How a Land of Melancholy and Morose People Created the Happiest Country in the World


“Walking in the forest dramatically improves your physical health and posture,” insists Lassi. “By stepping over logs and uneven surfaces, we shorten our steps, bend our knees and distribute our weight more evenly.”

In northern Lapland, the long summer days can last for hours, providing an opportunity to refuel with mood-boosting vitamin D. But even in winter, when the sun barely hovers above the horizon, a combination of glistening snow and electrifying electricity from the Northern Lights ward off dark thoughts.

In the past two years of lockdown, Finns have made even more use of their green spaces, exercising Jokamiehen oikeudet (Everyman’s Rights) – a freedom to roam and camp in wilderness, encounter elk, lynx, wolverine and foxes, or seek out fresh food.

According to herbalist and biologist Anna Nyman, who can easily identify the 200 edible mushrooms that grow in Finland, the wild food movement has allowed people to develop a deeper connection with nature, literally taking them back to their earthly roots. and wooded.

Filling her basket with buttery yellow chanterelle mushrooms and plump boletus mushrooms, she defends the self-sufficiency gained by “an ability to survive if the food system ever collapses”.

“I never go to the supermarket,” she says proudly, emphasizing the importance of reviving forgotten skills. “We should never lose the incredible knowledge that our grandmothers passed on to us.”

With around 22 million trunks stretching their branches skyward, there are 4,500 trees for every person in Finland’s 5.5 million people. In a country 1.4 times the size of the UK – but with a twelfth of the human inhabitants – that means there’s plenty of room to move around.

In a place where social distancing was an art form long before Covid, personal space is sacred. The absence of chaotic crowds and noisy traffic immediately puts people in a better mood.


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