Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden are at the top of the UN’s annual World Happiness Report, year after year after year. We would suggest moving there, but these are countries where temperatures in winter drop to around -20˚C!
So alternatively, we thought we’d try to figure out why they’re so happy and healthy. According to the UN, Scandinavians are also leading in terms of health, with regards to diet and exercise.
Here are the secrets to their health and happiness.
1. They have the perfect work-life balance.
Working on weekends is unheard of in these countries, and the idea is that everyone should get to have dinner with their family. In Norway, the average work week is only 34 hours! Swedes have 15 minute breaks built into their working schedules twice a day, where they can have a chat, go for coffee, or just relax. The idea being that it will make them more productive. Danes are extremely protective of their private time, and are known to refuse breakfast meetings and after work drinks.
2. They’re kind to themselves.
People in Denmark have a tradition known as “hygge” (pronounced “hooga”), which is “the practising of wellbeing towards yourself and others”. The term was actually coined in order to describe the need to escape the harsh Danish winters, but it can also apply to something that a person really loves doing, whether it’s snuggling up with a good book or having a nice dinner with a friend. The only condition is that the activity cannot be inconsiderate to others in any way.
3. Their diet consists of plenty of fish, root vegetables and berries.
While the Mediterranean diet is considered to be the best in the world for heart health, the Nordic diet is a close second. Studies show that following this diet can reduce cholesterol considerably, and even boost weight loss. So what exactly does the Nordic diet entail? It consists of foods that are typically eaten in these countries, like oily fish, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and protein, root vegetables like carrots, radishes, potatoes, etc. and several types of berries. Scandinavians are not big on red meat and animal fat, which is another plus for them.
4. They’re trusting people.
According to the Prosperity Index of 2014, 74% of Norwegians said they felt like they could trust others, while 83% of Swedes said that they trust their government to do right by them. Amazing, isn’t it? Several studies document a strong link between trust and happiness, where trust triggers the release of oxytocin, the hormone associated with love, happiness and bonding.
5. They spend plenty of time with nature.
Scandinavian countries have several public access laws, which give anyone and everyone the right to walk, ride, camp and enjoy all land freely. Citizens enjoy vast, green, public spaces, spending plenty of time with nature. Studies show that spending time with nature increases happiness, memory, learning, mental health and heart health.
6. They have amazing healthcare services.
In these countries, if you need to see a doctor, you will be given an appointment that same day. All forms of treatment are free, although they are paid for indirectly in the form of extremely high taxes. But still, it could be worth it, if you consider the amazing services they get. When a woman gives birth to a baby for example, she is given an entire boxful of supplies, clothes and toys for her child!