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Why Finland And Denmark Are Happier Than The U.S.

May 28, 2021
What makes me happy is... I think I was definitely born happy, and then life happens. I'm getting a little emotional here. I feel very happy. Very happy. I'm


now than when I lived in New York and was paid probably twice as much in New York as here. Our happiness is a kind of quiet happiness, a kind of stillness. What do you need to be happy? The Nordic countries seem to have it all figured out. Finland and Denmark have always topped the United Nations' most prestigious index, the World Happiness Report, in all six areas of life satisfaction.
why finland and denmark are happier than the u s
How did they figure out the formula? And are the people they are really the happiest? The United Nations has just named it the Happiest Place on Earth. It's not Disneyworld. It's Finland. In 2019, the World Happiness Report named Finland the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row. Denmark ranked second after claiming the top spot in 2013 and 2016. Year after year, Nordic countries like Norway, Iceland and Sweden round out the top of the list. Enter Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia professor and co-editor of the World Happiness Report. What do those countries have? They have a high level of prosperity, to be sure, but they are not the richest countries in the world by any means.
why finland and denmark are happier than the u s

More Interesting Facts About,

why finland and denmark are happier than the u s...

The idea is a good balance of life. They believe that you don't have to get super rich to be happy. In fact, if someone is super rich, look, what happens to that person? Therefore, they are not societies that seek all the effort and time to become billionaires. They are looking for a good life balance and the results are extremely positive. The annual happiness ranking started in 2012, but we can trace the measurement of happiness back to 1971. It came up inspired by the country of Bhutan, a country in the Himalayas that many people know for its innovation of trying to measure gross national happiness.
why finland and denmark are happier than the u s
Globally, a standard for measuring success and productivity is gross national product. Bhutan had the bright idea of ​​trying to measure happiness. Measuring happiness is a rather complicated matter. First of all, we must understand what happiness means. It means satisfaction with the way life is going. It's not primarily a measure of whether you laughed or smiled yesterday, but how you feel about the course of your life. Meet Meik Wiking, happiness researcher and CEO of the Danish Happiness Research Institute. There are many factors that affect happiness, from biology to income levels to the city in which they live.
why finland and denmark are happier than the u s
But I think the best predictor that we see in the data of whether or not people are happy is whether they are satisfied or happy with their relationships. So do we have someone we can rely on in times of need? Do we have someone with whom we can share our hopes and concerns? These six categories help explain differences in life satisfaction around the world. GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom of choice in life, social support, generosity and absence of corruption. On average, the richest countries are


