Finn Happy

This year, Finland is number one in the UN happiness report. And for the third consecutive time, too: 2018, 2019 and 2020. Nobody is as flabbergasted as Finns themselves. How the hell is that possible? This video may have some answers.

[video voiceover]

Just look at these happy people! Cheers!

They are happy, because they live in a country with ever-green forests, crystal clear lakes, and strong traditions. It's a land where many of its adult citizens maintain that Santa Claus actually comes from the Finnish Lapland.

Yes – this is Finland. And for the third time, Finland is number one in the UN happiness report. In the same study, the world's happiest cities were ranked as well. Number one: Helsinki. What the heck is going on in Finland?

Of course, the self-belittling Finns themselves won't swallow such success-babble easily. Every year when the results are announced they're widely questioned. Naturally, the most vocal opponents are always the Finns themselves. Nevertheless, these studies and these indicators place Finland on top of the ranking as the world's happiest nation.

The entire world now facing uncertain times, could Finland share with the world its notes for happier life? Like päntsdrunk, perhaps?

Usually, researches like this focus on economical aspects, and it is true that wealth has a big role to play. However, money is not the only factor. Not even close. According to research, it seems that after attaining a relatively low basic level the meaning of increasing one's wealth starts to diminish. Cumulating wealth does not equal increased happiness in proportion. After the initial peak, it is the intangible factors that help increase the feeling of happiness.

Being able to make decisions regarding one's own life and to make free choices.

The access to quality education.

Excellent child care.

The atmosphere of equality and trust. High life expectancy and meaningful social relations.

Not really things that would cause endorphin outbursts  – for this, Finns have the sauna – but rather increase a more stable feeling of happiness and safety. In short: a well-functioning society, equality and social capital. The secret of happiness seems to be simple, at least on paper.

The research itself has been criticised for favouring the western ideas of happiness and ideal life. This, however, does not suffice to explain the whole phenomenon. Especially as this time around, the research included those who had moved to Finland from elsewhere. Turned out that they quickly reached the same level of happiness with the natives.

When the results were published in the British newspaper The Guardian, the readers' comments were sceptical. More than one reader were convinced that people could not survive the long and dark winters without suffering psychological damage. Yet, one reader said she had moved to Finland already a while ago and feeling happy as a pig in muck. Now, there's a metaphor that should be satisfactory even for the self-deprecating Finns.

Naturally the critique has its place. Many suicides are still committed in the world's happiest country. Violence and especially domestic violence is common. These should not go unnoticed.

But, just for a while, let us be less obviously Finnish and not ruin the whole thing with morosity or self-punishing remarks. Even if we are still far from a paradise on Earth, a functioning society, equality and social capital are goals worth striving for.

So: congratulations, Finland! Let's all go Finn Happy!

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