I find myself every weekend in a battle of duality. My daughter comes home for the weekend from college & the first few hours are a blissful reunion of happiness and connection. Then, out of nowhere, not sure if it is some type of right of passage, trying to flee the nest or just stacking, college overwhelm, she turns into a emotional tyrant of some type. I find myself spinning in an emotional breaking point at her snide remarks of, “oh, what? Why are you about to cry?” to her talking down to me as if I know nothing about college or where she is currently at in her life. It is exhausting. It is like an emotional terrorist drops by unannounced every weekend. It breaks my heart feeling like that. Just typing those words makes my heart drop. It is so sad.
WHAT? Where is this coming from?
Then, my husband, trying to help mitigate any further turmoil begins to tell me what to do or what conversations to avoid. I looked at him and said, “I feel you are micromanaging me and I don’t appreciate it.” I know he is just trying to protect me from any further wrath, but it is hard feeling like you cannot speak, share, teach, guide on any level as a mother. It is hard.
So, How do you find happiness despite the circumstances around you??
I usually exist in a pretty calm, contented state, so every weekend trying to gain my own grounding yet trying to help instill some sort of balance for all is very trying.
I think I am going to look at the happiest countries and see what they do to help family co-exist, live well and find a deeper contentment overall.
Here is what I have been able to find:
Happiest countries according to the World Index—it is no surprise that they are all in the small European countries. Finland tops the list at number one…Northern Europe appeared to be one of the happiest regions in the world: All five Nordic countries – Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – ranked in the top seven
What takeaways can you begin to incorporate into your own life? Here are some ideas.
SISU: Sisu is a Finnish concept described as stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness and is held by Finns themselves to express their national character. Comes from a Finnish root word that implies ‘inner’ or ‘inside’. Sometimes translated to ‘inner strength.’ sisu is like a life philosophy and comes into play in navigating a balanced everyday life, but also when facing challenges…you can use sisu as a basis for a healthy life, a calming tool, a way to achieve your goals, and ultimately help you boost your wellbeing and find happiness.[country living]
Personal note: This sounds like an incredible concept! This is just what I need…SISU!! Every weekend. smile. smile.
NATURE’S CURE: Norway and nearby European countries enjoy Friluftsliv, which means, “open-air living”–they immerse themselves and enjoy being in nature. From forest bathing to ice baths to serious sauna time, nature has a serious place in bringing happiness to all. Nature plays a very integral part of healthy and happy living for all the happiest countries. Despite days in darkness, cold temperatures, lack of light, they get outside and appreciate the greater gifts nature gives. They embrace berry picking or mushroom hunting and take advantage of everything nature offers. Being out in nature helps lower stress, boosts needed sun vitamins and increases happiness levels overall.
Dr. Solhaug’s observations are aligned with psychological research on the benefits of being in nature, which indicates that even short amounts of time spent outdoors improve our mood and our mental and physical health. Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, refers to these benefits as coming from “outdoorphins,” and says that “when we follow people over time, we see that they are happier when outdoors.” [New York Times]
Fun fact: Did you know that in Finland forests cover 75 percent of the country’s land area, the highest proportion in the world.
Personal note: My daughter as a little girl was pretty high strung and I would find myself taking her out in nature to calm down. As a baby, I would take her on walks in frigid, winter conditions because being outside seemed to be the only cure to stop her crying. As she got older we would go on walks and hikes, even making obstacle courses out of everything we could find in nature…logs turned into balance beams or jumps, we would balance over rocks and hide under tree boughs. Yesterday was no exception. We drove to a nearby nature area and just watched the ocean waves to help calm our souls. Nature has so many gifts to offer.
EMBRACE SILENCE: The World Health Organisation suggests that regular exposure to loud noises can raise blood pressure and increase adrenalin. Enjoy silence on a daily basis, even if only for 10 minutes. Practicing quiet at times throughout the day might set you up for better rest at night. “Silence and periods of calm stimulate brain growth and relieve tension, which can result in a higher sense of well-being, as people can then feel more relaxed generally [healthline]
Scientists found that two hours of silence per day prompted greater healthy brain cell growth in the hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for memory formation, learning, motivation and regulation of emotional responses. It also Improves sleep. Improves memory . Relieves stress . Improves blood pressure and circulation . Improves heart health . Cognitive clarity . Better decision making . Enhances creativity . [https://www.happiness.com/magazine/health-body/the-power-of-silence-cultivating-peace/]
READ. READ. READ: Knowledge is power and books are a great source for that in the happier countries. Some great benefits of reading: less stress, improves focus and concentration, better sleep, can inspire and motivate, mental stimulation, increases knowledge and vocabulary, plus it is just an overall general escape to adventure, learning, a different point of view, someone’s life story, etc.
