Global Secrets to Happiness

After the year we’ve had, who couldn’t do with a bit more joy? Many countries have their own secrets to contentment, so if you’re tired of videos of dogs on skateboards and feel there’s an element of kalsarikannit missing from your life, read on for the global pursuit of happiness.


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The World’s Happiest Places

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Why do some countries seem to be happier than others?

In Finland, it has a lot to do with good coffee, warm saunas, and reading (actual books, not social media doomscrolling)—but universal principles like moderate, sustainable consumption, outdoor living, and humility contribute. But why are warm, beautiful, wellness-focused destinations like Aruba constantly considered so happy? Maybe we answered that one ourselves. The fact it’s a small, tight-knit island with a strong sense of community also helps.

If some of that Caribbean sunshine sounds like a serotonin boost right now, try our new quiz to find your own Aruba happy place. And if you’re still not quite ready to travel, that’s OK: Recent research discovered that just planning a trip can boost your spirits.

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My Happy Place

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A personal happy place can be literally anywhere

It could be atop a mountain, on a beach or an island—or perhaps in a quiet corner of a major city. It could be a tiny hamlet in British Columbia, or a stretch of California coastline, or an entire country on the other side of the world. We all have those destinations we return to, again and again, even if it’s just in our minds, where we can reflect on our travels, our lives, and remember where we felt truly at peace.

Our happy places include:

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“Hygge”: The Danish Concept of Comfort We Need Now More Than Ever

The Secrets of Why Islands Make Us Happy

Happiness, Defined

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A global dictionary of happiness

Do you friluftsliv? How’s your hygge? Do you feel like there’s an element of kalsarikannit missing from your life? There are as many ways to define happiness globally as there are unpronounceable words. We’ve put together a primer of what happiness means worldwide—a global dictionary of happiness—from aloha to wabi sabi.

Here are a couple to get you started:

Friluftsliv (Norway)

Outdoor living, or outdoor activity

How the Norwegians do it: Even when temperatures plunge to Northern Westeros levels, Norwegians ensure they’re getting outside. In fact, the snow, wind, and rain seem to add to the pleasure, as if connecting to the elements requires giving yourself an icy lashing. Norway is home to an embarrassment of perspective-altering landscapes—craggy mountains, beautiful fjords, and wild oceans— which makes roaming outdoors even more rewarding.

How to practice it yourself: You may or may not live next to a remote wilderness or a waterfall steeped in myth, but you can replicate some of that friluftsliv almost anywhere. Mere minutes among trees with a phone left at home can help; a recent study found that a 90-minute walk in nature (as opposed to an urban environment) delivered lower levels of negative self-thought and a decreased level of activity in the prefrontal cortex, where anxiety and stress live.

Joie de vivre (France and French Canada)

Joy in life, ebullience

How the French do it: The familiar French term dates back several hundred years (and was the title of an 1884 novel by Émile Zola), and the French are pretty good at it by now, with coffee, croissants, and other clichés supplementing a lifestyle that includes some of the highest number of paid time-off days in the world. The Canadians have mastered joie de vivre, too—via ice hockey and canoe sex, apparently.

How to practice it yourself: A recent (albeit observational) study from University College London found that “the maintenance of positive wellbeing … [was] systematically related to subsequent mortality.” The happier live longer. Find things that spark joy, whether a new hobby or, when you’re able to, travel.

Read our full global dictionary of happiness here.

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