’s position to be the Happiest Country in the World for the last four years. It has been named the most stable, freest and the safest country by various international bodies because of the socio-economic and welfare policies of the nation.
Finland is a natural beauty with forests, crystal clear lakes and wildlife. It has low pollution levels which makes the air clean and encourages more citizens to be amidst the nature. Hence, a large number of outdoor activities like kayaking, canoe, horse back riding and others can be experienced. Nature in itself is known to have immense healing power that can cheer people and lift their spirits.
Finland offers free Forest Therapy to it’s citizens where the general public is allowed to roam freely in natural areas like forests, lakes, and rivers without any permission from the landowners (if the areas fall under a private land). This traditional legal concept is called ‘’Everyman’s Right ‘’. However, the only condition applied is that no damage or disturbance should be faced by the landowner.
Finns have a warm culture and enjoy a relaxed way of living. Unlike other Western countries they believe in cooperation over competition. The follow minimalistic approach to life and prefer well-made, sustainable, functional items that will stand the test of time. Finns are not considered to be happy bubbly people with cheerful smiley faces. In fact, they are the least expressive people who take life as it comes.
Coming to the most important topic, what makes them the happiest country in the world?
Well, there cannot be a single factor to happiness. However, the main cause of it is self-satisfaction and inner peace, which in term is an outcome of various factors.
Finns follow a relaxed way of living and are at peace with themselves. Finland may not be the most powerful or wealthy economy but what makes them happy is the fact that they are at peace with their present situation. They are not too ambitious about what life should offer them and this helps them to feel satisfied with what they currently have.
The national pass time for Finns is enjoying sauna baths. The fact that they have over 2 million saunas explains their love for the tradition. Saunas are places that purifies one’s body and soul. Sauna creates a sense of community and equality for the citizens as people from all backgrounds come together to enjoy the experience. Finns are used to being naked in the sauna with their family and friends, which can help create a comfort with and acceptance of their bodies, too.
Fins follow the philosophy of ‘Sisu’ that is focused on persevering when the odds are against us and viewing challenges as an opportunity. “Instead of waiting for a warm sunny day, many Finns practice daily sisu by heading out in any kind of weather for a brisk walk or cycle, or to spend time in nature.” They believe that happiness does not come from searching for it, but by living.
Finns value time over money. They choose a healthy work – life balance over wealth. A good personal life gives them the chance to pursue their personal interests and feed their creativity. This further contributes to the low inequality levels in Finland. The society majorly consists of middle-class households with very less poverty and more social security. They have few rich families but since the people are satisfied with themselves, they don’t believe in excessive show off of their wealth. This promotes the feeling of content and satisfaction amongst the low-income groups as well.
One of the main reasons why Finns are satisfied and happy with their lives is social equality. The government provides each new born a equal and healthy start to life. They distribute packages of clothing and other useful items to all new mothers. This was initially started to reduce the declining birth rate and high infant mortality but on a broader picture it reduces the difference and provides an equal start to all the new citizens. Equal opportunities are given to every citizen in terms of best education in schools and universities without any cost. This helps each child shape their own future without any form of economic hindrances. (A happy childhood breeds happy adults) The presence of best of health care opportunities to all the citizens at no cost reduces further disparity and makes them more secure and stress-free.
Under the ‘Housing first’ principle, it is ensured that even the rough sleepers are given the right support and a roof above them. The presence of equal opportunities for all makes people more satisfied with their lives, hence there is no need for people to adapt criminal offences. Low crime rates, in turn makes people more safe, secure and happy.
Finland strongly emphasises on closing gender equality as a means to promote the feeling of satisfaction and oneness amongst all citizens. Some of the measures includes providing new fathers with nine weeks of paternity leave at 70 percent of their salary and closing the gender pay gap. (Hence proving that a rising tide lifts all boats). Finland is one amongst the few Nordic countries where fathers spend more time with school-aged children compared to their mothers.
The extent of equality and freedom amongst the nation is such that they follow Flat Working Model in commercial world. For those who don’t know, a flat working model is one where there are few or no hierarchal levels between management and staff. This leads to less supervision and increased involvement with organizational decision-making, enabling open communication between all departments. Hence, increasing workplace productivity and team-cohesion. This worker-centric approach to business has served Finland well for more than a decade. Moreover, Finland is the only country that provides 25 paid workdays off in addition to the paid national holidays.
Finns are least active on social-media platforms that indulge in putting forward a polished view of their lives. They don’t brag about their success and wealth or show an outwardly exuberant zest for life. Rather, they believe in being reserved and accepting both the good and the bad as it comes. They believe that if they are truly happy, they don’t need to shove it in anyone’s faces.
Even after being the happiest country in the world, Finns have an emotionless exterior and prefer melancholic songs to express themselves. This is because they accept negative emotions as part of life. Trying to suppress one’s negative emotions is considered bad for one’s well-being. They are taught to embrace such emotions and learn to accept one’s life for what it is. This in turn has a positive impact on their life and help them feel more satisfied. They believe in expressing their negative emotions to such an extent that they celebrate a national event called “The International Day of Failure” (celebrated annually on 13 October), that carries an important message that without the possibility of failure there is no success, and occasional failure is therefore acceptable.
They follow the culture of Kalsarikännit or Pantsdrunk which is the practice of binge drinking alone in your home in your underpants. To a large extent, it is still considered a way of life in Finland, probably because of the stereotyped lack of social contacts among Finns.
Another reason why nordic countries are most at peace with themselves may be the not mentioned, but always present, “Law of Jante” that is silently enforced by everybody in unison. Law of Jante explain the egalitarian nature of Nordic countries where they support a harmonious and happy society.
Finns are socialized to believe that what they have is as good as it gets—or close enough. Finns believe in the Norwegian term Lagom, which can be translated as “just the right amount,” i.e., neither too much nor too little. They believe that what they have is as good as it gets—or close enough. This mindset makes them the happiest people in the world despite living in small apartments, earning modest incomes, with even more limited purchasing power because of the high prices and taxation.
Hence, one thing that the world could learn from them is their willingness to embrace the less-sunny aspects of living i.e., to accept negative feelings as a normal part of life.