. On average, richer people are happier. But, once we hit a certain income level, an extra $100 a month won't affect how people feel about their lives.
So with money, as with everything else, we see diminishing marginal returns. And I don't know why I'm mentioning this quote, because it's extremely cheesy, but there's a Kanye West song where he says, "Having money isn't everything. Not having it is." And I think that's true in the sense that when you don't have it, it's all you care about. And when you have money, you can worry about other things. Happiness also seems elusive. We have two words for happiness in Danish. So we have "lykke", which is the elusive thing. What you experience once every blue moon. And then we have to be "happy," like the word happy, which is different because it's more realistic and you can be happy even though it's nothing special, it's not a special day.
Lykke looks like a slippery thing that you can't chase. Being happy is more like our way of thinking. So I feel like I choose to be happy sometimes instead of trying to chase happiness because it seems like it's never going to happen that way. Maria lives in Helsinki with her husband, Duke, and her 2-year-old son, Luka. Wow! Wow! Hello! Yes! There she is. There it is, little monster. Finland is the best place to have children. When you go to give birth, it's almost free. We were in the hospital three full days as a family. We had our own family room and we got meals, support, help and everything.
And the bill was about €300 at the end. It's basically like living in a hotel. In Finland, new mothers receive a free baby box packed with 63 items to help with baby's first year. You don't have to buy anything for the first two or three months. Of course, diapers and things like that, but basically. And also, you can put your baby to sleep in that box. In fact, our baby, Luka, slept in the box for the first month. Finland, along with the other Nordic countries, offers generous parental leave. Anu Partanen, author of "The Nordic Theory of Everything," spent 10 years as a journalist in the US before returning to her home country of Finland.
She is also a mother. In Finland, you get 10 months of paid parental leave, of which about four months are reserved for the mother and you start before the baby is born and then the father gets to keep nine weeks. Usually, both parents stay home for the first three weeks. They share the rest of the time until the baby is nine months old. A parent can even stay home until the child is 3 and keep her job. However, the stipend is much less. Another determining factor of well-being is the sense of personal freedom to make important decisions in life.
Can you shape your life the way you want? Christina was not happy with her job in advertising and she took an eight month break. Social security is also something that I think is very important. What I did did not make me happy and did not allow me to have that work/life balance that we cherish so much here. So we have a system that allowed me to quit my job and have some time to think and figure out, you know, what my next step in life is. Christina received around $2,000 a month from the Danish government while she was unemployed.
She is now in school to become a painter. Her tuition is covered and she receives an educational stipend of about $1,000 a month. Two of the biggest advantages of living in Denmark and Finland are free education and healthcare. Income taxes are not as high in the Nordic countries as Americans tend to think. However, in general, it is completely true that the Nordic countries collect more taxes overall than the United States. In Finland and the Nordic countries, there are higher taxes on consumption, such as eating in restaurants and buying jeans. But what I think many Americans forget is that the Nordics are happy to pay those taxes because they get services in return.
Kindergarten, great public education. Includes your university tuition, free. It includes medical care, all of that is included in your taxes. When the news came that Finland is the happiest country in the world, I think most people reacted, like, what are they talking about? We don't consider ourselves very happy because it's dark and gloomy in the winter and whatever. It is easier for Finns and Danes to shape their lives because many of their basic needs are covered by the government. The American dream is probably most alive in Denmark. The perception of freedom is probably also a bit different.
It seems that in the US the feeling is that you have to be protected from the government and you have to be free from the government. I think in Denmark the meaning is that the government protects you. People trust other people. You leave a bag at a restaurant in Finland, you're pretty sure you're going to get it back, and the money is still there. People even leave babies parked in strollers outside coffee shops while they run errands. And I think part of the Nordic society cultivates that trust simply by providing basic services for everyone. So there is much less poverty, much less feeling of injustice, inequality, crime.
People get the education they need. They can have a job. they can work. They don't have to struggle so much in life. There is no super wealth and there is absolutely no super poverty. Everyone participates. It turns out that it leads to a wonderful kind of life and that expresses itself, year after year, making these countries the happiest countries in the world. Monica and Alex are expats living in Copenhagen with their two teenage children. Alex is originally from the UK and Monica is originally from New York. What else do you need? The olive oil, and then the balsamic vinegar.
Where is the bowl? We originally came here expecting to stay for only three years, but it was so good we've been here nine now. It is also safe. And this goes back to community and trust. We can let our kids out and we don't have to sit here worrying they'll come back. Are they sure where they are going? Do we have to go pick them up? You still worry, of course, but it's very different. There is still this very strong sense of family, friends, community. Balance is the formula for happiness. Aristotle was right when he launched the study of happiness 2,300 years ago.
