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  • Writer's pictureLinda Peterson

Is There a Secret to Happiness? 

I recently did an ancestry search to see if there were any surprises in my family tree. I knew that I was primarily Danish and DUCH (German, Swiss, Austrian), but I learned I am also, part Norwegian, Icelandic, Scottish, English, and Swedish. It is a well-established fact that the Scandinavian countries have some of the self reported, happiest people on earth. I have been researching why that is and how I might tap into my ancestral roots to create more happiness in my own life.

The Danes have a concept they call Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah”, that I wrote about in an earlier article. It is a lifestyle all about coziness and surrounding yourself with the things that make life good, like friendship, laughter, and security, as well as more concrete things like warmth, light, seasonal food, and drink. The Dutch have the practice of niksen. Niksen is more than mindfulness, it is about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action. This practice has been found to not only relieve stress but enhance productivity and creativity.

Lagom, pronounced “logum”, is the Swedish formula for happiness. It can’t be precisely translated, just felt, but it means something like “just right”. Not too much, not too little, basically balance in all things. In Norway, you might hear the word koselig, pronounced “koosh-lee”, meaning coziness, enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. It is a feeling of intimacy, warmth, happiness, and being content.

Finland has been ranked the happiest country for five years straight. One happiness clue might be that almost 80 per cent of Finland is forests. A survey asked Finns where they felt safest, the overwhelming answer: in the forest. A popular Finnish proverb is, “Life is not a waiting room for better times. So just get on with it.” Finns value not heroism but sisu―tenacity when faced with adversity. It is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage—resilience. Finally, the country motto of Iceland is “everything will work out.” That and an attitude of deep gratitude for each other that is expressed often.

Surprisingly, since the pandemic the United States happiness ranking has moved up from 19 th to 16 th in the world—far from the top five ranking of the Nordic countries, but still an improvement. When we look at the common behavioral and attitudinal threads of the happiest people in the world several key components emerge, time in nature, close relationships, deep relaxation, immense gratitude, life balance and profound contentment. The Nordic people make these matters a priority and a lifestyle choice. We, too, can bring some of these secrets of happiness into our own lives by slowing down, expressing gratitude, appreciating nature, and making sure quality relationships are a priority.

Blessings and Live Well ~ Coach Linda

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