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A backpacker in front of a scandinavian lack

When it comes to lists of the happiest countries, there is one region that consistently outperforms the rest of the world: Scandinavia. In the 2019 World Happiness Report, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland (which is part of Scandinavia, depending on who you ask) all make the top ten, as they do year after year.

Although a long way from the bottom, the UK trails behind its Scandi counterparts at number 15 in the report’s rankings while France, Italy and Poland sit even further down the list. It’s got us wondering, what’s the recipe for Scandi happiness and how can we bottle some up for ourselves? Read on to find out.

What is the Scandinavian model for happiness?
Lots of the reasons Scandinavian countries score high on happiness come back to a close-knit sense of community. Factors like decent job security, welfare support, education and healthcare are all important in this. It gives people the feeling of a network they can really rely on and there are programmes that genuinely bring them together, all of which is positive for personal wellbeing.

Of course, they have to pay higher taxes for many of these benefits, as they are government-led but the benefits seem to outweigh the cons. Happiness starts at home though, and the reason Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world is not all down to the way the state is run.

On a more day-to-day level, they have what’s called hygge by the Danish and similar concepts in neighbouring countries. Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is a sensation, way of thinking and philosophy all at once.

A lot of hygge relates to the idea of being cosy and content, not necessarily in a sipping hot chocolate by an open fire kind of way (although that is very hygge). It could be a solo bike ride through the park, enjoying dinner with family or anything in between.

You might also hear about lagom in Sweden, which is all about achieving balance; sisu in Finland, which means living with determination and perseverance; and fika, another Swedish word that has roots in taking a break and bonding with those around you.

Can we follow the Scandi model?
There are lots of ways we can bring a little Scandi-style happiness into our everyday lives. Here are a few ideas to try out:

  • Switch off: We are a nation of tech addicts, that’s for sure. Although we are digitally connected, our smartphones and tablets can get in the way of time for personal and social connection, which is a huge part of Scandinavian culture. From reading time to a completely tech-free evening, there are plenty of ways to switch off and relax. This is especially important if you struggle with maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Meditate: Similarly to powering down the tech, meditation is a way to have a hygge moment, finding time for peace and contentedness. There are many ways to meditate, like kundalini yoga, sound therapy and mindfulness. Explore the different options and find one that suits you.
  • Candles: Nothing says hygge like candles. Sitting in candlelight is guaranteed to help you feel cosy, and the natural light is thought to be more positive for our wellbeing than artificial. Even better, light some scented candles while you take a bath for a seriously relaxing moment.
  • Reach out to neighbours: We can’t change systems that are government-led overnight. However, there are other ways we can achieve similar effects to the Scandi model of government on a much smaller scale.

For instance, we can reach out to neighbours – offer them help, give them a gift, invite them over for a coffee. This could be the starting point to a strong sense of community Scandinavians hold so dearly, which is entwined in life at both state and an individual level.

So, that’s a look at why Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world and what we can do to share in their happiness. Which of the tips will you be incorporating into your life?