Fun Fact: In Iceland 1 in 10 people become published authors. Wow. That is ten percent of their population. That is incredible.
MINIMALISM: These countries also seem to be in the know when it comes to happy living, humbly giving and not getting caught in the comparison trap.
The US has a big problem with social media compare and despair mindset. There is a lot of keeping up with whomever, comparing oneself to the airbrushed, unreal videos that get posted and finding more of a lack of appreciation for what we have. Here are a couple stats on that: 6 in 10 Americans say social media negatively affects their mental health . Among those affected, 64% experience anxiety from social media use. Users also experience depression (56%), dissatisfaction with life (52%), fear of missing out (52%), and body image issues (51%) as a result of these apps [taken from online therapy.com]
Then, there is our problem with “stuff” We have a society which is structured so that social esteem or value is connected to what we can consume. -vox. The average American home has 300,000 items. (LA Times). One out of four houses with two-car garages keeps so much stuff in it they can’t even fit a car in the garage. (US Department of Energy). On average, every American throws away over 68 pounds of clothing. Per year! (The Huffington Post). Americans spend about $1.2 trillion a year on non-essential items. (The Wall Street Journal) Clutter and disorganization can waste time, money, and cause stress. [fee.org]
Scandinavians are well-known minimalists. Danish design is famous for its straight lines, natural materials, light tones, and uncomplicated patterns. Their living rooms are bright and de-cluttered. Because clutter equals stress. Same goes for brain clutter which we have so much of in the U.S.That’s why Danish minimalism goes beyond furniture. Both simplicity of life and simplicity of mind are important to Danes. Less of everything means more time, space, and energy to actually enjoy life. Simple life — happy life. [https://betterhumans.pub/10-life-tips-from-the-almost-happiest-people-in-the-world-20e7a3e5b7e4]
Fun Fact: Finns embrace a Nordic minimalism and are known to prefer well-made, sustainable, functional items that will stand the test of time. There is a robust secondhand scene in Finland, too, and on the community-driven “Cleaning Day,” the country turns into one big outdoor flea market -https://www.afar.com/magazine/7-lessons-learned-from-the-happiest-country-in-the-world
CONNECTION & COFFEE break: Fika is a typical Swedish tradition where you take time out of your day to pause and enjoy a hot drink and a snack. But it’s not just about savouring a good cup of kaffi (the Swedish word for coffee). Fika is a ritual that’s important in Swedish culture, giving yourself a moment to have a break and socialise. [nordicvisitor.com] They have seen giving people time to wander, connect with others and have little breaks helps with productivity, lessens fatigue and promotes a better overall well-being.
Fun Fact: Sweden drinks a lot of coffee on their fika breaks but Finland is the world’s biggest consumer of coffee on a per-person basis. Another funny fact I came across: No Desk Eating in France! What? according to House of Wellness, The French Labor code prohibits workers eating at the workplace. They encourage a change of scenery and pace. Love that!! haha.
BUILD HEALTHY SOCIAL CONNECTIONS: Finland, Iceland and other European countries have hot pools and saunas as a great way to connect and gather people together to create a stronger community. Those strong bonds help them have a healthier, happier way of living.
Denmark The high-quality social interactions shared by residents of Denmark are the largest contributor to its high happiness ranking. Finnish people value quality time spent with family and friends, known as hygge, to a very large degree. Making these types of relations a priority benefits people in several ways, including lowering stress levels and increasing trust among peers. These cultural aspects of Denmark contribute to its spot as the second happiest country in the world.
Fun Fact: There are millions of saunas in Finland. It is estimated that there are three million saunas in Finland, for a population of 5.5 million. Big companies and state institutions have their own saunas. The president has an official sauna, as does the prime minister. Saunas can be found in city apartments and country cottages. [finland.fi] WOW!
EMBRACE ALONE TIME: Connections are good for you but so is alone time. Take some time to stay off of devices (especially social media), step away from your phone, and do something alone. Whether you take yourself on a date, go on a walk, embrace the solitude, ponder and look inward, journal, get up early before everyone to make the time to be alone, don’t feed into the social dynamics of FOMO, make & schedule time to be alone.
Personal note: this is a non-negotiable to me. I think you need to step back from everything to recharge your needs and having some alone time allows that necessity.
ENJOY MEALS AT HOME: Most happy countries eat and cook meals at home vs takeout. They eat healthier and consume less. According to a research from University College London, eating small amounts of dark chocolate can lead to a significant decrease in depressive symptoms—and where better in the world to shop around for chocolate than Switzerland?
Fun Fact: According to the UNICEF report, 85 percent of Dutch children eat breakfast with their parents every morning (a sign of positive wellbeing).
