Finland and the quest for happiness
I have the joy and honor of writing for a number of newspapers on topics ranging from historic features to current events.
One of the publications I periodically write for is The Daily Mining Gazette, which serves readers in the Keweenaw region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Recently, I read a Mining Gazette feature story on the New York-based Finnish consul general, Jarmo Sareva, visiting the region. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a significant Finnish population and heritage.
The story mentioned Finland was known as the globe’s happiest nation.
That piqued my curiosity. How did Finland land as No. 1?
I learned a Gallup World Poll division annually conducts the World Happiness Report. The 2023 report indeed had Finland at the top, immediately followed by Denmark, Iceland, Israel and the Netherlands. Coming in No. 15 was the United States. Our Canadian neighbors ranked No. 13.
For the sixth year in a row, Finland continued to rank as No. 1.
It was interesting to note seven of the 20 ranked happiest countries are led by women younger than 50.
The study also profiled the world’s unhappiest countries. Coming in at No. 1 was Afghanistan, immediately followed by a number of African nations.
The study, which is published every March 20, is based upon research focusing upon six key factors: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.
After reading the report, I thought about what happiness is, along with what creates happiness.
Research by the Harvard Medical School reveals about half of any level of happiness is based on genes. Their research added: “Some people are just predisposed to be happier and more upbeat than others … older adults are better about letting go of past failures. They tend to realize how life is short. They are more likely to pay more attention to what makes them happy now.”
The Harvard study found there is a strong association between happiness and close relationships like spouses, family, friends, and social circles. The research added that volunteering is another strong factor to increase happiness.
Harvard’s study revealed personal connections create mental and emotional stimulation and are automatic mood boosters. Isolation is a proven mood buster.
A University of Chicago study asked 47,000 people about their happiness level. Their research found women in their 20s were happier than men. By their late 40s, men were happier than women.
A Psychology Today feature story stated happiness can improve your physical health, feelings of positivity, and fulfillment to benefit cardiovascular health, the immune system, and blood pressure. In summary, happiness can instill a longer lifespan and higher quality of life.
The article listed a number of outward signs which create a content individual. Here is a partial listing:
• open to learning new things;
• high in humility and patience;
• smiles and laughs readily;
• goes with the flow;
• often grateful;
• happy for other people;
• gives and receives without torment;
• lives with meaning and purpose;
• does not feel entitled and has fewer expectations;
• not spiteful or insulting;
• and does not hold grudges.
Finally, Psychology Today’s feature profiled studies which reinforced happiness is contagious, while sadness is not. In addition, research stated, “We cannot change the whole world, but we can change our own.”
Michiganders, for the most part, you can be in control of your happiness.
I am grateful and happy.
Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the Secretary of the Navy. He grew up in Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.