Finland: The happiest country in the world

by Team Conscious Carma

In the World stricken with a global pandemic and economic slump, everyone’s praying for the return of normalcy and happiness. At this moment, we all just want to be happy, healthy and being surrounded by loved ones more than anything else.

At the same time, being cut off from the crazy competitive world, we are finding happiness in the most mundane deeds and leading a life of gratitude and contentment. Though we all want normalcy to return, I am sure, the meaning of happiness has changed for all of us.

Talking about happiness, do you know, Finland has been ranked as the happiest country for the fourth year in a row, according to the 2021 World Happiness Report. Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands following in second, third, fourth and fifth positions respectively. Launched in 2012, the World Happiness Report is an annual survey conducted by the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The survey ranks global happiness in 149 countries worldwide based on six key variables (income, life expectancy,
social support, freedom, trust, and generosity).

FINLAND – an Introduction

Finland, officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe, covering an area of 338,455 square kilometres with more than 1,80,000 lakes in it. Its population of 5.5 million. Except for a small highland region in the extreme northwest, the country is a lowland with less than 600 ft (180 m) above sea level. Helsinki is the country’s capital and largest city. It is a bilingual country – Finnish and Swedish are
both official languages.

Finland was under Swedish rule from the 13th century till the 17th century. It later came under Russia during the Great Northern War, (1700–21). In 1917, after Russia was taken over by the Bolsheviks, Finland was finally declared independent. Finland joined the European Union in 1995 and adopted the euro in 1999. Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin of the Social Democratic Party of Finland is the World’s youngest prime minister.

What makes Finns the happiest of all?

Let’s understand how a country with a history of invasions, slavery and struggle has turned out to be the happiest country in the World.

“Sisu” Philosophy

The Finnish have struggled hard to get their freedom, fought many battles bravely in the coldest and darkest of winters. Unity, integrity, perseverance and grit are the values ingrained in their psyche, popularly called the “sisu” philosophy. This philosophy makes Finnish people optimistic, always looking at the brighter side and living a life of gratitude and contentment.

Best Governance in the World

Finland has extensive welfare benefits, free education, free healthcare, low levels of corruption, low crime rates, extended parental and annual leave compared to the rest of the world and a well-functioning democracy. it ranks high for its performances in civil rights, press freedom and quality of life.

According to the Legatum Prosperity Index 2020, Finland has the best governance in the World. The corruption levels are one of the lowest in the world. Finland was ranked 3rd out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Gender Equality

While Gender equality remains a crucial issue all over the world, Finland has been quick in mending this gap, years ago. In 1906, Finland became the first country in the world to grant full political rights to women – both the right to vote (a first in Europe) and the right to run for office. Also, it became the first European country with women as both president and prime minister in the year 2003.

A warm and welcoming Culture

The Finnish culture is a mix of indigenous heritage, Nordic and European influences. It’s a warm culture where different customs and traditions are being followed in the same spirit. There are Sami, Romani, Swedish-speaking Finns, Tartar, and the Jews, all of them have maintained their unique cultural identities and live in complete harmony. This melting pot can be observed in festivals, literature, visual arts, music, cinema, and even cuisine.

Finns are simple and honest and live to their fullest

Finns appreciate simplicity and honesty in all things and are not materialistic. Life’s simple pleasures make them happy like They love walking in the forests picking blueberries, swimming in icy water.  They believe in living at their own pace, unlike most of the fast-paced and competitive western world.

Finns love outdoor activities, the extremely cold climate is not a hindrance to their venturing out.  In Northern Finland, the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon for weeks. While in summers they have nightless nights when the sun doesn’t set at all from mid-May until late July. They enjoy life even in the coldest and darkest of days like enjoying the glowing white snow and blazing northern lights in dark wintery days and the midnight sun in summers.

One thing the Finnish love most is their sauna. Almost every house has a sauna and it is their daily ritual.  Can you imagine,  there are 3.3 million of them in Finland, which has a population of 5.5 million. “Sauna culture in Finland” is now on the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

You can witness all sorts of saunas in Finland, tent saunas, car saunas, popup saunas, boat saunas, ice saunas, portable saunas, backyard and rooftop saunas.

A recently published 15-year research project on the health effects of a sauna, led by professor Jari Laukkanen, a cardiologist, showed that frequent visits to the sauna (four to seven times a week) cut the risk of having a stroke by more than 50 per cent compared to one weekly visit. Habitual sauna use also significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. For the heart, taking a sauna is the equivalent of going out for a brisk walk. You could attribute this as one of the reasons for their long and healthy life.

Finns have Nature’s love in bounty

Finland is a beautiful country,  with thousands of lakes, lush green forests and pristine air and water. The purity in the heart and the purity in the environment makes Finns happy and healthy.

It is Europe’s most forested country, with more than 70% of the land covered with forests. About 17,000 square kilometres of the forest is strictly protected. The Finnish concept of ‘Everyman’s Right’ means that one can walk freely in the forest, enjoy the fresh air and gather the gifts of the forest, mushrooms and blueberries. Of course, this also implies that it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep them clean. 

Being surrounded by nature and getting out into it has long been known to help us feel happier. As there is so much to see and do outdoors in Finland, it is no wonder people here are so positive.

Finland has World’s Best Education System

Finland is an international leader in providing education. It is one of the cornerstones of the Finnish welfare society, where Finnish educators focus on making education an instrument to balance out social inequality. Their educational system offers equal opportunities for education for all. Education from pre-primary to higher is free of charge in Finland, including transportation, meals and study material. Students in Finland often have the same teacher for up to six years of their education, which helps in developing mutual trust and bonding between the teacher and students.

Also, the system gives local schools the autonomy to address local needs by decentralizing administration. Students start school when they are 7 years old and there are only 9 years of compulsory school that Finnish children are required to attend. Everything past the ninth grade or at the age of 16 is optional. The schools starts anywhere from 9:00 – 9:45 AM.

Research has shown that early start times are detrimental to students’ well-being, health, and maturation.

Less stress, less regimentation and more caring, creates a strong happy and positive foundation from the early years. And as a result, Finnish students score higher than most of their peers on international assessment tests, despite peculiarities like having minimal homework and tests, and also a curriculum that puts a big emphasis on music, the arts, and outdoor activities.

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