Thoughts from the happiest country in the world: How happiness could be shared equally?

I walk in the forest and don´t need to be afraid of anything

For the fourth year in a row Finland ranked as the happiest country in the world, according to this year’s World Happiness Report. The annual, independent survey is organised by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. (Yle.fi)

It takes into account factors such as healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, gross domestic product (GDP), generosity, social support from friends, perceived corruption, as well as recent emotions of the respondents, both good and bad.

I am well aware that I’m privileged as I live in a safe environment, in a stable and developed society. I can walk alone in a forest or where ever I want for hours without fear of being threatened. I am also well aware that there are millions of persons who live in fear and in inhuman living conditions.

I understand that happiness, if we really want to define it in universal way is not easy target. Finnish Emeritus Professor of Practical Philosophy Timo Airaksinen answered as following in an interview where he was asked to define happiness:

”If you look at people, they are looking for everything but happiness: success and a better job, a more expensive car and housing. Happiness is such an abstract concept that I would replace it with contentment”

Those goals mentioned above might be typical in western countries among those with traditional and modern values as well as in developing countries where the share of the middle class is growing. Fortunately the values are changing; change in values is important not only for happiness and equality, but also for sustainable future. The more we seek immaterial happiness, the less we cause harm to the environment.

I laughed and felt joy yesterday – today I am confused and sad for a reason

For the World Happiness report about 1,000 respondents in each country were asked to, for example, rate the quality of their lives on a scale of zero to 10. Other questions included how many times respondents laughed or felt joy and satisfaction the previous day. Conversely, the survey also took into account negative emotions such as asking how often respondents had felt worry, sadness or anger the previous day. (Yle.fi)

I was laughing a lot yesterday while talking on the phone with my mother and again in the evening when having a dinner and watching a movie with my son. I tend to laugh a lot, I have positive attitude and I don´t have any significant worries in life. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not worried or indifferent to others.

While reading the news about Happiness report I could not ignore this sentence:

The southern African country of Zimbabwe was listed at the bottom of the happiness rankings. Meanwhile the 20 countries found at the bottom of the list were located in Africa, many of which were dealing with difficult situations, unrest or even civil war. (Yle.fi)

At the same time I feel happy and proud that Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world, I feel confused and sad. I feel empathy for the people living in the countries that are the least successful in this report. In my opinion, those countries should be included in the headlines and let their inhabitants tell their story.

Living in global south doesn´t mean that happiness can´t be achieved but however, much remains to be done towards equality and equal living environment.

If we ever again have opportunities to promote what happiness is by the stories of local people as we did in Finland in 2019 (Rent a Finn) I would appreciate a project where the Africans and Finns (and other Nordics) meet each other sharing tips for happy life. We all certainly would learn from each other.

Freedom and happiness

The philosopher presented earlier in this article, Timo Airaksinen, considers such values as goodness, truth and beauty to be quite fine, but unnecessarily solemn. According to Airaksinen, freedom is the most important human value. He told that his unconscious goal during the whole life was freedom and refers to free movement both in thought and physically.

Writing books, traveling – everything has been an endeavor away from normal everyday life and society for him. He also told that the purpose of life is to become as one is, to realize oneself; to become externally similar to what is internally.

It is easy to agree with the arguments of the Finnish philosopher. I admit that freedom is also important to me, especially professionally as it provides opportunities to make choices based on values.

Today, however, my thoughts are with those for whom freedom of choice is not self-evident.

One of Finland’s most noticed news in mid-March (2021) was a report on the Democratic Republic of Congo which is the world ’s fourth poorest country, but full of riches: gold, diamonds, uranium, copper – and cobalt.

The report brought to our attention the brutal truth about unofficial diggers and children digging up toxic cobalt by hand in dangerous conditions. Cobalt is needed e.g. in smartphone and electric car batteries.

Lapsia
Picture: YLE 14.03.2021

Demands are now being made that unofficial diggers should be recognized as an official part of supply chains. Formalization would mean, for example, giving diggers fenced areas, fixed prices and protective equipment.

A decent wage would be essential: when adults had a livelihood, children would not have to work in the mines. In other words, child labor will not be eliminated as long as its root causes are not addressed.

“If parents earn a dollar a day, the kids won’t be in school even if you build 50 schools,” says researcher Siddharth Kara.

