The happiest people in the world

Tuesday, 05 May 2020
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Nordic Council of Ministers´ Office in Estonia (NCM) continues its work and activities. Like many other organizations, we also went online, and each adviser works from home office. In order not to waste the time handed to us by the current situation, we decided to use it wisely and tell you a little about the so-called Scandinavian happiness. We offer you the opportunity to adopt the experience of our northern neighbors in improving life, through literature.

From year to year Nordic countries reach first in the ranking of the happiest states in the world (World Happiness Report). The World Happiness Report is a landmark study of the state of global happiness, in which 156 countries are judged by how happy their citizens are. For the first time, The World Happiness Report 2020 evaluates the cities of the world in terms of their well-being and analyzes more deeply how the social, urban and natural environment affect our happiness. So why are our northern neighbors so happy and hold leading positions year after year? How is their worldview and lifestyle so different from the rest? Each of the nordic countries has its own credo about blessed life.

This is not a secret of seven seals, and the Scandinavians are happy to share their experience. To this moment, many books telling about the Scandinavian way of life have been written, and translated into Russian. This material, prepared by the Narva branch office of NCM will give you an overview of the most popular publications describing the Danish hygge, Swedish lagom, Finnish sisu, as well as the philosophy of the life of Norwegian lumberjacks.

The first lines of Scandinavian happiness came from the pen of Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. (Yes, such an institution exists).

Meik Wiking. “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well”

This book is a good starting point for your journey to getting to know Scandinavians and the reasons for their well-being. It is a kind of universal reference book, which quickly became a world bestseller. The author outlined everything that he had learned about the magic of Danish life over the years of its study, from choosing the right lighting at home or in the office to holding stylish parties. The book tells how hygge can be found in food and drink, clothing, homeliness, relationships, work responsibilities and more.

Meik Wiking: “I have the best job in the world. I study what makes people happy. At the Happiness Research Institute, which is an independent think tank focusing on wellbeing, happiness, and quality of life, we explore the causes and effects of human happiness and work toward improving the quality of life of citizens across the world”.

Elisabeth Carlsson. ”The Lagom Life: A Swedish way of living”

Sweden is a country where everything is done for people. This position proceeds from a philosophy of lagom: achieving a balance between work and free time that can be devoted to family and society. But, in order to become happier and enjoy life practicing lagom, it is not necessary to live in Sweden. Lagom is more than a way of life. It is a philosophy of moderation, which is based on a sense of balance and concern for others. To live the "lagom" style, you need to stop loading your life with unnecessary items and unnecessary deeds. Lagom calls for focusing only on the most important and necessary things.

Elisabeth Carlsson: “The Lagom is a simple, practical life with respect for others. I grew up in Sweden and lagom was part of our daily lives. Then I didn’t think what it was.

Joanna Nylund. “Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage”

Finns love to spend time in nature as well as enjoy the silence. They cannot imagine life without a sauna and salty liquorice and they are not afraid of the inconvenience and vicissitudes of the weather. Finns are secretly proud of their sisu.

Sisu is a spirit of endurance, an inner core that helps to cope with any hardships. This word is imbued with a feeling of confident strength and reliability. It means the ability to show unwavering determination in the face of hostile circumstances. For example, if the bus stalls, the sisu spirit dictates to passengers that it is necessary to go out and push it without complaining about fate. The Finnish sisu can be described in one sentence: “What needs to be done will get done, no matter what” (even if it enrages).

Thanks to sisu, Finland is one of the places in the world ranking first in the happiness study.

The author of the book, Joanna Nylund, visited Narva, and was one of the guests as part of the coziest event of the Nordic Week in 2018. Even then, Narva dwellers were able to get a first-hand answer to the question of how sisu helps to leave the comfort zone, while remaining in harmony and balance.

Joanna Nylund: “When I admitted to one friend that I was working on this book, she said in response:“ After all, this is one of the most wonderful compliments a person can make - to say that he has a system, right? I still clearly remember how my parents first told me this”.

Lars Mytting. “Norwegian Wood: The internationally bestselling guide to chopping and storing firewood”

Firewood is heated twice: once when you chop them, and the second time when you burn them. The usual story of wood that conquered the world. Lars Mytting, who was born and lives in Norway, did not plan to publish his book, and even more so, did not expect it to receive international recognition as the best foreign bestseller of applied literature in 2016. The author traveled all over Norway in search of those who chop wood and those who use wood for heat. It is they who possess the knowledge transmitted from generation to generation, which the Internet can not tell us. This is an experience gained over the centuries. This is a whole philosophy. All the facts in the book are collected during meetings with recognized experts, both enthusiasts and researchers. What types of trees there are, how to choose a cutting tool, how each tree burns and what heat it gives, how to split and stack logs in wood piles that are not only convenient but also aesthetically beautiful – the author will reveal secrets and answer all questions. After all, a wood firebox is more than just mechanical work with hands. "To make the right bonfire is one of the main skills of a man, his prerogative and only his territory. With fire, a man brought warmth, hot food and comfort to his family."

Lars Mytting: “I still remember very well the day I realized that a wood firebox was more than just heating”.


Of course, more books on Nordic happiness and prosperity exist than those mentioned here. Among other things, you can find recipes for hygge dishes, tips in the field of psychology of family relationships, interesting ideas of Nordic design for your home, and much much more. Let the cold Nordic countries become a little closer and warmer towards you during this difficult time.

Enjoy reading!


Jevgeni Timoštšuk
Programme coordinator
Narva branch office
Nordic Council of Ministers´ Office in Estonia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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