Finland has been ranked the happiest country in the world for five years in a row, according to the annual World Happiness Report. This report started ten years ago and is funded by the United Nations. The rankings are based on opinion polls asking citizens about their happiness levels in addition to other important information, like levels of corruption, levels of freedom for the people, life expectancy, etc. This year, Finland scored 7.82, with the runner-ups being Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.  And everyone wants to know: What is Finland’s secret to happiness?
Why Finland is the #1 Happiest Country in the World
Frank Martela is a Finnish psychology expert and researcher who studies the fundamentals of happiness and he has several reasonings behind Finland’s happiness ranking. But it’s not about what the people do. Rather, it’s what they don’t do. And more importantly, people all over the world could improve their happiness by incorporating these ideas into their own lives. “To maintain a high quality of life, here are three things we never do,” he writes on CNBC. 
“We don’t compare ourselves to our neighbors.”
Finns tend to focus on their own successes instead of comparing themselves to others. People who do this don’t feel the need to brag or show off their material things. Martela gives the example of meeting one of the richest men in Finland taking the tram with his toddler in a stroller. He chose public transportation instead of showing off an expensive car or private driver. “The first step to true happiness is to set your own standards, instead of comparing yourself to others,” Martela explained.
“We don’t overlook the benefits of nature.”
A 2021 survey shows that Finns value nature and how it helps people relax, energize, and find peace of mind. Employees in Finland get four weeks off in the summer and many use the opportunity to go out of the city and enjoy the countryside. Research has demonstrated the positive effects of nature on cognitive function, blood pressure, mental health, physical activity, and sleep. 
“We don’t break the community circle of trust.”
A 2022 experiment dropped 192 wallets in 16 cities all over the world to test the honesty of their residents. In Helsinki, 11 out of the 12 lost wallets were returned. A community that fosters trust, honesty, and looks out for each other is a happy community. “If you forget your laptop in a library or lost your phone on the train, you can be quite confident you’ll get it back,” wrote Martela. “Kids also often take a public bus home from school and play outside without supervision.” Getting involved with community service, even actions as simple as opening doors for strangers, could build more goodwill for yourself and the people around you.
It’s worth noting that Finland isn’t perfect; no country is. But it has many factors that contribute to its title as the happiest country in the world. It has one of the best public school systems that rarely test its students. College is free, and child care is affordable. There is also a good universal health care system due to the country’s wealth distribution. And as Martela said, Finns tend not to fixate on others’ successes, and they act with humility over their own achievements.
“People often do pretty well in social comparison,” said Antti Kauppinen, a philosophy professor at the University of Helsinki. “This starts from education; everybody has access to good education. Income and wealth differences are relatively small.” 
Happiness or Contentment?
Rachel Hosie from Business Insider took a more direct approach to discover Finns’ secret to happiness. She flew to Finland and asked 10 residents on the street. The reasons included the great benefits of the welfare system that doesn’t interfere too much with people’s daily lives. There’s the work-life balance, good social security, good health service, and the excellent education system that gives equal opportunities for everyone. 
Some didn’t know why Finland was rated the happiest country for the fifth year in a row. But true happiness may not mean broad smiles all the time. Instead, it could be about inner peace and satisfaction. “You don’t see people in the street just laughing their heads off, it’s more about being content and being at peace with things and being happy with your life,” said one woman.
Similarly, an elderly woman attributed her happiness to simple pleasures. “I’m happy because I have a good husband, good children, good grandchildren, good books to read. I’ve had a good life.”
- “Finland is the Happiness Country in the World for the Fifth Year in a Row…” Prudent Press Agency. Dawn Davis. March 18, 2022
- “I’m a psychology expert in Finland, the No. 1 happiest country in the world—here are 3 things we never do.” CNBC. Frank Martela. January 5, 2023
- “Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence.” Int Jenviron Res Public Health. Marcia P. Jimenez. May 2021
- “What Makes a Happy Country?” New York Times. Jenny Gross and Johanna Lemola. April 20, 2021
- “I stopped 10 people on the streets of Finland, the happiest country in the world, to find out what their secret is.” Business Insider. Rachel Hosie. March 20, 2020