A Scandi Guide to Better Health & Happiness

With Scandinavian countries topping the World Happiness Report (yet again) this year, here are some tips to help you improve wellbeing Scandi-style

For the eighth year in a row, Scandinavian countries have scooped the top places in the World Happiness Report 2020. The first report was released in 2012 in support of a UN meeting on wellbeing and happiness in relation to economic, government and social factors. Since then, each annual report has included updated evaluations and a range of special topics digging deeper into the science behind wellbeing, collectively referred to as “happiness” for specific countries and regions.

For 2020, Finland took first place, Denmark second, Norway fifth and Sweden seventh globally. The Scandinavians clearly know a thing or two about happiness. Especially during Christmas when the population is all about ‘hygge’ and snuggling up in their homes made out of beautiful Scandi decorations.

A good work-life balance is also paramount to maintaining good health and happiness, and Sweden, like many of the Nordic countries, is often praised for its forward-thinking social policies aimed at boosting citizen’s wellbeing. Some of the country’s policies include generous maternity and paternity leave, subsidised childcare for all children, and flexible working, regardless of pay level or position at work.

Aside from the professional world of work, there are many reasons why Sweden continues to score highly in the World Happiness Report.

Sweden’s high-ranking position is a testament to the lifestyle factors and trends ingrained into the national psyche, as well as the measures the government has put in place to ensure the happiness of its citizens is at the top of the national agenda.

From enjoying fika every day, to ensuring our homes are designed in a way to instil a sense of calm, there are several things to learn from Scandinavian culture for a more balanced and happy life. Read on for the full tips.

Scandi nutrition 101

Omega 3 rich oily fish, vitamin packed berries, fibre rich whole grains and protein packed nuts make up much of the everyday diet in Scandinavian countries.

A wholesome diet focused on local, seasonal and nutritious foods are the building blocks of any happy, healthy body, and easy to replicate. Look for seasonal items in the supermarkets and up your cooking regimen to include healthy staples. Try to cook at home as much as possible and have 5-10 recipes you’re confident at creating.

Daily downtime

Fika is a daily social ritual in Sweden – taking time out of your day for a coffee and a sweet treat. You simply stop whatever you’re doing and enjoy 10-15 minutes’ quality downtime. In fact, regular breaks are shown to boost productivity, as it gives your brain and body a chance to recharge.

Enjoy the everyday

Mindfulness, meditation and gratitude rituals have been shown to improve overall health and happiness if practiced long-term. Mindfulness teaches us to take time out of our busy lives to think about the positives in our lives, refocus our attention on what matters and create a more calming environment by being more present in the moment.

Meditation also teaches us to be aware of our own thoughts and feelings and be in tune to the world around us. Just 15 minutes’ meditation before work or during the commute can make a huge difference.

Quality time with friends and family

Socialising is hugely important for our happiness and in building or maintaining positive, happy relationships. We all feel better after spending time with our friends, so ensure you have regular catch ups, even during busy periods.

In the current climate, rather than having friends over, why not enjoy a video chat boardgame, quiz or simply have a catch up?

Embrace lagom

A balanced lifestyle, or lagom in Swedish, is a key component of happiness. Lagom is an area Swedes excel in, as Swedish people understand the importance of a healthy balance in life. Try not to get consumed by one aspect of your life, and instead ensure each area is getting enough of your time and attention.

For example, if an important work project requires you to work longer hours, follow this with a relaxing weekend at home. If your work is sedentary by nature, counter this by spending weekends out of doors and ensure you’re getting enough regular exercise.

Bring the outside in

The benefits of house plants and foliage include better air circulation and improved air quality. Plants also give a home an inexpensive yet instant uplift.

Get creative with your plants; group plants together in height order, add hanging plants and ivy to doorframes or curtain rails for a unique look, and add cacti and smaller plants to book-shelves for an on-trend look.

Arrange plants in a way to ensure they have enough sunlight and take care to water regularly. Opt for easy to care for varieties such as cacti, succulents, spider plants and aloe vera, or soothingly scented lavender, mint or chamomile plants.

Scandinavian style at home

In Sweden, the home is the sanctuary. Swedes know that the home should be a place to relax and unwind, and this is reflected by the pared-back design of Scandi interiors. To create this look in your own home, choose soothing wall colours (misty greys, forest greens, tranquil blues) and add interesting design features, such as an unusual floor lamp or unique art on the walls. Remember the golden rules: less is more and only make space for items, furnishings and artworks we know we will truly love.

Anabel Cooper

Anabel is a graduate of King’s College London and upon graduating, she set out on a journey to inspire and empower women through her words. Besides working as a digital marketing expert, Anabel is a freelance copywriter.