I wanted to brought this phenomenon to our attention as an example to remind us that not everybody in this world has freedom to make choices.

Hope and action make me happy

When facing problems or reading news about unfair incidents, I try to think of ways to influence. I often refers to Paolo Freire´s book called Pedagogy of Hope and some of the thoughts he had made well-known worldwide. My favorite is a reminder that there is hope, but hope without action remains hopefulness.

”Paolo Freire´s concern for social justice and education in the developing world remains as timely and as inspiring as ever.  Pedagogy of Hope is a testimonial to the inner vitality of generations denied prosperity and to the often-silent, generous strength of millions throughout the world who refuse to let hope be extinguished.”

In Finland, we all know a fairy tale where ”fools” carry light to a dark cottage with a sack. It has been a good lesson to understand that action is needed but not any kind of action is helpful.

One of the key solutions to make the world more equal is in education. Not only in education export from Finland to developing countries but also in sharing stories for Finnish children (and adults) to strengthen empathy and giving examples of how to act for better future – together and without blaming anybody.

Awareness of problems and distress of others does not deprive us of our right to be happy.

What makes you happy in this exceptional time

At the end of this writing I bring you back to the Happiness report . Unlike in previous years, the happiness index included surveys on how countries have dealt with the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world for more than a year. (Yle.fi)

The causes of negative feelings included weakened economies, health worries of the respondent or a relative as well as job losses and difficulty finding employment. Meanwhile, respondents said positive feelings during the pandemic year had been prompted by volunteering, exercise, caring for a pet or a feeling of general gratitude. (Yle.fi)

Did you find some familiar feelings in the text above? Would you like to share your thoughts about happiness?
Please, do so by leaving a comment below.

You can read an other blog article about happiness here: Nature based Happiness

Thank you for following my blog!
I hereby invite you to a Forest walk with some thoughts of mine.

With love, Anu

Nature based Happiness

A French journalist challenged COVID-19 to understand Finnish happiness

As we were living the period of long awaited Christmas Holidays, there were not so many seizing the opportunity to host a French journalist coming to Finland at short notice – to discover the secret of happiness. I did not hesitate a moment when I was asked by Helsinki Marketing to take Corine (our guest)  for a forest walk and talk about nature and happiness.

There was an other reason that visiting Finland in December 2020 was not the easiest moment to come; crossing the borders was not self-evident as we lived in a time of strict travel restrictions because of COVID-19. Corine had taken the COVID-19 test twice with negative result and we agreed to wear masks indoors and keep safety distance outdoors.

I could have hosted the visit by my own, but it´s not the way I want to work. So I contacted other entrepreneurs to share this experience. Doing together makes me happy and it´s one of my company´s main values.

We were four entrepreneurs taking care of Corinne during her visit to Lake Tuusula. Risto Karjalainen (Adventuristo) and Jonna Granroth (Metsänautti) took care of the beautiful winter picnic by open fire during our forest walk. Our national artists as Jean Sibelius, Pekka Halonen, Eero Järnefelt and Eino Leino used to gather together to this same place (Sarvikallio) with their families to have picnic and to get inspired by nature.

Ulla-Maija (Ullis) Rouhiainen (Ullis Travel Studio)  guided us to the stories of the famous artist community of Lake Tuusula and later hosted Corinne´s  sauna experience in Helsinki.

Facts about happiness

Finland has ranked once again to be the number one in the UN´s Happiness report.  It takes into account factors such as healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, gross domestic product (GDP), generosity, social support from friends, perceived corruption, as well as recent emotions of the respondents, both good and bad. (More info Forbes 26052020)

At the beginning of our meeting Corinne wanted to know if Finland’s success in the happiness survey surprised me. No, it didn´t – considering the factors measuring happiness.

I was thinking about happiness a lot three years ago when making the decision to establish my own company and taking an economical risk in my personal life. It was clear to me that establishing own company was about freedom to make life choices, possibility to live according to my values and about having a meaning in my professional life.

If I hadn´t dared to establish company in a country like Finland, I would have been quite a coward as we live in a very supporting society. I have had opportunities to study and got multiple skills – so I trust that if  I am willing to work and adapt to a basic standard of living, if necessary, I survive. Taking account the theme of  our meeting and the studies related to this article, it´s not, of course, only about surviving in life but also about finding the happiness and you can´t measure all in money.

