According to UN report Finland was the happiest country in the world in 2019. What can be the reason for this phenomena in this dark and cold country where we silently wait for a bus in wet rain slush what feels like most of the year? Happiness can be measured by life expectancy, social security, economic status and so on but let me tell why for me I truly feel that I live among happiest nation in the world.
If you pick out any finn from the street and ask for example directions in english they will probably talk broken “rally english” and be a bit ashamed. But you know what that is quite impressive. Because of our high quality education system that is free for all can most finns speak english quite good and do not hesitate to help tourists in need. What a proud reason to be a happy finn!
You can consider every finn a master of meditation, we do practise it every day whether we know it or not. Imagine a morning bus, everyone sits quietly gazing through the window and if possible on window seat and no one sitting next to you. That is important to us, gathering thoughts and being with just your own self, that sounds like meditating doesn’t it. That bus ride does not sound so grimm now if you consider everyone just meditating on their way to work, sounds nice actually.
Here is some meditation soundtrack from Finnish summer. Perhaps play it in the background as you continue reading.
You may hear lots of stereotypes about finishness but actually underneath the surface you can find happiest nation in the world, it just depends on the way you look at things. Key to happiness maybe?
Let me tell you a little about the cycle of Finnish mood. I am writing this in July, which is the peak of Finnish mental happiness. The dark, long period of coldness and grayness is contrasted with the most beautiful couple of months. Like a lover returning to you from the darkness you once thought had digested her/him. The peak is short but sweet, followed by a positively melancholic autumn which slowly dips you back into the cycle of seasons. Accompanied by a warm, loving embrace telling you that the good times will come again but until then you must find the beauty from places where it´s rarely searched, but where it has learned to survive the harsh environment.
The road to true ecstasy is hard and torturous. We call this torturous period the “kaamos aika”, aka the polar night, aka a period of darkness north of the Arctic Circle when the sun does not rise over the horizon. It is still enough to feel the effect if you are just close to the arctic circle. There is a place in southern Finland that got a majestic two hours of sun light in a period of three months from December to February in the winter of 2014. It is within these kind of periods that one might suffer from “kaamosmasennus”, aka winter depression.
There are ways to treat the “kaamosmasennus” but the best one is just to get the hell out of here. If you however don´t have the financial situation to balance this out, you might want to try something out of the ordinary. Embrace that beast of darkness and dig a hole through that frozen lake and go for a swim! I´m not even joking. In a situation like this it is very nice to have a sauna near by to relax your tortured soul. It is called avantouinti (winter swimming). It feels really good to take your body through those extreme temperatures, and when your body feels good your mind feels good. There are places in Finland where people go to do this, if not every day then every week. It buzzes you up and makes you feel alive and relaxed both at the same time. If you are really lucky you might escape into the finish wilderness and heat up a mökki (cottage) which usually includes a sauna by a lake. You will feel super authentic as you heat up the sauna, make a hole in the ice with a chainsaw, get naked and dip yourself into the cold lake. Gaze up at the non light polluted starry sky keeping that nice hot sauna in mind. This is something that keeps me going through the sunless season and something that I miss during the sunshine season.