We’re Missing Out on the Happiness

Year after year, Nordic countries are ranked as the nation’s with the highest level of happiness. Given that these countries tend to have long, dark winters, one has to wonder why. What would make Scandinavians so happy and the rest of the world not so happy?

Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden tend to be in the top 10 happiest places on earth and a lot of people ask why. Put simply, a big factor is that these countries have a very tight-knit society that is supported and encouraged by their government. The Nordic countries have sound, functioning democracies, they have free healthcare and education, liberal maternity/paternity leave and they have a very healthy work/life balance. In other words, a lot of the stress factors that most people around the world have to endure, are removed from the equation in Nordic countries.


But its not just their effective, cohesive democracies that contribute to happiness. Nordic people, long used to cold, harsh weather, have learned to come together and support each other. There is a solid and beneficial sense of community and simply put, they interact and help one another. Without the stress of having to find day care, pay for college or healthcare, Nords are much freer to actually live their life — they go out and enjoy life, blessed to experience nature, comradery and community.

Take a moment to read this incredibly wise insight…

Today we have higher buildings and wider highways, but shorter temperaments and narrower points of view.

We spend more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses, but smaller families. We have more compromises, but less time. We have more knowledge, but less judgement. We have more medicines, but less health.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk much, we love only a little, and we hate too much.

We reached the moon and came back, but we find it troublesome to cross our own street and meet our neighbors. We have conquered the outer space, but not our inner space.

We have higher income, but less morals.  These are times with more liberty, but less joy. With much more food, but less nutrition.

These are days in which two salaries come home, but divorces increase. These are times of finer houses, but more broken homes.

That’s why I propose that as of today — You do not keep anything for a special occasion, because every day that you live is a special occasion. Search for knowledge, read more, sit on your front porch and admire the view without paying attention to the needs. Pass more time with your family, eat your favorite food, visit the place you love. Life is a chain of moments of enjoyment; it isn’t only survival.

Use your crystal goblets. Do not save your best perfume. use it every time you feel you want it. Take out from your vocabulary phrases like, one of these days and someday. Let’s write that letter we thought of writing one of these days.

Let’s tell our families and friends how much we love them. Never pass up a chance at adding laughter and joy to your life. Every day, hour, and minute are special. Because you never know if it will be your last.

If you’re too busy to take some minutes to share this message with someone you love, and you tell yourself that you will share it one of these days. One of these days can be very far away, and you may not be there to see it.

– Unknown

I think in many countries, particularly the United States, we’ve been conditioned to believe that the way we’re doing things is perfect and without question. But is it? Is stressing year-in-and-year-out over politics, healthcare, child care, work/life balance really normal? These Nordic countries are free and open democracies with highly developed economies, so they’re clearly doing something right. Life is meant to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest and not just observed. Ask yourself this: are you thriving in this live, or merely surviving?

Of course we can’t attribute happiness in Nordic countries solely to their social/political structure, but its a big part of the reason why they’re so content. But what we can do is to take a look at their sociological behaviors and incorporate some of their ways, such as:

– Supporting one another and being more civil and friendly.

– Letting go of our unhealthy obsession with news and politics; Americans are driven to distraction by politics and we’ve become divided and toxic. Life is so much more than politics. If we have an issue with politics, rather than hash it out with our friends and neighbors and losing those relationships, we need to call and write our elected representatives and tell them what we want.

– Value the important things in life: our family and friends, those precious moments of happiness and the peace and quiet of spending time in nature.

– Live life: we’re all so busy tweeting, posting and blabbing on our cell phones, when what we should be doing, is taking that art class, joining that club, taking that vacation or volunteering for that charity.

Life is short and it can be tough, so if we find ourselves wondering why so many people around the world are happier, perhaps its a sign that we need to make some much needed change to how we’re living life here at home.

Learn more: The Nordic Exceptionalism: What Explains Why the Nordic Countries Are Constantly Among the Happiest in the World