A recent NYT article noted that for the sixth straight year, Finland was ranked at the top in the World Happiness Report. But when the Times reporter, Penelope Colston, interviewed some people there, “Rather than happy, they were more likely to characterize Finns as ‘quite gloomy,’ ‘a little moody’ or not given to unnecessary smiling.” If the Finns themselves wouldn’t characterize themselves as happy, how are they consistently ranking as the happiest people on earth?
Perhaps it has to do with the way they manage their expectations. “Finns derive satisfaction from leading sustainable lives and perceive financial success as being able to identify and meet basic needs, Arto O. Salonen, a professor at the University of Eastern Finland who has researched well-being in Finnish society, explained. ‘In other words,’ he wrote in an email, ‘when you know what is enough, you are happy.’ We’ve all known someone who seems to have more than enough of everything; money, friends, success, etc. but is not satisfied and wouldn’t be defined as happy. If you always want more, you’ll never have enough.
It's probably a good exercise to step back every once in a while, and take an inventory of what you have. You might even express some internal gratitude for whatever forces have allowed you to be where you are and not someplace worse. I’ll try to use the phrase, “I’ve had enough” not to express my frustration but to show some gratitude for all that I have and acknowledge that things could be a lot worse. Maybe I’ll even do some unnecessary smiling, whatever that means.
Under the heading of “too much of a good thing,” some Finns would like to finish second in the happiness survey next year because being on top is creating some stress that they now must live up to the national reputation.
Take care and stay safe.
The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan
The Aylward women of Nenagh, Tipperary, are mad about each other, but you wouldn’t always think it. You’d have to know them to know that—in spite of what the neighbors might say about raised voices and dramatic scenes—their house is a place of peace, filled with love, a refuge from the sadness and cruelty of the world. Their story begins at an end and ends at a beginning. It involves wives and widows, gunrunners and gougers, sinners and saints. It’s a story of terrible betrayals and fierce loyalties, of isolation and togetherness, of transgression, forgiveness, desire, and love. Of all the things family can be and all the things it sometimes isn’t. The Queen of Dirt Island is an uplifting celebration of fierce, loyal love and the powerful stories that bind generations together.