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Are you happy? As the fifth edition of the World Happiness Report is released, we look at what we can learn from the happiest countries and how we can capture some of that elusive feel-good factor. Since the first World Happiness Report ranked the countries of the world in terms of their happiness in 2012, there are some countries that have consistently featured in the top 10. Is there something we can learn from these happy places, something that can help us to improve our own sense of wellbeing?
Denmark regularly tops the happiness charts but it is only more recently that the secret is out – hygge (pronounced hoo-geh). It’s all about shutting out the cold weather and cosying up and it’s taken the world by storm over the last couple of years. All you need is a log fire, woolly socks and a cup of hot chocolate, it seems, to find spiritual happiness. Sounds reasonable.
The Nordic countries are all in the top 10 for happiness and if Denmark’s secret is in the cosy escape from harsh weather, Norway’s is the very opposite – wholeheartedly embracing the great outdoors. The endorphins released from physical exercise and the adrenaline rush of adventure combine for the Norwegians with sparklingly clean air and stunning scenery. Try not feeling better after such a heady mix!
The Canadian identity is one of peaceable co-existence. Famously, in a competition to complete the sentence “As Canadian as…” the winning entry was: “possible, in the circumstances.” It points to a nation that is accepting and adaptable and there is a lesson there if we are willing to learn it. Meet the world today with tolerance and goodwill and see how much calmer and happier you feel by the end of the day.
There are over 5 million people in Finland and up to 3 million saunas. Could this be one of the contributing factors to Finland’s happiness scores? Saunas are places of sociability and harmony and the custom is still to take a sauna at least once a week. Clothes are off, inhibitions are down and the vibe is relaxed. The sauna, followed by a plunge into icy water, has long been known to have health benefits but, for the Finns, it also has deeper social and psychological benefits.
The Netherlands has rarely fallen out of the top 10 and it could have something to do with the humble bicycle. The average Dutch person cycles 600 miles per year. With benefits that include improved fitness, better sleep and even a longer life, it’s no surprise that the Dutch are so happy.
There is a mindset in New Zealand called the number 8 wire mentality. Number 8 wire was a fencing wire used by farmers in the remote corners of the country and every farmer had it to hand. It became useful for fixing most things and came to symbolise the New Zealand attitude of ingenuity and resourcefulness. With a number 8 wire mentality you can fix just about anything, which leads to a sense of security and a lack of worry – and a place in the top 10 happiness index.
“No worries, mate.” It’s the phrase of Australia and this laid-back, friendly approach to life is part of what makes the Australians a happy nation. Its cousin is “fair go” – everyone deserves a chance, which is linked to the notion of the Australian battler, or the underdog. Australia is friendly and egalitarian, without the social rules that catch us out in the UK. We could take a lesson from this simple, relaxed approach to human interaction.
Sweden. Yet another Nordic country that seems to have cracked the secret of happiness. The Swedes have something called ‘frilutsliv’. It’s the sense of being free and at one with nature. Not so much the Norwegian sense of adventure, more a sense of wonder and spiritual calmness that comes from contemplating the stars on a clear night or walking in a woodland glade. Slow down and take time to smell the roses.
Feeling inspired? You will obviously need to do your own investigations and see these happy places for yourself. Take the strain out of your research with a luxury cruise. Travel to Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand or Canada, and come home with the secret of happiness!
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