According to Aristotle's Golden Mean, good behavior is found between two vices, excess and deficiency. People who only chase money and say, "I'll be happier the richer I am," turn out to be less happy. I believe that having a pleasant environment is part of happiness. But I also think it needs to be linked to something that resonates with you on a deeper level. Having a nice environment and having a lot of money and being in a five-star hotel in Las Vegas doesn't make you happy at all. So I think you need to have that balance. Cue the classic Nordic balance between work and life.
Rich Perusi, a former New Yorker, has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. People stick pretty tight to a 9 to 5 workday. But I do think we get as much done in a short amount of time here as we did in longer times working in New York. One of the comments we heard when we first came here was from a Dane who said, when he saw someone working late: "Are they doing it because they can't do their job? Is there something wrong with them?" Versus, "Are they just trying to get ahead at work?" There is a feeling that, yes, the work is important and you need to do it with a high quality, but you also need to make sure that it is properly balanced.
Saara Alhopuro is a diplomat who has shaped her work schedule to make time for her passion. So I actually need to go to my physical workplace only three days a week. So the rest of the time I can spend here in the middle of nature. When I walk through the forest, I walk very calmly, paying attention to all the little details and all the colors. Very slowly, and I try to catch all the little, little details. And I completely lose track of time. I usually spend five to six hours collecting mushrooms. People don't make as much money in the Nordic countries as they do in the US, so it's not really about how much you make.
You don't have to earn as much to get the same quality of life as you would in the United States. So if we look at the dimension called life satisfaction, we can see that money does matter for well-being and happiness. But I mean, on average, the richer countries are happier. On average, richer people are happier. But, the mechanism here is being without money is a cause of unhappiness. Not everyone likes to talk about money either. In Finland, it's been this kind of rule that money isn't talked about much, at least as my parents basically wouldn't tell me how much they earned, for example, if I asked when I was a kid.
It would be considered bragging if you said how much you earn etc. People are happiest when they are generous and when they feel that the society they are in is a generous society. And then we find that people want to live in places with decent government. If the government is corrupt, if the leaders are strange, autocratic or corrupt, the society is unhappy. In 2019, Finland elected the world's youngest prime minister, 34-year-old Sanna Marin. Danes are among the happiest people in the world, but they are not necessarily the friendliest. Lars AP, author of "F***ing Flink" and founder of the movement of the same name, wants to change that.
So F***ing Flink is a national movement. Our main goal is to bring Danes who are among the happiest people in the world, but who are also the friendliest people in the world. Why are we doing this? Well, because friendship and positive human interaction mean a lot to us. Science shows us. And so we're trying to do that in every sector, in every arena that we can think of. Finland and Denmark have populations of less than 6 million people. The United States has more than 330 million inhabitants. The Nordic countries are also quite homogeneous. ThePopulation size and diversity affect happiness?
Many countries with relatively homogeneous populations, ethnic or religious similarities between people, etc., are not very happy. So it's not a guarantee. And on the other hand, it is possible to have a lot of diversity and more happiness. Our neighbor to the north in the United States, Canada, ranks higher. Yes, I think that Finland is probably one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe. Still, we've had quite a bit of immigration recently. But I would say it's still pretty homogeneous. I think it's funny because I guess I always assumed Danish society was diverse. But then we went to see Dave Chappelle's show here in Copenhagen and both he and his supporting guy opened their show by saying, "Denmark is so white." And I never really thought about that before.
But then ever since that show, I just think about it all the time. We have had immigration for hundreds of years from all over Europe. I mean, in the '70s, a lot of people came from Turkey, from Vietnam. And we had people from Yugoslavia in the '90s. And Denmark has been happy throughout that period. The 2018 World Happiness Report explores happiness between natives and immigrants. It shows that when immigrants are happy, countries are too. But if the country is already happy, the new immigrants will experience greater happiness. It should not undermine happiness in the Nordic countries that there is an influx of foreign-born people.
There is also a dark side to happiness. Just like in Denmark, one of the biggest epidemics at the moment is stress and people who are sick with stress and have to quit their jobs. And people outside of Denmark didn't really understand what that meant, like, "What do you mean stress leave?" But it could be that expectation of having a work-life balance here that stresses people out. That you both have to work, but you also have to take care of your family. You also have to be social with your friends. You also have to, you know, do this self-actualization, hobbies, and travel thing.
