The world is not a happy place right now. Which is why we all need to be working proactively to enhance our own emotional wellbeing in this very difficult time on our planet. Why is this important? Our mental health impacts on our physical health, so trying to keep ourselves happy is not a selfish act, it’s actually an essential part of our defence against this pandemic.
The WHO released their 2019 World Happiness Report on 20 March, and if you missed the news, it was no doubt because it was drowned out by the overwhelming news of a certain virus. Finland came out tops once again (for the third year running), with Denmark and Switzerland following consecutively after. Iceland, Norway, The Netherlands and New Zealand also all made it into the top 10.
So, with our happiness being something we have to try to cultivate over this time, what lessons can we learn from these happy nations, i.e. practical things we can do at home? Here are some suggestions.
Finland is one of the most educated and literate nations in the world, and they have a huge love of public libraries. In fact, most of the other countries in the top slots share that high rate of education. While we know Netflix has its appeal, there’s no better time to read than now when you’re home for continuous amounts of time. Ebooks are the name of the game and if you’ve never considered yourself a reader, perhaps you just haven’t found the right books? Whether it’s gripping novels or inspiring non-fiction, reading a book takes you away from endless scrolling through social media. Instead, reading will teach you something, calm you down and enrich your perspective.
2. Get into some green
70% of Finland is covered by forest. Denmark is home to the world’s most bike-friendly city. New Zealand boasts some of the most pristine landscapes on the planet. Many of the places in this happy list share a respect for nature and a culture that celebrates it. While we don’t all have pristine forests on our doorsteps, we are now allowed outside our homes in the morning for a few hours, so use this time wisely and soak up some vitamin D (with your mask secured of course). If you can’t get close to a patch of grass, then simply sit on your balcony and stare at the sky for a while, noticing the birds, city sounds, or the feel of the wind on your skin.
Another common attribute these happy countries share is the value of a strong social system, where people feel supported and have a sense of belonging. This can be difficult to cultivate in a time when we’re isolated at home, so you need to reach out and reignite relationships, where this is with colleagues, friends or family. Set up weekly catch ups where you talk openly about your emotions, challenges and successes. If you’re really struggling emotionally and need some expert advice, it’s worth contacting your medical aid for help. Many of them, like Fedhealth, offer emotional wellbeing programmes as a benefit to members.
You may feel that all you do at home now is rest but if you look a little closer, you’ll see that’s not quite the truth. In between trying to home school your kids, get some work done, clean the house and feed everyone three meals a day, your body and mind are also trying to deal with the stressors of a global pandemic. Take time to really rest, if you can. Have a nap. Lie still and listen to some music. Leave the washing up for a bit later. A work-life balance is another common thread which most of these happy countries share, so right now you need to channel this theme and learn to rest yourself.
We can’t control this pandemic and how it’s affecting the world, but we can try and control how it affects our happiness. Try and learn from these happy nations – even if it’s just incorporating one small change into your ‘new normal’.