The secret of Happiness

Yale University has launched very popular online course known around the world called PERMA -test. It promises to tell us what the secret of happiness is. The name of the test comes from words Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement.

I red an article about PERMA -test some days before meeting Corinne. The article not only confirmed my thoughts of happiness but also taught something new. Which I totally agree is that gratitude and the importance of not comparing ourselves to others is some of the basic factors. Based on my experience it works; I have been practicing gratitude by writing gratitude diary and changing my inner talk to myself for some years now and I feel more happy.

Kindness was mentioned as an important indicator which unites happy people. It´s easy to agree that being kind and helping others in unselfish way make us feel profoundly happy. I think that gratitude and kindness are related also to equality and non-discrimination.

Capability to concentrate is related to engagement and achievement. As it was said in the article, we can improve our own ability to concentrate: all you have to do is meditate. Good news for many is that you don’t have to do any formal meditation practice according to complex rules; you can just stare out the window or focus on your breathing.  (HS 25.12.2020 Hyvän mielen…)

Nature brings Happiness

With the journalist we had some silent moments and breathing exercises in forest as a prove of simple, nature based meditation. We also talked about relationships, the importance of human contact and the lack of it in these days.

We really can´t replace human touch of anything but I invited Corinne to hug and even kiss the trees as it´s totally safe even during COVID-19 and also our way to calm down and get good feeling. Well-being effects of nature, such as lowering blood pressure, have been proved by  researches worldwide.

Many of my foreign friends had said that what makes us different in Finland from our neighbors is our way to connect with nature. It´s something primitive and beautiful where respect and willingness to keep on sustaining our traditions connects with the wisdom that is passed from one generation to another.

Nature indeed makes me happy, in all seasons and wherever I am. My nature is diverse and it´s open to anybody who respects its uniqueness and power which is stronger than us.

I want to thank for this opportunity to work together with wonderful professionals in my last working day in 2020.

Thank you Corine for you inspiring visit in Finland! Hope to see you here again!
It was a beautiful experience to stop and reflect on what happiness really is.

Today I am happy to celebrate the third anniversary of my company Mood of Finland Oy
My decision three years ago to follow my dreams and taking the risk has been worth of it.
I feel very grateful!

Thank you for following by blog.
Wishing you happiness and all the best for 2021!
With love,
Anu

ps. The journalist mentioned in my blog will publish a professional article about Happiness in Le Monde magazine´s La Vie – supplement in French. She was hosted by Helsinki Marketing (Sara Jäntti)

And finally, I invite you to watch the video of some ”haiku” poems I have been writing last year (in Finnish). They are a mixture of nature, love and a hint of melancholy.

Is it ok for you to be a Tourist?

News from Finland

Let´s talk about Tourism in Finland, again. I have been following the debate of Finnish Tourism for years. Sometimes I follow it as an outsider, comparing it to my experiences in Spain where I used to live and work in tourism industry more than ten years and still have a strong connection to Spain. Spain is one of the biggest countries in the world when talking about Tourism and we have a lot to learn from Spaniards. I have also done research about sustainable tourism in Spain years ago and it´s results had come quite often to my mind lately.

This week we followed the big event called Suomi Areena which gathers representatives of our society to discuss about the actual issues. Some of the influencial persons of Finnish Tourism industry had also attended the thematic debates of the event.

Unfortunately, I couldn´t be there and didn´t find any videos of the interviews. So, to get an idea what has been discussed is based on few posts on Twitter and LindedIn. According to them the main issue had been the need to clarify the message how to promote Finland as a Tourist destination.

Now it´s interesting to follow the next steps; we have a kind of tourism brand but we need to clarify it, specially from the responsible point of view.

During that event they also talked about Iceland and the secret of its success as a tourist destination. Hopefully they also talked about how to anticipate the problems of fast growing tourism as the success-story of Iceland has its pros and cons as we also know.

Nobody wants to be a Tourist?

There have been couple of articles I have also read during the last couple of days. One of them is this: Residents in Tourism hotspots have had enough which is basicly about overtourism.

