And the Oscar for happiness goes to...
FINLAND!! The World Happiness Report for 2021 has been released and, for the fourth year in a row, Finland topped the list. What can the happiest country in the world teach you about how to live well? 1. According to research, the answer to this question will determine your wellbeing more than being employed or having a high income... If you were to lose your wallet, do you believe it would be returned by a neighbor, stranger, or police officer? If you answered “yes” you have trust in your community, a key ingredient in the happiness recipe. According to Transparency International, Finland is consistently among the top three least corrupt countries on Earth (in 2020 the United States ranked 25th, Canada, the UK and Australia tied for 11th place, while Sudan and South Somalia were tied at the bottom of the list as most corrupt). Finns have a high degree of trust in their country’s police, healthcare and education systems...and each other. Witnessing, or better yet, participating in acts of kindness in your community can help you cultivate feelings of trust. 2. What is the only Finnish word in the English language? Sauna. Dubbed “the poor man’s pharmacy,” saunas have been making Finns happy for hundreds of years. There are more saunas in Finland than cars. How can a sauna make you happy? It’s believed that the mild heat stress that a sauna places on your body sets off an anti-stress response similar to exercise that benefits both body and mind. A 2018 study of 2,000 Finns found a link between frequent saunas and a decreased risk of mental-health disorders. Aside from the beneficial effects of heat, could the sauna's wellness secret be simply sitting in a room without technology and doing nothing?
Finns tend to keep to themselves...except in a sauna! 3. When Finns aren’t sitting naked in a sauna doing nothing, chances are they’re enjoying some kind of outdoor exercise. But Finns weren’t always so active. Back in the 1970s, Finland was among the most unhealthy countries in the world with high rates of smoking, inactivity, and fat consumption. Alarmed that it held the world record for heart disease, the Finnish government took massive targeted action. It encouraged villages to compete against each other to win prizes when citizens quit smoking or reduced their cholesterol levels. Teams of local officials went to pubs to ask people what kind of physical activity they would most enjoy if they were to become active. Based on their boozy research, officials set up the infrastructure—bike paths, community pools, and ball parks—to encourage Finns to get moving. According Mikael Fogelhom, a Finnish specialist in sports medicine, “If life is so busy you really can’t squeeze in a brisk walk, your life is a mess.” (Finns are known for being straight talkers.) Take it from Mikael: if you devote just one day of TV-watching time to physical activity, you'll go a long way toward creating a healthier, happier, less messy life. 4. The Day for Failure is celebrated in Finland each year on October 13th. The celebration originated in 2010 with university students who were concerned that a Finnish culture that made failure taboo was stifling innovation. Each year, organizers invite famously high achievers to share their failures and describe how they were the inevitable stepping stones on the journey to success. You can celebrate your own Day for Failure by:
seeking out examples of failures in the lives of people you admire
reading this article on the joy of failure from Arthur Brooks
trying something difficult such as a new recipe or skill, then publicly celebrating falling short
I’m doing my part to celebrate the Day for Failure every day as I try to learn Greek and fail almost every time I open my mouth to speak.
Some Finnish humor. Links that a Finn would love:
The uneasy intimacy of work in a pandemic year Vox
The Pandemic as a Wake-Up Call for Personal Health The New York Times
My Treadmill Desk Made Working From Home a Cakewalk Wired
How to Be Happier Without Really Trying Eric Barker
Here’s 10,000 Hours. Don’t Spend It All in One Place. The Atlantic
Hyvää päivänjatkoa, Lynne
Cool pic of the Northern Lights above a soccer field in Oulu, Finland thanks to Adrian Dascal, Unsplash