8 Concepts Practiced in the Happiest Countries You’ll Want To Adopt ASAP

Photo: Getty Images/Tony Anderson
While the US may be home to its very own Blue Zone, Loma Linda, California, home to some of the longest-lived people in the planet who stay healthy (and happy) into their hundreds. Generally speaking, happiness, like toilet paper and coins, has been in limited supply here in the states—the US doesn't even crack the top 10 happiest countries in the world. Meanwhile Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden consistently find themselves at the top of the list—so it couldn’t hurt to incorporate some of their happiness concepts into your life, could it?

Here are 8 happiness concepts from the happiest countries on Earth to start embracing

1. Hygge

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a concept you've probably heard about before. It's all about being cozy. "Hygge’s been called everything—from 'the art of creating intimacy,' 'the coziness of the soul,' and 'the absence of annoyance,' to 'taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,' 'cozy togetherness,' and 'cocoa by candlelight,'" Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen previously told Well+Good. IRL, this could look like cancelling  your plans, cocooning yourself in cashmere, and snuggling up on the couch with some tea and a book.

2. Niksen

We can thank the Dutch for the concept of niksen, aka doing nothing. This concept feels particularly radical as it's difficult to get away from the work all the time mindset that's typical in the US. Niksen literally wants you to turn your brain off, to let your mind wander, be consciously idle. Research shows that allowing your mind to wander can help you be more creative and be a more effective problem solver, in addition to helping reduce stress.

3. Kosalig

This concept hails from Norway, and is basically like an extroverted hygge. The main focus is on cozy, but kosalig gets that from social connections and experiences—particularly ones that happen in the winter, which can be an isolating time. "Embracing this idea of leaning into the winter and finding positive ways to enjoy it can lead us to feel less alone, more positive, and closer to those who we care about," psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW, previously told Well+Good. "When summer arrives, there is an endless pressure to go out and socialize, so enabling winter to lead you toward authentic, deep, close relationships and connection seems perfect."

4. Friluftsliv

This Nordic concept also involves embracing the outdoors during cold winter months. So instead of looking at the frigid temperatures and short days as a negative, lean in to exploring the outdoors—even if it's just going for a walk around your neighborhood. “Previously we would think that the winter is the time to snuggle up with a book, but this year I would encourage anyone who's looking for a positive headspace during the winter months to begin seeing the outdoors as a space for endless possibilities, as well as a new way to challenge their current way of life...Our mental health increases when we feel challenged and like the world is our oyster,” psychotherapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW, previously told Well+Good.

5. Fika

It's time to start taking breaks during your workday—and not the "catching up on emails while eating a sad desk salad" type of break you may be used to, but an actual, mindful break. In Sweden, they have a concept called fika, which is a coffee break that allows people to unplug their brains from work. It's so much part of their culture that many employers incorporate it into the workday. Taking dedicated breaks from work during the day actually helps boost productivity, and can help improve your focus.

6. Lagom

We also have Sweden to thank for the concept of lagom, which roughly translates to "not too little, not too much." It's about finding balance and not living in extremes. Linnea Dunne, a native Swede and author of lagom lifestyle guide Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living, previously told Well+Good that this concept is a major factor in Sweden's consistently high international rankings on happiness and productivity.

7. Sisu

Meaning "resilience" or "perseverance," sisu is all about finishing what you started, even when you feel like you want to give up. Research from 2019, published in the International Journal of Wellbeing, looked at more than 1,000 responses to better understand and explain this concept. "Sisu is a Finnish word that goes back hundreds of years and a quality that Finns hold dear, but the phenomenon itself is universal," Emilia Lahti, author of the study, says in a press release. 'Taking a close look at the concept reminds us that, as humans, not only are we all vulnerable in the face of adversity, but we share unexplored inner strength that can be accessed in adverse times."

8. Coorie

This Scottish concept also features spending time outside in nature. This could mean hiking, stargazing, simply unplugging, and even taking a walk to gather things like pinecones for craft projects. “A coorie way of life practices small, quiet, slow activities by engaging with our surroundings to feel happy,” Gabriella Bennett, Scotland native and author of The Art of Coorie, previously told Well+Good. It also focuses on sustainable and mindful living.

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