Personal note: I have found in our family that we have traditional meals that are cherished and only come out on special occasions. We eat out, eat in, but it is the special meals that we truly enjoy together that stand out. Whether it is the tinfoil dinners we make together, spaghetti sauces that have our special spices or sticky buns for holidays—food is love and gathers those we care about together in moments & memories. Create those traditional dishes, eat with bowls you bought somewhere special that have meaning, and make food be part of your family traditions.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE: Netherlands Residents of the Netherlands have an open and direct demeanor and no-nonsense attitude. They also work far less than people in most other nations. In the Netherlands, more than 50 percent of people work part-time. This may be a large part of what makes the Dutch so happy.
For many, it’s about living in a country where all conceivable basic needs are met, whether that’s healthcare, education, or having a job that makes you feel fulfilled. The overarching theme is that Finland remains ahead of the curve in so many facets of life. For now, Finland is ranking top, but the hope is that the example Finland is setting helps other countries to better care for their people. The fact that the country continues to pioneer social and economic welfare, education and working best-practice is something of which other countries should take note when looking at improving the happiness of their people. -Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/heikkivaananen/2020/05/26/what-makes-finland-the-happiest-country-in-the-world/?sh=38e8c77b75cc
Interesting Fact: equal opportunity with great education. For the fifth year in a row, Finland is number one when it comes to happiness. The country consistently ranks among the top education systems in the world, occasionally beaten out by countries like South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. Much of that success comes from a widespread reverence for teachers, who are required to have a master’s degree (their education is state-funded), and a pedagogical system that focuses less on quantitative testing and more on experiential learning and equal opportunity. https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-10-happiest-countries-in-the-world
ENJOY SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL: visit a museum, take in some art. Walk a gallery for inspiration. With more than 55 museums and countless art galleries across the country, it’s safe to say the Finns treasure their art scene.
Other fun words & Concepts from these countries
LAGOM, a Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount.” is a philosophy that aims to balance, in every area and juncture of everyday life. Lagom is the secret that explains a lifestyle based on social awareness, moderation and sustainability. [technogym] it is kind of like Sweden’s version of mindfulness but rooted in a collective spirit and moderation. [sheknows]
HYGGE: Cozy. Danes are obsessed with mood lighting. It’s like the whole country agreed to wage a war on bright hospital lighting so favored in the U.S.It all starts with hygge — a Danish word that roughly translates as coziness and is a way of life in Denmark.There’s nothing a Dane likes more than having a “cozy” home, corner, dinner, or a “cozy time.” There’s little that can’t be described as “cozy” or “un-cozy” in Denmark. And bright lights are definitely that.Without the constant stimulation of bright lighting, your brain is more at ease, and so is all of you. [https://betterhumans.pub/10-life-tips-from-the-almost-happiest-people-in-the-world-20e7a3e5b7e4]
KOSALIG: Norway’s concept of finding cozy from experiences and connections. Similar to hygge.
Making things hygge or koselig is not just about fuzzy blankets and warm beverages. It’s about feeling content — a sense of coziness that is not just physical, but psychological. Dr. Solhaug said that her daughter, who is in third grade, is regularly asked to take a log in her school bag so that her class can spend part of the school day outside around a bonfire made with one log from each child. This idea of coming together to celebrate the darkness outside is not only a friendly way to gather, it can be deeply meaningful. Lighting a flame — whether candles inside or bonfires outside — becomes a mindful moment, an opportunity to pause and enjoy.[New York Times]
NIKSEN: Dutch concept of doing nothing—letting your mind wander, which will help reduce stress, increase creativity, find life solutions, etc. Practicing niksen could be as simple as just hanging around, looking at your surroundings or listening to music — “as long as it’s without purpose,” Ekman, who studies stress and burnout, says the research is strong when it comes to the benefits of slowing down, from emotional perks — like reducing anxiety — to physical advantages — like curtailing the aging process and strengthening the body’s ability to fight off a common cold. These potential health effects might be enough to encourage even the most hectic and overburdened among us to consider carving out time to practice niksen.[time.com]
GEZELLIGHEID: Gezelligheid is an abstract notion and encompasses many of the key parts of Dutch culture. The word derives from gezel, which means “companion” or “friend,” and gezelligheid, which literally means “coziness” and is all about positive atmosphere and good energy. A room, person or party can all be gezellig, meaning anything from “fun” to “cozy” to “inviting.” [sheknows.com]
Well, that is all I have for you today. I hope these HAPPY PLACES get you thinking of things you can incorporate into your own life to help bring about a happy balance. Life can tip and teeter us, it can leave us holding on for a minute of calm found in a warm bath or sauna. It can help us seek to find ways to breathe easier with a good book, take a moment alone when needed, embrace silence, step back into nature, and assess any situation and handle everything with an even better attitude of SISU.
Thank you, Nordic way of living for giving the world some great examples of simple things we can do to enrich and nourish our lives. Thank you.
Peace. Love and Light to you today. -H. xoxo