Life Tips From The Happiest Country In The World You'll Want To Embrace

On a quest for contentment? Whether you're struggling through a difficult time or just feeling bored and unfulfilled in your day-to-day life, many people are searching for ways to reach a happier state of being. But, interestingly, this phenomenon isn't equal across the board — and researchers have taken note.

By examining criteria like freedom, life expectancy, income, and individual self-assessments of satisfaction, The World Happiness Report ranks entire countries by their citizens' well-being. This data is then used to declare some nations as the happiest, and others as the unhappiest. When seeking the keys to contentment, this not only provides context for our own situation but also reveals which countries we should be holding up as examples — for instance, Finland.

The 2023 World Happiness Report crowned Finland as the happiest nation on the planet. And this isn't the first time they've taken home the prize. In fact, this win marked their sixth consecutive year as happiness champions. But what if you're not a resident of this idyllic Nordic country? Short of dropping everything and moving to Finland, is there any way for you to foster more pleasure and contentment in your own life?

Of course, there is. After all, the Finns' happiness isn't just about location — it's about state of mind. So if you want to live in good spirits, there are lessons to be learned from their way of life. To get started, here are some easy tips you can borrow from Finland to cultivate deeper happiness every day.

Learn to love cold water

This first item on our list of lessons from Finland may come as both a literal and figurative shock to the system. But despite the jolt you feel when stepping into a cold shower, it seems like chilly H2O may be good for your overall wellness, especially first thing in the morning.

In Finland, winter swimming is a popular activity, with many people choosing to dive straight into dark, freezing lakes. And seeing how a third of the country lies above the Arctic Circle, you can imagine how frigid their waters get. As if that wasn't enough, the Finns even have special spas with indoor facilities for ice swimming, ensuring that a cold plunge is available all year long.

If this sounds like pure torture, you might be wondering what advantages can be gleaned from such a rude awakening. It turns out that cold showers have unexpected benefits, from improving focus to lowering anxiety. Plus, there are post-shower advantages that are less about the shock of cold water and more about the pleasure of warming up again afterward. As your body reheats, it releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, creating a rush of happiness. So if you can push yourself to face an icy cold shower or bath after you wake up, you'll be starting your day by taking a shortcut straight to a good mood.

Truly enjoy your meals

Like many places, Finland has a rich food culture. Their tradition is built around ingredients pulled straight from nature, like fresh seafood, hearty oats, luscious berries, and earthy mushrooms. But the Finns' delight in local dishes runs deeper than any recipe. In keeping with Finland's groundbreaking "Masterclass of Happiness," a key component of their lifestyle and food culture is a sense of mindfulness and gratitude.

Of course, eating is a daily necessity. But it's one that many of us take for granted, even when enjoying something scrumptious. Fortunately, focusing on mindful eating can help you draw richer satisfaction from such everyday pleasures.

"Happiness is a by-product of contentment. That is, if you know how to appreciate the simple things in your life — to be satisfied with what you have — you are more likely to be happier as well," Finnish TV chef and cookbook author Alex Nurmi tells Well + Good. As Nurmi goes on to explain, this gratitude can be applied to any meal, from the most lavish to the most humble. "A happy moment can be a wonderful dinner at a top restaurant or, conversely, it can be a blueberry picked from a bush."

To bring more focus and appreciation into your meals, try limiting empty distractions like watching TV or fiddling with your phone while you eat. Instead, try enjoying a snack in silence, or pairing it with more meaningful joys like favorite music or a conversation with loved ones.

Escape into the great outdoors

One of Finland's most celebrated features is its stunning natural scenery. The country is home to countless sweeping, Arctic vistas, with deep pine forests, stunningly blue lakes, rushing waterfalls, and frosty islands. It's no wonder that locals and tourists alike flock outside to experience this nature, whether they're taking to the ski slopes or simply enjoying a walk in the woods.

But even if the timeless wonder of Baltic forests is beyond your reach, you can still take a cue from the Finns by spending more time in the nature present around you. Reconnecting with the great outdoors has been linked with all sorts of wellness benefits, including for your mental health.

For instance, a practice known as "forest bathing" purports that relaxing near trees and other greenery can reduce your stress and lower your blood pressure. And it has been suggested that even a quick trip outside can help improve your sleep cycle. Naturally, less stress and better sleep can quickly lead to happier moods and a better overall outlook. So when it comes to embracing the natural world, the Finnish may be on to something.

Make time to read more

Studios are creating a lot of incredible programming these days, and most of us love a good movie night or weekend Netflix binge. But if you're trying to follow the Finnish formula to a happier, more contented life, you may need to make space for more reading in your downtime. After all, Finland isn't just renowned as the happiest country in the world — in 2016, the United Nations also deemed Finland the most literate nation.

Coincidence? Maybe. But reading is touted among hobbies that may benefit your mental health, so spending less time with screens and more time with books can only be a win. Of course, this is easier said than done. If you're looking for ways to start reading more, you may have to rewire a few of your regular habits.

Rather than reaching for your phone before bed, try putting it away and picking up your current book. Or carry a tome with you to read in between tasks and errands. If you have trouble sitting still and engaging in passive hobbies like reading, you can even make your reading time more interactive with tricks like annotating your books for fun.

Indulge in some art appreciation

In the midst of everyday responsibilities, it's all too easy to fall into a rut. But the human brain is naturally inquisitive and needs a certain amount of novelty and stimulation to perform at its best. This reflects on your moods and overall happiness, too, as boredom can be a slippery slope to negative emotions like depression, irritability, and hopelessness. So how do the Finnish — who spend a significant portion of their year in cold darkness — stave off ennui?

To follow in their footsteps toward fulfillment, consider taking a field trip to a museum. The Finns have a vibrant arts community and a wealth of museums, offering them the chance to enjoy mental stimulation even when the weather turns foul. But Finland doesn't have a monopoly on museums and galleries, so why not look for some in your neck of the woods?

Practice a little art appreciation by exploring local galleries, whether you prefer the skill and artistry of classical painting techniques or the bold, thought-provoking trends of modern art. And if you usually breeze through such installations, slow down and try to look at each piece critically. What do you like about it? Does anything resonate with you?

Of course, if art just isn't your jam, you can also choose to visit a more educational institution, such as museums dedicated to science or history. Heck, go on a prison tour or visit a haunted graveyard. Art is a means, but not an end. The real point is to find something that engages your mind and allows you to step out of your everyday routine.

Let yourself take breaks

Are you a busy little worker bee who tries to stave off stress by being constantly on? You might be better served by balancing out any tendency toward toxic productivity with time to clear your head and recharge. In keeping with their slower pace of life, the Finns like to do this with a time-honored coffee break — and we're not talking about a two-minute jaunt to the staff break room to throw together an instant cup of joe. Taking a break should be an opportunity to reset your thought patterns, whether that's with strong coffee and a cinnamon pastry à la the Finnish tradition, or in a refreshing way that's purely you.

If you're not interested in pausing for a beverage and a snack, there are plenty of other ways to get a break from the daily grind. Walk a few laps around your office building, slip away for fifteen minutes of micro-meditation, or do some relaxing breathing exercises. Don't be afraid to try a few office-friendly exercises or stretches to stay flexible while working from home, which can help get your blood flowing and reawaken your tired limbs.

Just make sure that, whatever break style you choose, you're genuinely giving yourself a chance to unwind. Taking a break doesn't mean crossing items off your personal to-do list or overachieving in other areas of your life. As the contented residents of Finland can attest, taking a few moments to simply exist can help you build a calmer, happier existence.