Back in 2021, I compiled a list of the best places to live in the world. The results were a bit surprising, especially considering how relatively poorly the United States scored. The list was based on a combination of how happy the citizens of each country were (based on the World Happiness Report), how free those citizens were (Based on the Human Freedom Index), and the cost of living in each country.
For the period of 2019-2022, Finland was the happiest nation on earth (Finns were also the happiest people on earth from 2016-2019). During that same period, the United States was the 16th happiest nation. There’s a lot that can be said about why people in Finland are so happy and why people in the United States are, comparatively speaking, so unhappy. Philosophy and psychology researcher Frank Martela, who teaches at Aalto University in Finland, says there are three keys to Finnish happiness.
- Finns Don’t Compare Themselves to Their Neighbors – Finns live by the motto “Don’t compare or brag about your happiness.” They really take it to heart. They also don’t flaunt their wealth. Most Finns, regardless of how relatively wealthy or poor they are, live very similar lives in very similar homes. In Finland, success isn’t living better than your neighbors. It is living very much like your neighbors.
- Finns Embrace the Benefits of Nature – Every year, Finns get four weeks of vacation during the summer months, and most spend at least part of that time immersed in nature. Whether hiking, canoeing, or camping, Finns routinely enjoy getting away from the modern conveniences of life to enjoy the outdoors, whether in the countryside or in urban parks. They find that time spent in nature increases their vitality, well-being, and gives them a sense of personal growth. They also fill their homes with greenery to mimic the benefits of being out in nature at times of the year when it is not as easy to get outdoors.
- Finns Trust Each Other – A “lost wallet” experiment run around the world showed why Finns trust each other so much. In Finland, researchers dropped twelve wallets around Helsinki to see how many would be returned. Of the twelve, eleven were returned to the owner of the wallet. Finns tend to highly value trust and honesty. Relatively small, polite gestures like holding the door for someone or giving up a seat on the bus or train tends to increase the trust that people have in each other. These gestures are common in Finland.
Do these three things sound like the way we live our lives in the United States? If not, maybe we should do something about it.