How to Stay Happy in a Lockdown: The Finland Edition

In the midst of a pandemic, who better than residents of the happiest country of the world to turn to for tips?

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Happiness in Finland is often found in the outdoors. Photo Courtesy: Mikko Nikkinen/Visit Finland

In 2020, the United Nations World Happiness Report revealed Finland to be the happiest country in the world, for the third straight year. Tucked away in the northern end of Europe, Finland’s formidable glacial lakes, imposing fjords and the ethereal swirls of the aurora borealis make for a dramatic backdrop against which a quaint, understated culture has emerged.

Naturally, the outdoors shapes the lifestyle of the Finnish people. As many of us find ourselves confined to our homes, and in the throes of a global health crisis, here are five tips pulled straight from the Finns’ handbook, to help boost your happiness quotient.


1. A Cold Shower

The Finns swear by a morning dip in an icy lake to get the juices flowing for the rest of the day. Icy lakes are likely hard to come by in Indian summers however, and more importantly, access to all lakes is prohibited right now. Thus, they recommend the next best thing – a cold shower.

It might come as a rude shock to the body initially, but it helps get your blood circulation going, and leaves you feeling refreshed for the rest of the day. (Pro tip: Alternate between hot and cold showers, as a substitute for a sauna session, an important relaxation activity in Finland)


2. Read (a book)

Finland is a country that holds dear the practice of going to libraries and reading books – in a country of 5.5 million people, close to 68 million books are issued through libraries annually. Naturally, Finland is home to many libraries, and Helsinki’s Oodi was even declared the world’s best public library last year.

We understand that strolling to your nearest library might not be a viable option right now, but you can always curl up with a book at home. The satisfaction of reading a good story or picking up some new knowledge aside, the time away from screens won’t hurt either!


3. A Stroll through the forests of Lapland

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The emerald forests of Lapland are a treasure trove for hikers and foragers in the summer. Photo Courtesy: Tarja Hoikkala/Vastavalo/Visit Finland

Lapland is a region in northern Finland that is known for swathes of hardy pine forests, ski slopes, the midnight sun and if you’re lucky a glimpse of the aurora borealis. Contrary to what the stark landscape and unforgiving temperatures may suggest, Finns view the forest as a peaceful protective sanctuary, and seldom pass on an opportunity to take a walk in the woods.

Fortunately, recorded soundscapes of the Lapland forests can help transport you to the forest, even in the luxury of your living room. So lean back, close your eyes, put on your headphones, and immerse yourself in the sounds of the forest.


4. Bake yourself a Cinnamon Bun

The Finns’ love for coffee is akin to our affinity towards chai. As an accompaniment, they enjoy a hearty cinnamon bun with a dash of cardamom, called Korvapuusti. This combination is a nationwide favorite, and they even have a word for the simple indulgence – pullakahvi, which literally means coffee buns.

The simple indulgence can be the ideal pause during a busy workday, and is not very difficult to make at home either. Here’s a recipe to get you started!


5. Take a virtual tour of a museum or art gallery

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While the mammoth Amos Rex may be shut during a pandemic, the virtual art tours it offers are still worth a stroll. Photo Courtesy: Tuomas Uusiheimo/Visit Finland

If not the wilderness or the nearest public library, Finns often find themselves in art galleries and museums if they are looking to destress. Artists of the country are known to draw inspiration from the natural bounty that surrounds them, and one can easily lose themselves in museums like the Amos Rex  and the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Rovaniemi Art Museum in Rovaneimi. Moreover, there are a slew of other museums from around the world that you can take a virtual tour of, from the comfort of your home.


To spread the cheer, the good people of Finland have volunteered to share these and many more tips to better understand their way of life and unlock the secret to their happiness. Through the Rent-A-Virtual-Finn campaign, you can attend a virtual session with Finnish Virtual Happiness Guides and taste a slice of Finnish life through five unique experiences: Eat with a Finn, Relax with a Finn, Be Active with a Finn, Spend Time with a Finn and Be Happy with a Finn.

On Saturday, May 30, join Lubna Amir as she catches up with one such Virtual Happiness Guide, Jukka Joutsiniemi.  He will share his experience as a coach, and outdoors lover, in an Instagram Live session at 6 p.m. on @natgeotravellerindia. What’s more, after attending the session you can also apply to book a personalised appointment with a Finnish Happiness Guide till June 7. See you there!


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