How to be happy, according to the people of Finland

In 2019, Finland was voted the happiest country in the world based on the World Happiness Report. The report ranked 156 countries around the world on factors including life expectancy, freedom, GDP and corruption.

Denmark took second place after Finland, having previously claimed the top spot in 2013 and 2016. Often Scandinavian countries like Finland, Denmark and Sweden are ranked for being the happiest countries in the world. They seem to hold some secret formula for “how to be happy”.

So why is Finland so happy and how can the rest of the world follow suit?

What does happiness mean?

“Happiness is the satisfaction with the way one’s life is going. Not how much you’re smiling or laughing, but how one feels with the course of one’s life.” – Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Institute in Denmark.

Happiness is people’s sense of personal freedom to make important life choices. When you feel you can shape your life the way you want, you feel happy. What’s more, having someone we can rely on in times of need, or to share our hopes or worries is, another big indicator of happiness.

woman smiling with watermelon

How is happiness measured?

The World Happiness report states that there are 6 elements of well-being, all of which can impact how people feel about their lives:

1. GDP per capita
2. Healthy life expectancy
3. Freedom to make life choices
4. Social support
5. Generosity
6. Absence of corruption

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But why are Finnish people so happy?

Support from the government

In Finland, new mothers receive a baby box from the government, filled with 63 items to help them during their baby’s first year. This means that new parents don’t have to buy anything for the first 2-3 months of their child’s life. The box can even be used as a bed for the baby. What’s more, the Finnish government offers a generous 10 months of paid parental leave. Parents can stay home until the child is 3 years old and still keep his or her job.

And it gets better. Finnish people receive free education and free health care. This is a result of higher taxes on consumption, like going out for dinner or buying a pair of jeans. Nordic people are happy to pay those taxes because they get services in return. For example, day care, public education, college tuition fees, healthcare – all of these services and more are covered by their taxes. This means it is easier for Finnish people to shape their lives the way they want because the government supports so many of their basic needs.

Social security

If you’re unhappy at work, Finland’s social security makes it possible for you to quit your job. They almost encourage you take some thinking time so you can figure out what your next step in life is.

A trusting community

There is trust among the Finnish community. With the government providing the basics for society, there is a much lower feeling of injustice, inequality and as a result, less crime. Because Finnish people are able to get the education they need, they can get a job and don’t have to struggle in life as much. Therefore, people don’t have bitter or resentful feelings towards one another. Everybody participates in the community and helps one another.

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young mum kissing her baby

How to be happy?

“People in Finland are not looking to become millionaires, they are looking for a good balance in life.” states Jeffrey Sachs a professor at Columbia and co-editor of the World Happiness Report.

In Finland, there isn’t extreme wealth nor extreme poverty. Finnish people believe in balance, not being too rich or too poor. As a result, they place more value on their family, friends and community. Ultimately, according to the Finns, balance is the formula for happiness.

You’ve officially discovered how to be happy. Congratulations! If you would like to see how happy Finnish people really are and explore the country for yourself, get inspired by our Capitals of Scandinavia trip. 

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