Why Are People In Finland And Denmark Happier? What We Can Learn From Them?
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What does it take to be happy? The Nordic countries seem to have it all figured out. Finland and Denmark have consistently topped the United Nations’ most prestigious index, The World Happiness Report, in all six areas of life satisfaction: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity, in the video published on Jan 9, 2020, “Why Finland And Denmark Are Happier Than The U.S.” below:
Some of the contributing factors for Finns or Danes’ happiness or natural state of contentment or satisfaction, without being the wealthiest countries, with inspiration from Bhutan, is : having a balanced life
According to Happiness Researcher and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, Meik Wiking: best predictor for happiness is whether they’re satisfied or happy with their relationships. The six categories help account for the differences in life satisfaction around the world are:
- GDP per capita
- Healthy life expectancy
- Freedom to make life choices
- Social support
- Absence of corruption
On average, wealthier people are happier. But beyond a certain level of income, an additional $100 per month would not significantly impact how one feels about one’s life. So, there is a diminishing marginal return. This phenomenon lends credibility to Kanye West’s comment on life, “Having money is not everything; not having it is.”
Two words in Danish that differentiate the state or context of happiness: LYKKE is the elusive thing that one experiences once in a blue moon while GLAD is the mindset of choosing down-to-earth level of contentment. People in Finland are more likely to reach their GLAD state for there are systematic measures in government policy to help provide basic level of contentment or less stress. For example, cost of having babies is much lower and is supported by the government. New mothers in Finland receive a free baby box jam-packed with 63 items to help with the baby’s first year and the box can also function as baby’s bed. Finland, along with other Nordic countries, offers generous parental leave. In Finland, one gets 10 months of parental leave, out of which about 4 months is set aside for the mother before baby is born and father can keep 9 weeks. Typically both parents stay home during the first 3 weeks after baby is born and they share rest of the time until baby is 9 month old. A parent can even stay home until the child is 3 year old and keeps his/her job (however, the stipend would be much smaller). One’s freedom to choose what he/she wants to do is supported by the government in Finland. For example, there is a $2,000 monthly stipend for one during unemployment or during transition period into a different field. Tuition for retraining is covered, with monthly stipend. In Finland and Denmark, there is free education and free health care. Furthermore, citizens of Finland and Denmark receive paid annual vacation (4 weeks in summer and one week in winter for Finns) . These Nordic countries are able to provide these free services by having higher taxes on consumption (VAT or value-added tax). The overall social security or provision of basic necessities of life foster greater trust not only in one’s government but in their fellow human being as well. There is much lower poverty or sense of injustice, inequality, or crime. In essence, people do not have to struggle as much in life.
Aristotle launched the study of happiness 2,300 years ago and derived the Aristotle’s Golden Mean: good behavior lies between two vices, excess and deficiency. Balance is the key to happiness. Therefore much of the policy and social conditions set in Finland are geared toward this balance.
Lars AP, author of “F***ing Flink” and founder of the movement of the same name, wants to make Danes not only the happiest people in the world, but also the friendliest people in the world.
The 2018 World Happiness Report explores happiness among natives and immigrants. It shows that when immigrants are happy, the countries are, too. But if the country is already happy, new immigrants will experience increased happiness. There is also the observation that : Within states, the higher the life satisfaction, there is also slightly higher level of suicide rates. Theory is that: it might be more difficult to be unhappy in an otherwise happy society because it creates a greater contrast to how one feels if one is surrounded by very happy people. Back in 1980, Denmark used to have higher suicide rate (40 per 100,000) than Finland or Unites States. But now Denmark has lower suicide rate (10 per 100,000) than United States or Finland. South Korea and Lithuania among the OECD nations, on the other hand, have very high suicide rate as of 2017.
In addition to governmental policies, the emphasis on daily experience in comfort and pleasure also help to generate that sense of happiness or GLAD, via, sauna and hygge when people would experience comfort, pleasure, and togetherness, bringing forth greater sense of life satisfaction.
Some suggestions in bringing about greater happiness: healthy sex life, exercise, go first (initiating smile or greeting). The essence or ABC of mental health suggested by Danes in boosting one’s mood: doing something active, doing something together with other people, and doing something meaningful.
Perhaps all nations may benefit from measuring their respective Gross National Happiness. For future direction of any country, it is best to be guided by a sense of community and common good rather than guided by hate and fear.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker More about the community at www.WindermereSun.com
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