Canada may seem like a pretty cool place to live (and it totally is) but it seems like no North American country can hold a candle to idyllic Scandinavia. Denmark is consistently named the ‘happiest country in the world’ by studies and surveys, but Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland are never far behind. Those five countries are pretty much the happiest in the world.
Author and Happiness Research Institute CEO Meik Wiking spends his life studying people around the world to find out where they are the happiest and what makes them that way. In his new book, The Little Book of Lykke (Danish for ‘happiness’) he outlines some of his findings and how you can apply them to your own life (even if you’re stuck living in North America).
Here are some of the big things that separate Scandinavian countries to make their people so damn happy.
They are welfare states
These countries are known as welfare states–where the government plays a key role in the economic and social well-being of its citizens. That means equal opportunities for men and women, universal healthcare, government-funded university tuition and a good work-life balance. Basically, government policies make sure that all your needs are met no matter what. They pay super high taxes, but it seems to be worth it.
Hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) is the Danish concept of ’embracing coziness.’ It’s the idea of making a space as comfortable and cozy as possible and keeping it devoid of annoyances and pressures. It’s creating a happy place where you’re completely comfortable. No wonder they’re so happy.
A crucial component to hygge is candles. The Danish burn more candles per capita than any other nation in the world because of the calming and cozy effects of firelight. Candlelight is proven to be mood and behviour-altering. Try lighting one the next time you want to relax or enjoy a nice dinner with the family.
They share in success
Wiking studied a program at a Danish hospital where employees were encouraged to share each other’s successes rather than revel in their own. They created an ’employee of the month’-type initiative where the recipient of the title was not the most successful person, but the one who reported other people’s successes. Everyone then had incentive to share the good things done by their coworkers and celebrate together.
A huge part of happiness is community. Some Scandinavian neighbourhoods are set up to encourage community bonding and foster relationships between households. In community co-housing, 12 to 20 families will live in a neighbourhood, each with their own house and utilities. Within the neighbourhood, there is also one community house that can be visited by all. In this common area, there are nightly dinners served Monday to Thursday which anyone in the community can attend. Once every three months, it’s your family’s turn to cook the communal dinner.
Not only does this encourage bonding, it lessens the burden of nightly cooking for families with young children and gives everyone a chance to understand what the people around them can offer and how they can help them in return.