The Happiest Country in the World – How Does Finland Do It? The Finns Credit Sisu; Harnessing Courage in Nature
The UN announced this month that Finland is officially the Happiest Country of 2018. It’s time to explore their secret to happiness; Courage.
As we sit and scratch our heads over yet another Nordic country bagging the prize for the Happiest Country in the World, we might ask ourselves, How Does Finland Do It? What do they have or do, that others don’t? Or is there something we can learn from them, and spread this happiness worldwide? There’s something beyond the sound education, politics, economics (that tackles unemployment through encouragement over threats), which seems to override depression from short daylight hours. Their happiness also stems from a much deeper, more personal mission.
Most are now familiar with the household terms Hygge (Denmark) and Lagom (Sweden). But how about Sisu? Pronounced see-soo, Sisu is a national characteristic that sums up how the Finns manage difficult times and nurture feelings of wellbeing. Finlandia translates it as “a strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. Sisu is the quality that lets them pick up, move on, and learn something from previous failures. […] It sets Finns apart and explains many of the incredible things they do.”
Sisu; Using Nature to Build Courage in the Face of Hardship
In everyday life, Sisu means adding courage that improves happiness and overall wellbeing. Simple actions that build resilience become part of everyday routines. Outdoor exercise and activity are key, choosing challenge over ease. Swimming in freezing water, cycling through snow, skating on frozen lakes all build courage and strength. Experts say that a 30 second dip in freezing water gives the same health benefits as climbing 15-20 flights of stairs. It boosts your immune system, increases circulation and sheds calories, while the feel-good hormones produced when you’re back on dry land (endorphins, serotonin and dopamine) reduce stress and help you get a good night’s sleep.
In countries where snowy conditions aren’t available, you could choose to cycle or walk (to school, work, or recreationally) or jump in the sea, even when faced with sideways rain. In Finland, people tend to self medicate pain with movement over medicine, with 96% exercising outdoors on average 2-3 times per week. And of course, a communal (and naked), hot sauna can help melt away pains in body and mind.
Forest Bathing (“Shinrin-Yoku”) to Reduce Stress Levels
Spending time in nature is proven to to reduce stress and anxiety. In Japan, many medical professionals prescribe Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing (meaning walking in the forest), as a way to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. On this page about Biophilic Design, you can read about how inhaling photoncide oils from plants and trees and mycobacterium vaccae from soil improves our immune system.
So try to challenge yourself by pushing yourself physically in nature, even when the weather tempts you not to. In fact, the forest is a wonderful place in the rain, with its beautiful canopy and wonderful earthy smells.
Eat Natural, like the Scandinavians
If we want to get closer to being the happiest country in the world, let’s not forget the natural connection on the inside too. Scandinavian diets include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, berries, healthy proteins and multi-grain rye bread instead of doughy loaves. Only 20% of women in Finland are obese, compared to 58% in the UK. Healthy diets can avoid anxiety and heart problems, as I explain in these blog posts on the sleep smoothie for insomnia and the green juice as heart and brain food.
Choose Homewares with a Connection to Nature
Bringing nature into your home with natural materials, forms and colours gives a calm and creative atmosphere. The Chalk & Moss online shop exclusively sells ethical homewares and furniture with a strong connection to nature. This includes botanical prints, tactile ceramics, the softest natural home textiles and handmade wooden furniture.
So now we know one of the secrets to Finland being the happiest country in the world, it’s time for us to take small steps each day to replicating some of this happiness. If you dream of a Nordic escape, do also check out this stunning wood and glass cabin, suspended above the water in an archipelago above Norway’s Arctic Circle.
If you want to know more about how Finland is the happiest country in the world, a great source of inspiration for adopting a Sisu attitude in your life is Katja Pantzar’s book Finding Sisu.
Daily Mail: Sisu, the new Scandi outdoor craze from the world’s most happy nation that Finns claim boosts wellbeing and keeps you happy.
Finlandia: Our Finnish Heritage