3 Lessons On Living Better From The Three Happiest Countries In The World

Lessons in happiness from the happiest countries.

smiling woman wearing beanie and yellow jacket Hanhalo Yehor / Shutterstock

Every year, a World Happiness Report is released, which ranks countries based on their levels of happiness.

Clearly, they’re doing something right. And if I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that we don’t have to figure out all the answers by ourselves. We can learn from people who already know the answers.

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Which is why I spent some time trying to find what these countries are doing differently.


And while there are several factors that account for their happiness, I tried to focus on one takeaway from each country to implement in my own life.

Here are 3 lessons on living better from the three happiest countries in the world:

1. Finland

Finland has been ranked the happiest country in the world three years in a row. To find out their secrets of happiness, Rachel Hosie, a journalist for The Insider, stopped 10 people on the street and asked them what made the Finnish people happy. One of those people — Kimmo — said, “We don’t have such big income differences.”


While this fact holds true for most Nordic countries, it does not hold true on a global level. On a global level, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. In an article on Psychology Today, Darbe Saxbe suggests that such social inequality is socially corrosive due to increased violence, low levels of trust, etc.

While there are several factors at play here, one reason for the huge income differences may be our obsession with winning the rat race. We’re obsessed with being famous and being billionaires and winning the rat race. Nothing less seems to suffice anymore.

Finland, on the other hand, seems to have dropped out of the rat race. A person even moved to Finland because of his desire to quit the rat race.

They also have a healthier work-life balance than most of the world. While most of the modern world has a perpetually propagated obsession with success, Finnish people have developed an obsession with living. And that’s a lesson we can all take home: To quit the rat race, adopt a healthy work-life balance and focus on living happily.


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2. Denmark

Most of us are not unfamiliar with the concept of Hygge that the Danes use to enhance their happiness. Hygge is a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. It is simply to tap out extreme content and well-being out of ordinary things.

It’s to wear comfortable clothes, drink a hot cup of something, light candles, share meals, eat something sweet, spend time with loved ones and get some time out in nature. It’s — to be cozy.

But most people in the modern world, including me, have associated a sense of guilt with the activities that the Danish consider Hygge. We’re too focused on our athletic figures to enjoy something sweet once in a while. We’re too obsessed with ‘hustling’ to waste time in nature.


We’ve even stopped seeing the beauty of ordinary things. Joshua Bell, a famous violinist, once took part in a social experiment by The Washington Post and went busking in the subway. Even though he was playing one of the most complex and beautiful music on one of the most expensive violins, not many people paid attention. Funnily enough, he had just sold out an entire arena a week ago.

The experiment suggested that people missed beauty and happiness even when it was right in front of them. It suggests that we may be trying too hard to find happiness, and on the other hand, the Danish have mastered the art to extract it out of ordinary things. This is why instead of overlooking the ordinary, we must all learn from the Danish to exploit every bit of happiness we can get out of the simple things in life.

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3. Iceland

Fun fact: Iceland is such a peaceful country that one can walk up to the President's house, give his door a knock and meet him. There’s no tight security because the crime rates are so ridiculously low that they don’t need such tight security. Now, go impress your friends with that fact!


However, I found another interesting fact about Iceland during my research.

Iceland is a country where one in ten people will publish a book in their lifetime. One in ten?! That’s insane. That number is impressive because creative endeavors often suffer in our attempts to live a real life. And the fact that so many people in Iceland write suggests that people who don’t write might engage in other creative endeavors. It’s safe to assume that in Iceland, creativity does not suffer. That it’s the norm and not the exception.

And they have it right. Creativity should be the norm. However, in his humorous yet thought-provoking TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson says:

Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.


As we grow old, we’re pushed out of creativity, and then it becomes something that we engage in only once in a while, if ever.

But creativity is who we are. Daily creativity can bring us happiness. That is why I believe that we need to turn our creativity dials as high as we can. Instead of painting or writing once in a while, we must have a serious, daily creative outlet, no matter the art form — to enrich our lives.

In the modern world, we have complicated happiness too much. However, the happiest countries of the world show us that it is not that complicated. To live a happier life, we just have to go back to our roots.

  • We need to understand that work is only a part of life. Work is not life. Since everyone wants to win the rat race, we’re working harder and harder at the cost of our happiness. But as the Finns have shown us, we’ll be much happier if we drop out of the rat race, adopt a healthier work-life balance and focus on living happily.
  • It might be possible that we’re trying too hard to find happiness. However, as the Danes demonstrate through their concept of Hygge, we must learn to exploit happiness out of the most ordinary things.
  • Life has so much to offer. And to restrict ourselves to only a few aspects of life is to deny ourselves of a rich life. To live a life filled with magical experiences, we need to engage in multiple passions and make the most of life.
  • Humans are creative beings. But society has suppressed individual creativity to the point that many of us have not engaged in anything truly creative for a long time. But to be creative is to be human, which is why we must find a creative endeavor and engage with it daily.
  • Industrialization and modernization have given a lot to humanity. However, they’ve also taken us away from nature. To live better lives, we must take active efforts to get back to nature — to our true home — on a regular basis.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.