Happy Finland

What does it mean to be happy? How do we measure it? Ask any one individual or ten random folks, and most likely they’ll have very different notions of how they define happiness.

Finland, in an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranked first amongst nations on the happiness index. The Guardian perhaps put it best with this:

The UN placing is the latest accolade for Finland, a country of 5.5 million people that only 150 years ago suffered Europe’s last naturally caused famine. The country has been ranked the most stable, the safest and best governed country in the world. It is also among the least corrupt and the most socially progressive. Its police are the world’s most trusted and its banks the soundest.

Not at all a bad place to call home.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation about striving for happiness, that nebulous, elusive ephemeral existence we seek but rarely if ever define for ourselves. The notion of happiness then returned a day later in an entirely separate discussion, again wondering what it actually means to be ‘happy’. And, now, Finland tops the ranking in this year’s World Happiness Report.

Unsurprisingly, the concept—the meaning of happiness—is now foremost in my thoughts.

Beyond any real quantifiable measures and based on a rather subjective comparison of countries and places I’ve called home, Finland by far offers the calmest environment in which to simply be. Life isn’t all rainbows and kittens, naturally. Anyone with whom I’ve had more than a 10-minute conversation about Finland knows that I bitch about lament Helsinki’s weather more than just about anything.

Still, life and living our life centres less on concerns related to meeting our basic needs such as housing, food, etc. than anywhere we’ve resided for any amount of time at all. Our life here remains relatively free from the stress caused by the system in which we live, particularly compared to our lives in Russia, the US and Cuba, respectively. In other words, most of the stress we experience stems from the stuff we have more control over than on anything related to Finland per se.

Finland may not have been on our radar as a potential place to call home, but it certainly has offered us a home and a life in relative calm. And, regardless of how we define happiness or how that definition changes and shifts as we change, we as residents and immigrants face far fewer stresses related to simply living than we have anywhere else.

More than anything, I’m grateful to this quiet calmness in which we exist. And, I’m immensely grateful to Finland for providing it to us. Perhaps more than any other time in our lives, this feels like happiness, in that I feel content.

Thank you, Finland. And, congratulations on yet another milestone.

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3 thoughts on “Happy Finland

  1. You wrote: “What does it mean to be happy? How do we measure it?” Excellent questions. I would continue. Who asked this, in which situations, where? Were people in hurry? Which weekday? Where questions made on streets, on metro stations, in trains on busses or in Internet. Which was the age distribution of respondents? There are questions and questions.

    • Many thanks for raising all of these important issues and reasonable points any self-respecting behavioural scientist would certainly bring up.

      However, my point wasn’t really to questions or critique the methods by which happiness was measured in the World Happiness Report. I haven’t read the full report let alone in great detail, and thus can’t really begin to discuss if other methods, questions, etc. would have been more appropriate or more importantly altered the final rankings. Indeed, what I do know about the World Happiness Report, it looks to be more of a measure of quality of life or standard of life rather than a measure of ‘happiness’ as a state of being. As important and interesting as all of these points are, I’ll leave them to experts more knowledgeable than I.

      My point in this post was simply to reflect on a series of coincidences all related to how we, as individuals rather than groups, define happiness. Whilst my own understanding of that nebulous state of being (i.e., being happy) changes, I do know that Finland has offered me the best place in which to eliminate any noise created by variables of one sort or another. And, 2017 and 2018 have been incredibly exciting years for Finland for a variety of reasons, this ranking the latest of those accolades. For an immensely humble and disinclined-to-boast country, it’s rather lovely to see.

      • Thaank You. I am glad (happy) for your kind comment. I live in Finland since my birth and I am happy. Finland has offered to me excellent life and freedom to develop myself, like my language skills (blog in four languages).

        Have a happy Sunday!

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