What then, might be the recipe behind our continuous happiness? Happiness /ˈhæpinəs/, a state of well-being and contentment…
Now, you might not necessarily associate the word “happiness” with Finnish people if you happen to cross paths with them on the streets of Helsinki on a slushy and windy December day, or even during a sunny day in July.
After all, our self-perception is that we are a quiet, introverted bunch who stick to what we are familiar with and don’t waste time on nonsense.
However, with Finland consistently ranking first globally in the World Happiness Report for six consecutive years, our self-image is starting to crack. Could we be on the verge of an identity crisis here?
The Recipe for Success
So, what can we then conclude from the scientifically validated data? First and foremost, as many already know: don’t judge a book by its cover.
Although the broody Finns that you might encounter out and about in the Finnish and global wilderness (both urban and rural) seem everything but happy, that really isn’t the case.
For six years in a row, we have been highly satisfied with our lives. Finns have a sense of agency not just in the way our democratic society is run, but also in the direction our personal lives take.
The importance of the welfare state and the support it provides cannot be overstated. Whether it’s knowing that society will be there to catch us if we stumble or fall, or relying on its services temporarily or for a longer period, the mere knowledge of a safety net gives us peace of mind.
Our trust in a functioning society is also crucial in our willingness to happily pay taxes to maintain it. Ask a Finn to share their lunch sandwich with you and the answer will likely be a hard no. But ask them to pay taxes progressively, and few will object.
It’s ingrained in our very core that we all benefit from a strong support system. That’s also why Finland boasts high election turnouts globally – we care about our society and want to help shape it.
Trust and equality
In a country where you can trust not only the authorities but also your fellow humans, happiness comes easy. You can confidently leave your purse on the floor of a restaurant without fearing theft, and let your young children play outdoors unsupervised without worrying about their safety.
Moreover, you can count on the fact that all children, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or mother tongue, will have equal opportunities as they grow up. They will receive world-class education to pursue their dreams and become anything they set their minds to.
Can’t disappoint a pessimist
But maybe all of the above is just what we’d like to believe are the reasons behind our soaring levels of happiness. Perhaps it all boils down to the Finnish proverb, “pessimisti ei pety” – a pessimist will not be disappointed.
Maybe it’s all in our general attitude towards life, where unless something is wrong, we consider everything perfectly good. And in those rare times when things go downhill, we push through with “sisu” – Finnish hard-headedness or grit.
And if all else fails, you can always reboot to factory settings – the holy trinity of S’s: sisu, sauna and salmiakki (enjoyed either in liquid or solid form).
Whatever the secret may be, Finns will continue to uncover it and live happily while doing so!
Featured image: Olivier Darny