And there are so many things you have to do in the same number of hours, whereas maybe in New York or other places, you know you're going to work until 10 every day, so you don't expect to have the same balance. know? It can be difficult for outsiders to enter the Nordic cultures. Danes have very close family and friend groups. It's not very natural for them to just include people, new people in their groups. It is a little more difficult to enter from the outside to be part of that group. We've had some great Danish friends, some of us met at work, but I think it's harder on that side, compared to the UK and the US in terms of developing friendships.
There can be serious side effects to keeping happiness levels high. Within states, if you look at the level of life satisfaction, the higher the life satisfaction, the actually slightly higher the level of suicide rates as well. And the theory here is that it might be more difficult to be unhappy in a happy society because it creates a stronger contrast to how you feel if you're around very happy people. So Denmark used to have very high suicide rates. So in 1980, we had suicide rates of around 40 per 100,000, which I think was one of the highest in the world.
Now, luckily, it's around 25% of that, so it's around 10 per 100,000. South Korea and Lithuania have some of the highest suicide rates in the OECD as of 2017. Fortunately, suicide rates suicide have been greatly reduced in Denmark. And also in Finland, there has also been a big reduction in the last two decades. But still, it's not zero. So we still have to narrow that down further. Despite mental health issues, a large part of Finnish culture focuses on general well-being. The sauna is sacred to the Finns. I have so many good memories of having these sauna moments with my family.
The sauna is something that I suppose you have to like and love as a Finn. As of 2018, there were 5.5 million people living in Finland and around 2.3 million saunas. My grandmother always told us kids that we can't fight in the sauna because then we'd risk angering the sauna goblin. And there's even a sauna in the Finnish government, where they say they make some of the biggest political commitments because fighting in the sauna is culturally not allowed. The Danes have mastered the art of comfort and warmth through hygge. I think the best brief definition of what hygge is is the art of creating a pleasant environment.
And of course, that is something that happens everywhere. But what is uniquely Danish is that we have a word that describes that situation. You can curl up on a sofa and read a good book and listen to good music and just be in a hyggekrog, it actually means a hygge corner of your room. Hygge has a social component that I think is very important. Hygge seeps everywhere across the country, from cozy drinks to warm lighting. So a concrete manifestation of hygge is the focus on lighting. The general rule is that the warmer, the brighter, the more hygienic the lights.
So the Danes love candles. So how does hygge contribute to happiness? So happiness is having a strong sense of purpose in life. It is also experiencing moments of pleasure on a daily basis. It is also feeling satisfied with life in general. So hygge, it's this element in our daily lives where we experience comfort, pleasure and togetherness and hopefully over time it builds up to a greater sense of life satisfaction as well. Another way Denmark and Finland support their citizens? Paid annual vacations. So, in all the Nordic countries, everyone is entitled to paid annual leave. It varies a bit depending on the country, but in Finland for example, normally, after working one year for the same employer, it's four weeks in summer and one week in winter and everyone understands this.
In fact, I heard a statistic. It's kind of like, when the Americans come home from work on October 27, you've worked as hard as the Danes all year. But I actually think that taking a little more time off also makes you a lot more productive. In Finland, it is traditional to spend the summer in a summer cabin or mökki. We had a summer house when I was little. I think it was something my grandfather built himself in the '60s. And we used to go there like all the time when I was little. There isn't a week that goes by during the summer that I'm not thinking, "Oh, I wish we still had it." Traditionally, the mökkis would not necessarily have electricity or running water.
And usually most mökkis come with a lake or the Baltic Sea. You can go to their sauna and take a dip in the water. So in a Nordic country, vacation time also serves families that if parents stagger their vacations a bit, they can take their children's summer vacation much easier. And of course, then the family can spend time together. Maybe Finnish happiness is more internal, you know. It's like inner peace, or something like that. It's not that open. It's like balance. It's more balanced I think. Very prepared! Ultimately, happiness is relative. If you think you have more sex than your neighbor, then you are happier.
We are social beings. We compare ourselves. So there are social comparisons in salary in terms of houses and how successful we think we are, but also in terms of sex. So what is one small way that we can be happier today? For me, something that I have done and that has made me happier is exercise. I think saying no or being a little more selfish can make you happy. One step to improve your feeling of happiness is to go first. You are walking down the street, someone else is walking towards you. It may just be a smile.
It could be just looking the other person in the eye, whatever that is. But go with it first, because you can't expect the other person to do it. Don't be reactive, go first. In Denmark, we sometimes talk about the ABC's of mental health. If you want to improve your mood, three types of universal advice are to do something active, to do something together with other people, and to do something meaningful. So, get a group of friends together, go for a walk. That could be something that could improve your mood. Predicting the future on this is very difficult, unfortunately.
Where will the United States be? It could be even worse than now. It could be much better than now. It is a matter of making decisions for a better direction for the country and one that is not driven by fear and hate, but is driven by a sense of community and the common good.

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