What can you learn from Scandinavians? 5 lessons for a better life
There are many theories about why Scandinavians are consistently ranked as the happiest people on the planet, including their social security systems, socialized medicine, and their healthier and happier lifestyles.
I've noticed that Scandinavians tend to be happier and healthier than the rest of us, though I can't pinpoint the exact reason why. My visit to Norway and Denmark showed me that people like to enjoy the small things in life.
Taking care of your body and learning to appreciate your time are the first steps in this process. Last but not least, it culminates in a newfound appreciation for the person you are.
So, what can we learn from the Scandinavians and how do we become better people?
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1. Take on a collective "we" mentality instead of the selfish "me"
The word "janteloven" (Danish/Norwegian for "happiness") sums up perhaps the most important factor in Scandinavia's happiness. It's hard to describe its exact meaning but it's about a way of living that emphasizes the collective over the individual.
I would best describe this term as a way of thinking where you place the wellbeing of society first. This means that you don't boast about your personal achievements and accomplishments and you're not jealous of others and their successes.
If you think like this, you're less likely to fall into the comparison trap where you keep trying to define success by comparing yourself to others - this causes deep unhappiness.
A book written by Askel Sandemose, uses the term Janteloven and tells the story of a fictional Danish town called Jante, in which all of its citizens give up their individuality in order to achieve harmony and unity.
2. Don't boast and show off
Being average is okay in Scandinavia, where the emphasis is on teamwork rather than individual success. I know it's a controversial idea, but I think it may be a key ingredient in this region's unparalleled happiness.
Scandinavians are also well-known for their extreme modesty. The practice of boasting is frowned upon in the workplace, despite Sweden's business success.
Also, showing off material wealth is pretty frowned upon too, and let's face it - that's not a bad thing. Aren't you tired of always having to keep up with the Joneses?
3. Eat healthier
Among the world's healthiest nations, Denmark and Sweden rank first and second, respectively.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Denmark has an obesity rate of just 10 percent, compared to 35 percent in some American states.
How? It's not as common here to eat out or get takeout food, for example, compared to countries around the world. But, people still like to eat out, don't get me wrong. I think the secret is that the food is healthier.
Even comfort food is healthier - it's eaten slowly and made with nutritious ingredients.
Scandinavians also consume less processed foods, more fresh vegetables, and non-GMO ingredients.
To achieve hygge, most people prefer to cook together at home. You can incorporate more of the Scandinavian kitchen into your daily diet by substituting meat for fish, white bread for dark rye bread, and empty carbs for fiber-rich vegetables in your meals.
Enjoy a protein-rich breakfast, cook with butter instead of oil, and eat a lot less processed food like snacks, bars, and other convenience foods.
4. Purge your closet and home of things you don't need
Because of the high cost of living and the prevalence of Scandinavian design and fashion, as well as the tendency to own far fewer possessions than in other countries, people in the region find it easy to embrace minimalism.
Scandinavians prefer to stay at home and enjoy hygge time rather than go out to socialize in large cities.
When I first heard about minimalism, I wasn't sure if it was something I wanted to pursue, but as I learned more, I realized it was. But, while I don't believe in intense minimalism as I like to own all kinds of things, I think clearing out your home and closet once a year is a good way to get rid of things.
It's best to purge the home of items you don't use and only keep what you consider essential. When it comes to purchasing clothing, prioritize pieces you actually need and try thrifting.
I also think it's important to keep the home organized so it looks nice and clean.
Put stuff in boxes and keep clutter out of sight.
I like to use these closet organizers to keep clothes separate, depending on type and season. Sure, my closet still looks messy sometimes but having these small drawers helps me keep things somewhat organized!
5. Try hygge and kos
Acquire a solid grasp on the concepts of hygge and kos.
Hygge is a Danish concept and the dictionary describes it as follows:
"a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)."
Things like lighting candles in your home, or doing activities to boost your mood are part of this feeling of hygge.
You can easily make your home feel more hygge with basic decor switch-ups.
Kos is a Norwegian concept and it's similar:
It's mostly a state of mind where you feel happiness and joy from the small things in life.
This word is associated with kindness, warmth, simplicity, togetherness, and laughter.
Even something as banal as a hot cup of coffee enjoyed outside is an example of "kos" or joy.