In 2020, Finland was announced as the happiest country in the world for the third year running by the United Nations World Happiness Report.
If you ask a Finn, what makes them happy, one answer is nature. Finns like to put on a pair of rubber boots, head to the woods to slow down and calm our mind.
About 70 per cent of Finland is covered by forest and travelers fall in love with Finland’s clean air, serenity and silence. Now, however, is not the time to travel, but rather focus on the health and wellbeing of oneself and those around us.
Here are some simple tips from Visit Finland on how to find your calm at home – the Finnish way – while you dream about your next adventure.
TIP 1 – Start your day with a cold shower (instead of a dip in a lake or the sea)
The Finns love winter swimming as much as they love the sauna. The secret of plunging into icy water lies in the feeling that surges through your body once you get out of the water – as soon as you’re back on dry land your circulation kicks in and your body starts to warm up and makes you feel happy. Your body is producing the mood-balancing hormone serotonin with dopamine, and stress starts to melt away.
The easiest way to do this at home is to take an ice-cold shower for a couple of minutes. If you do it in the morning, your day couldn’t ask for a more refreshing way to start your day. Dive into your inner Finnish mentality “Sisu”, and just do it! You can alternate cold and warm showers to get a “sauna” feeling, and your blood circulating even better.
TIP 2 – Make sense of the world by reading (instead of visiting a library)
Books are close to the Finns’ hearts. There are many libraries in Finland with Helsinki’s Oodi being the newest library to open in 2019 and was awarded the best public library in the world the same year*. In 2016 the UN named Finland the world’s most literate nation, and Finns are among the world’s most enthusiastic users of public libraries. We are 5.5 million people, and we borrow close to 68 million books a year.
Moomins are probably the most known and adored Finnish literary icon. The white, hippo-like Moomins are Finnish characters created by the much‐loved Swedish‐speaking Finn, writer and artist Tove Jansson in the 1940s.
Today the Moomins are part of the Finnish identity, inspiring generations over and over from children to adults. Moomin books can be found in every bookshop and library in Finland. Above all, reading (any) book is surely more relaxing than surfing social media!
TIP 3 – Experience a relaxing forest path on your sofa (instead of walk in an actual forest)
There is something magical about the forest and the Finnish soul has always been linked with it. The green colour is calming; the gentle rustling of the leaves and pine needles is like music. Finns feel good in the forest. The forest roots us and helps us remember who we are and where we come from. In the forest we don’t feel being alone or even lost – the forest provides protection and peace for us.
It has been scientifically proven that only 15 minutes in the forest calms your pulse and your body starts to rest; what a wonderfully simple cure for stress! So, please close your eyes, stretch yourself on the sofa, and have an imaginary trip to the Finnish forest.
TIP 4 – Make a world better (and tastier) place by baking a Cinnamon bun (instead of a visiting a Finnish café serving them)
Korvapuusti translates into “slapped ears” in English but they are essentially cinnamon buns baked Finnish style with a dash of cardamom. We Finns love our coffee (we are heavy drinkers of coffee, almost 10 kg per person per year) and korvapuusti so much that there is actually a special word for it, “pullakahvi”, which literally means “bun coffee”, either it is home-made, enjoyed at a café, or at work with your work mates – at the moment we’re doing with virtual “pullakahvi” pauses.
For us, it’s the highlight of the day, and we definitely don’t count the calories. Cinnamon buns are perfect comfort food as well. Baked at home they bring a cosy smell to the kitchen as in our childhood days, when we ate them with a glass of milk. Find a recipe online and try it out!
TIP 5 – Transport your thoughts through online (instead of visiting a museum)
Finland’s contemporary art scene embraces everything from experimental artist-run initiatives and commercial galleries to flagship art institutions. There are more than 55 art museums, and numerous art galleries packed into our cities. Finland is a country of extremes and contrasts and along with the Finns’ close relationship with nature are the main sources of inspiration for Finnish Art.
The Finns use art to calm the mind and transport their thoughts to stress-free comforting places. Why not take a virtual trip from your own sofa to the Finnish museums to understand how art is a tool for happiness. In March 2020, Amos Rex won the prestigious LCD (Leading Culture Destination) Award for New Cultural Destination of the Year – Europe. Have a virtual tour of the new museum to see the new Generation 2020 exhibition in their Instagram Stories (www.instagram.com/amoskonst/)
If you want to discover Lapland, head to Rovaniemi Art Museum located in the Arctic Circle. Their main focus is on Finnish Contemporary Art and Northern Art. (https://cumulus.rovaniemi.fi/rovtaide/).
Culture Vultures on the search for something more classical should pay a visit to Ateneum Art Museum. The Ateneum Art Museum’s collection in Helsinki includes more than 450 works by famous Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Have a virtual tour of the Ateneum: (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/ateneum-art-museum).
Inspired by the art you have seen online? Visit Taiko, the world’s largest online gallery and marketplace for unique Finnish art: https://en.taiko.art.