For the second year running, Finland is declared the Happiest Nation in the World. It has to be true, after all, it’s the United Nations who’s saying it. This seems a little odd, as Finland has always been world-renowned for melancholy. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, melancholy is ’sadness that lasts for a long period of time, often without any obvious reason’. They even list the synonym for melancholy as ‘NOT HAPPY’. For as long as I can remember, Finland has also been the world leader for suicides. Today, the World Health Organization ranks Finland in 32nd place.
It makes you wonder how Finns became so happy in such a short time. But it’s not just that Finns are finally happy is it? No, they take things to the other extreme and become the happiest people in the world.
It was my own decision to leave England and move to Finland 27 years ago, even though Finns were not that happy back then. So, while shopping in Rovaniemi town centre today – among all the other townspeople laughing, singing and skipping around town in their normal, ecstatically joyful manner – I started to think what exactly it is about Finland, and Lapland in particular, that makes me happy.
Santa Claus and reindeer
Santa Claus lives here. How cool is that? It’s difficult to think of anyone else who succeeds in making so many people happy, year after year. We have the World Ambassador for Happiness living just down the road. On top of that, there are more reindeer than people here in Lapland, and they’re pretty tasty as well. No wonder we’re happy.
With the Northern Lights and everything covered in glistening snow, I never considered the Polar Night as being a period of darkness. It’s more a time when everything looks like the Christmas cards people send to each other all over the world. Then there’s the summer and the never-ending day of the Midnight Sun, not forgetting the amazingly colourful autumn and then there’s spring, which in my opinion is just winter with more sunshine.
According to a blog written by Riitta Pyky on the Lappset website, the average distance from a Finnish home to the nearest forest is only 600 metres. Finns have always loved the forest, but now we know the forest loves them back. Research indicates that spending only a few moments in nature reduces stress and promotes wellbeing and health. Not only is nature so clean here, it changes so dramatically all the time. How can you not love that?
It’s difficult to find more honest and trustworthy people than the Finns. In England, and many other places I’ve been, it feels like nobody trusts anyone. Here things are different, which makes life so much easier – happier, perhaps. This has changed my life, as dishonesty is something rarely experienced in Finland.
Time and distances
Here, if you travel to work or go shopping in town, it only takes a few minutes to get there. In Finland, 100 kilometres takes about an hour to drive. In London, my daily journey to university covered 20 kilometres. No matter how I travelled that distance, I could never do it in less than an hour. That’s two hours of travel every day. In fact, Brits measure distances in time, not miles. Fortunately, there’s less time-wasting here and more time for focusing on being happy.
Living in England, I thought that snot was naturally black. It was only once I moved to Finland, I noticed it was just pollution. Even the air is happy here.
As with any country, Finland also has its downsides, but perhaps I’ll save them for another time. Good luck with your own efforts at being happy, let’s make it a hat-trick for Finland!