For the past two years, Finland has been named the happiest place on Earth, narrowly beating out fellow close-competitors Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. But what is it that makes Finns so happy—and how can you go about achieving this happiness, too?
Although they’re living in a country where, in winter, the hours of daylight can range from forty-five minutes (in Lapland) to maybe seven or eight hours (southern Finland), Finns are actually the happiest people in the world. For the second year running, Finland’s achieved this top spot on the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, which in 2018 included measuring the happiness of immigrants in the country for the first time.
There are lots of different reasons as to why this might be the case: economic factors, like a higher tax rate that feeds back into a social safety net, free education, a healthy work-life balance, a high level of parental leave… But another factor could be the culture of Finns themselves.
Sisu is a Finnish word which means ‘stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness’ and is considered a key feature of what it means to be Finnish. So could this tendency to be resilient in the face of anything be what makes Finnish people happy? Or could it be related to words like hyppytyynytyydytys, which has no direct English translation, but refers to the pleasure or satisfaction derived from sitting on a bouncy cushion?
The Finns think they have the answer; their closeness to nature. In fact, the Finnish tourist board is so sure of this that they ran a program this year called ‘Rent a Finn,’ where eight official happiness guides were ‘rented out’ to foreigners to show them how to be happy in Finland. The lucky winners (everyone had to enter by sending a video of themselves talking about their connection to nature and why they wanted to visit Finland) were able to visit Finland for three days, free of charge, spending time with their Finnish hosts and getting close to nature.
Of course, if you’re not feeling at your happiest, getting to Finland might not be on the cards—so what can you do? You can try and get back to nature nearby, but again, that might not be an option if you live in a particularly urban city or have difficulty travelling.
There are a lot of ways to make yourself feel happier—but a very important one, especially nowadays, is attempting to achieve a balance between work and everything else you want to do in life, which can be incredibly difficult. If you do manage to find yourself with some time on your hands, however, one good thing to do that can make you feel happier is a simple one: get a hobby!
Hobbies have been proven to make people happier, which should come as a surprise to no one, and if your hobby happens to be language learning, well, that could make you happier still.
Don’t believe us?
Here’s five good reasons why:
1. Learning a language boosts your self-confidence.
There can be a lot of anxiety and nervousness when you first start learning a language—but once you get over that initial hurdle (i.e., talk to your first native speaker), you’ll find that learning a language will boost your self-confidence in a very real way. Part of that is due to the fact that you’ll see solid results—you’ll know those words or phrases, you’ll understand them and be able to say them—and part of it is because being able to communicate with people gives you more confidence in dealing with them and any situations that might arise. If you get lost in a country where they speak your target language, and they only speak your target language, then you won’t be lost for long!
2. Learning a language helps you to make new friends.
The fact that you can make new friends who speak a foreign language with just a few words and a smile is part of uTalk’s philosophy—because it’s something that pans out in real life. If you learn a few words and phrases, even if you’re speaking to people who speak your language as one they’ve learnt, you’ll find the conversation flows a lot more freely. Trying—even if you don’t feel like you’re doing all that well—will get you a long way!
3. Getting into a ‘flow’ state can boost your mood.
Okay, this one is a little more technical, but it’s probably something you’ve experienced before. Think about something you enjoy doing but that requires some concentration. Writing. Knitting. Playing video games, even. Chances are, there’ll have been times where you’ve been so focused on this activity that you haven’t noticed time passing, haven’t felt hungry or tired; you’ve been in the zone. This zone is a good place to be because not only are you making progress in whatever you’re doing, you’re also enjoying it (which is why you don’t really notice the outside world). With language learning, so long as you’re enjoying it, it can be quite easy to get into the zone because you know what your goals are and you’re usually being challenged in a way that relates to your skill level.
4. It’s easier to travel.
Self-confidence aside, learning a new language just makes it logistically easier to travel—and can have you enjoying your trip even more. Learning a few words might make it simpler to order dishes you know you’ll like, or find your way to the museum you’ve been searching for for hours. If you learn even more, you might even find out some of the secrets locals know about the place you’re visiting, giving you memories to last a lifetime!
5. You’ll have a chance to take part in new opportunities.
Employers—especially in the US and the UK—are always looking for people who speak more than one language, mostly because it’s so rare. If you’re still in school, there might be an exchange you normally wouldn’t consider, or even the chance to spend time with students visiting your school or town, which could well lead to long-lasting friendships. There are new books to read, new films to watch, new places to visit… Learning a new language opens up hundreds of opportunities for you to try new things, all of which have the potential to make you happier.
So, have we convinced you yet? If we have, and you know which language you want to learn, then click here to try out our app and get going!
If you want to start learning a language but don’t know which one you’d like to try first, then check out this blog post we already have about how to choose which language to learn. With more than 150 languages to choose from, we know it can be a bit daunting at first!
And, whichever one you learn, as the Finns say: Onnea! (Good luck!)