What can we learn from the Finnish about being happy and content?

Each year, the World Happiness Report (WHR) seeks to measure happiness across all the countries in the world.

The goal is to identify where individuals feel happiest around the world using a metric called the “Cantril ladder” – essentially a subjective way for individuals to rank their happiness from 1 to 10.

In the 2023 report, Finland came out in the top spot, a position the Scandinavian country has now held for six years in a row. For reference, that compares to 19th for the United Kingdom, down two places from 2022.

According to the report itself, there are six factors at play that dictate individuals’ happiness, going some way to explaining why some countries consistently make it to the top of the list. These are:

  1. Social support
  2. GDP per capita
  3. Healthy life expectancy
  4. Freedom to make life choices
  5. Generosity
  6. Perceptions of corruption

While there are certainly elements of this list that you can’t control – there’s little you can do about GDP per capita in your home country, or government and business corruption, for example – there’s still plenty to learn from the Finnish that could help you live a happier, more contented life.

Read on to find out a few ways you could emulate the Scandi lifestyle.

Make time for friends and family, especially in retirement

Social support is one of those key metrics that the WHR uses to measure happiness, describing it as “having someone to count on in times of trouble”.

Finland excels in this area in various ways, particularly in its approach to welfare issues and social benefits, such as housing, unemployment, and parental allowances.

Crucially, though, this extends to the way Finns treat family as fundamental to life. According to the tourism website from the Finland Promotion Board ThisisFinland, the Finnish people take events such as Father’s and Mother’s Day very seriously.

Furthermore, the benefits offered to new parents make it possible for them to spend more time with their families, rather than balancing work and childcare.

This approach could be part of the reason why Finland ranks so highly for happiness, and can teach us a lot about living happier and more contented.

Social isolation and loneliness are serious issues in the UK. That’s why it’s important to proactively build and maintain strong bonds with those around you, particularly your friends and family.

This becomes even more important when you reach retirement. As Age UK data shows, 1.4 million older people in the UK are often lonely.

While you might have an active social life during your working years, this might slow down as you stop going to the office every day.

So, be sure to keep in touch with those around you. Make an effort to spend time with family, or suggest activities with friends. Even if it’s just going out for a coffee, spending time around other people could be a source of happiness.

Look at steps that could improve your health

With healthy life expectancy another key metric, it’s interesting to observe that data site Macrotrends measures average life expectancy in Finland in 2023 to be 82.48 years. That compares to Macrotrends data for the UK, with life expectancy coming in at 81.77 years.

While this may not be dramatically lower, it could account for the distance between the UK’s 19th-place finish in the poll, compared to Finland in the top spot.

There are various reasons this could be the case, particularly the quality of the healthcare system in the country. But you could also take inspiration from Finland and its neighbouring countries’ well-known holistic approach to health.

For example, Finns are famed for regularly using saunas, with Featuring Finland reporting that 90% of the country’s population take a sauna once a week.

According to Healthline, spending time in saunas can help you to relax and provide pain relief to sore joints and muscles. So, you could perhaps try spending 10 to 15 minutes a week in a sauna to boost your mood – although it’s worth noting that there are risks, such as dehydration and weight loss, if you aren’t careful.

Meanwhile, Finnish people also tend to spend more of their time outdoors, exploring the areas of natural beauty that adorn the country. As mental health charity Mind notes, being outside in nature can help to improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anger.

By adopting some of these aspects in your routine, you might be able to live a healthier and happier life.

Be generous with those around you

The idea that being generous can benefit you is no secret – you no doubt know that warm feeling that comes with doing something nice for someone you love.

Interestingly, as an area that the WHR measured, it is something the Finnish excel at. As Gross National Happiness USA reported after Finland were top of the list in 2019, nearly half of all Finns regularly give money to charity. Meanwhile, one-third of the population are volunteers.

Happiness from being generous is a well-studied and recognised phenomenon. Indeed, Time reports a litany of studies that indicate improved happiness – and even better health – in individuals who are generous in some capacity.

In turn, being generous wherever you can could be an effective path towards happiness. That could be:

  • Donating to charity
  • Volunteering your time to a cause that means something to you
  • Helping friends
  • Gifting money to family
  • Simple acts of kindness for strangers.

Doing one of these things, or something like them, might help you feel happier as a result.

Take control of your future with careful planning

The freedom to make life choices is another key part of the WHR.

While this largely comes down to the privilege of living in a democratic country, choosing your own path and making decisions about your life can be incredibly empowering.

This is where financial planning can really add value, helping you to make the most of your money so you can truly take control of your future.

So, if you’d like help organising your wealth to live your happiest and most content retirement, then please do get in touch with us at Britannic Place.

Email info@britannicplace.co.uk or call 01905 419890 to speak to us today.

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