My recent visit to the Nordic region was nothing short of extraordinary. Breath-taking landscapes, pure and clean surroundings, happy, beaming people. Beautiful architecture, chic design everywhere right from restaurants to clothes to crockery! Detailing that caught the eye, something to pause and look at.
The weather conditions can be called uncooperative at best. Miles and miles of snow laden fields, climate so harsh that produce is rare and much-valued. Scarcity of natural resources, have naturally made this area one of the rather expensive places to live in. Sometimes you go from one night to another with just traces of daytime. “Winter is Coming” is a forever thing here. Yet there are no winter blues here. No hints of SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder). Which btw, is an everyday rising challenge in Alaska and other places with similar climatic conditions.
Such difficulties to live with and yet one thing doesn’t go unnoticed. The buzzing, livewire happiness! People here, by and large are happy. It seems, they have accepted what they can’t change, have come to terms with their realities. And now are using it as an advantage to make most of life. Isn’t this what is being taught everywhere, isn’t this eventually an end goal for most of us.
This made me wonder, what is it that keeps these beautiful Nordics happy-go-lucky inspite of the difficulties. I found they have some unique traditions of their own, which can benefit us all. Although, each country does it a little differently, there are some common threads that I’d like to list out.
So, the Danish “hygge” has already gotten a lot of popularity; pronounced “hoo gah”. It roughly translates to “coziness” or the feeling of a hug. It’s used when acknowledging a feeling or a moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. It’s like taking pleasure in small indulgences. Danish ‘hygge’, Swedish ‘mys’ and Norwegian ‘kos’ all describe roughly the same thing, telling us how essential it is in their culture.
Finns have their saunas, a bonding tradition that has become a routine for most of them. With more saunas than cars in Finland, one can imagine the importance Saunas have for finns.
Swedes are famous for their “Fika”, which translates to “have coffee”. However, the meaning is broader than that, it means to catch up with friends, to take a break not to see your phone but to really converse with each other.
For me, it all boils down to the importance they give to their society, to being together, to stand united, to take care of each other. They all like to chill together, all the time and now have made it part of their tradition, a part of their culture.
It’s commonly said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. And staying true to this, the whole region has founded a lot of outdoor activities that they enjoy. You will find people running, biking, hiking even in tough weather conditions. You don’t see them using frostbiting winter as an excuse to be lazy, or to not be there, outdoors with nature.
Few common factors as per me are :
- Importance of staying Fit & Healthy
- Being outdoors
- Long & must-take vacations
- Time spent with family / friends is highly valued.
- Reading / Bookstore
- Sense of Belonging
This sense of belonging, this ‘we are in it together’, sort of attitude makes them stand together as a tribe and top charts as the happiest people inspite of the difficulties they face. These must-take vacations, work life balance, etc also results in high productivity work wise, higher self-motivation & more focus on creation. This kind of work satisfaction, purposefulness in turn leads to happier people; making it a not so vicious circle one doesn’t want to break out of.
They go on to prove, that happiness is internal. It is, after all, within.