Wanna be happier than a 90s kid at a High School Musical showing? Move to a Nordic country! Norway, Denmark and Iceland have officially been named the world’s happiest countries (in fact seven of the top ten are Nordic), and here’s why their people are loving life…
Published by the United Nations, the World Happiness Report is an annual ranking of the world’s countries based on the idea that citizens who experience a high level of well-being, lead to a more progressive nation. Each report measures different areas that contribute to happiness as an individual and a community, including mental illness, the benefits of joy, ethics and legality. While education and income play a role in overall happiness, all the highest ranked countries had several things in common that you can easily adopt for a happier (and healthier) life.
Love Thy Neighbour
The UN found that happiness was a social issue, not just a personal one. When ranked, the top three all had strong results under the banners of caring and generosity. The conclusion is that when people know they are cared for they feel safe. Safety allows room for happiness and in these nations, people believe that strangers and loved ones had their back and could be relied on in times of need. It also helps that Norwegian’s don’t move often, but you can bring the community spirit into your own life by smiling at people you pass on the street, asking a shop assistant how their day is going and learning your neighbours names instead of pretending they don’t exist. See? Simple!
Being generous was the other happiness element shaped by the community and these countries achieved it by having the largest number of the population giving money to charities regularly. This is described as being ‘pro-social’ and Dane’s especially like to spend their money on socialising and experiences rather than high-end goods. It’s not about giving all your worldly possessions away; it’s about being open to sharing with others, just like your mother taught you. Bring the happy vibes of generosity into your life by volunteering or ‘paying it forward’ next time you’re grabbing a coffee.
After looking after others in society, the UN looked at how people look after themselves and they found that the highest rated countries had good health services, especially when it came to mental illness. Having high life expectancy from birth was the keystone, but it’s the actions afterwards that make the difference. These countries all have balanced, healthy foods as their dietary staples (Norwegians LOVE fish oil) and they all believe in exercise. Almost every town in Iceland has a geothermal community pool for swimming (babies are taught to swim from three months old) and 50% of Danes commute to work or school on a bike. Living that #fitspo life has never been more rewarding, has it? Start small and eat your five servings of veggies everyday, plus make sure you’re hitting the 30 minutes of exercise goal (walking to the bus stop counts!).
On the other side of physical health is the often overlooked but equally important mental health. Besides having a great approach to mental illness care, all these countries had an anti-stress approach to day-to-day life. We’re sure you’ve heard of ‘hygge’, which is the practice of pursuing cosiness and contentment. It’s basically an art form in Denmark and Norway, and thanks to it the citizens have a chill outlook and appreciation of the simple things. They know how important it is to look after your brain box, and you can too! Take up meditation, or do as they do and put aside 15 minutes everyday to enjoy a cup of tea in the sunshine.
The young hearts know the key to happiness is freedom and all three countries ranked highly on this measurement, saying they believed they had the ability to make their own decisions in life and express themselves in society. You can achieve this easily everyday by practicing gratitude for having the ability to travel, be free and drive the course of your destiny… and also just by being yourself.
Adding to this is that all these happy spots have progressive governments that support citizens socially and in their human rights. Iceland and Denmark both have amazing parental leave schemes for example, that have directly impacted economic growth. While you can’t adopt a new government, you CAN petition for change. Find an issue you believe needs improvement and lend your voice to making things better.