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What the Happiest Countries in the World Have in Common

Beatrice Lessi

What’s the secret to happiness?

The United Nations recently published its World Happiness Report , a study I check every year, trying to guess who is in the top ten, and why.

For the seventh year in a row, the nations of Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden ranked in the top ten.
Several factors are considered in the study but, not surprisingly, access to the outdoors plays a major role in general well-being. And while we all know that outdoor activities are good for our bodies, they‘ve also been shown to be good for our minds.

The Winners

The top ten is dominated by Nordic countries. Finland is n.1, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden , New Zealand, and Austria.

They All Have Nature in Common

Sweden, which ranked seventh on the list, found that nearly one-third of all residents participate in outdoor recreation at least once a week. Denmark, ranked second, has forest schools for children to encourage learning in the outdoors at a young age. The country is also home to the world’s most bike-friendly city, Copenhagen (though it’s not alone: many of the happiest countries have ideal cities for cyclists). And Finland, which topped the list, boasts 188,000 inland lakes and forests that cover 75 percent of the country.

Finland, Norway, and Sweden have “freedom to roam” policies, or “everyman’s rights,” which allow residents and visitors alike to hike or camp nearly anywhere, including on private land. It’s also part of the region’s approach to work-life balance: many businesses in Scandinavian countries encourage employees to go outside each day, even implementing policies that set aside time in the workday for fresh air. The most important part of their outdoor philosophy, though, is how they embrace the cold, dark winter months, as is expressed in the popular saying of Norwegian origin that’s now used throughout the region: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Parents in Scandinavia are known to let their babies nap outside in freezing temperatures to help them sleep better and longer, Finns embrace harsh conditions with their sauna culture, and when the Danes and Swedes aren’t skiing, sledding, or to tobogganing, they’re practicing hygge, which loosely translates to being cozy.

(Outside)

Finland, Norway, and Sweden also have “freedom to roam” policies, or “everyman’s rights,” which allow residents and visitors alike to hike or camp nearly anywhere, including on private land. It’s also part of the region’s approach to work-life balance: many businesses in Scandinavian countries encourage employees to go outside each day, even implementing policies that set aside time in the workday for fresh air.

happiest countries

Happiness is Out There

As Outside magazine underlines:

If you’re looking for ways to increase your own well-being and set in motion a more outdoors-based lifestyle once this is all over, start now by following these rules for getting outside safely.