Harold Goodwin has defined overtourism as following and I agree it: ”Destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably. It is the opposite of Responsible Tourism which is about using tourism to make better places to live in and better places to visit. Often both visitors and guests experience the deterioration concurrently”.

In the article linked above, the chief executive of Helsinki Marketing, Laura Aalto, pointed out this: “Nobody wants to be a tourist, everybody wants to be part-time locals. Our job is to create the kind of circumstances, conditions and platforms for visitors who come to Helsinki to meet with the locals and not go to the most obvious attractions”

Ever since I have been studying and working in Tourism industry (more than 25 years) it had been repeting  the same  – nobody wants to be a tourist. Sometimes one wants to be a traveller, some other moment adventurer and now part-time local?

Local meets visitor

I got the point of Laura Aalto´s opinion in the article above and I do agree many other insights in the article. Helsinki marketing is doing  good job and we are happy that our opinions seem to be of our decision makers´interest.

But I somehow got stuck in the world of part-time local. When talking about encounteres  the line  between locals and tourists  is very sensitive and personal and should always be defined by the locals. Are the part-time locals ready to follow the rules and responsibilities – do they pay for the services?

In Spain, when doing the research, most of the locals I interviewed, told that they prefer tourists to have their resorts and own areas so that locals can keep on living the tranquil everyday life. They told they are happy to have tourists and they understand the benefits. They also had interest to offer local services and share cultural specialities  – when they get paid for it because Tourism is an industry where people need to earn also their living.

This is one of the views, which I as tourism professional, would like to point out now in Finland; Tourism industry must be developed in responsible way considering also the economical sustainability and fair pricing. It´s good to remember that skilled professionals are also local.

Helsinki Guides get sometimes messages where locals ask guides to inform the tourists not to enter to private gardens nor to take pictures of private homes or children playing in backyards. In wintertime we had news from Lapland about the locals tired of too many tourists in local supermarkets and pharmacies. One of the Spanish Tour Leaders told the tourists were not so happy to walk in congested streets in Rovaniemi which had been promoted as an authentic wilderness capital.

Different values mean different expectations

Of course the expectations of locals and tourists change and have been changing. The cultural evolution in our society and its influence in tourism is evident.

Transmodern tourists want to have authentic experiences together with locals,  but in the other hand they do respect the rules locals want to establish, they are ready to pay for the experiences and they do respect the nature.

There are still, though, postmodern individualists, adventurers who wants to take their own way and not follow the others, those who expect to have tailor-made services, produced in customer´s terms and defenetly don´t want to be called as tourist.

There are also plenty of modern and traditional tourists willing to have the traditional sightseeing-tours and visiting the most popular sights.

It seems that Finland and Helsinki want to focus on transmodern tourists which is a good decision, as it is the fastest growing value based visitors group in the world.

Most of the visitors coming to Finland at the moment seem to be traditional and modern tourists, and we all need to work hard to get  the marketing message through to our potential visitors  –  and meanwhile understand the expectations of different kind visitors and be ready serve them.

Arctic point of view – what is the correct price for the experience?

I also red an other interesting article: Sustainable arctic Tourism and was happy to find some very good insights about sustainability. Rauno Posio, Project director in Lapland Chamber of Commerce and member or Arctic Economic Council says as following:

”The problem is how to combine the pristine nature with tourism flows. The north will not and should not become a mass tourism destination. Instead, we need to provide high-quality services with prices that help us avoid overpopulating our tourist attractions.”

There are many other persons in industry also talking about pricing. I think it´s very important and would like to totally agree. But it´s again, a theme with pros and cons.

Finland is already known as an expensive tourist destination, Finns and specially Finnish families often travel abroad because domestic tourism is more expensive.

If we make sure the service is worth of higher prices when promoting it abroad – higher prices could be one solution. Maybe there could be other prices for domestic visitors? I have written about nature based luxury experiences and pricing in this previous post: Yes – we have Luxury Tourism in Finland

I also agree those who are telling us not to worry  about masstourism in Finland; we have plenty of pace  and no risk to become a masstourism destination. It´s not about masstourism but about overtourism in our case. I recommend to read the article at the end of this post for not to confuse with the definitions.

Tourism is hospitality industry where human meets human

To offer Premium level Customer Service (new luxury) highly skilled professionals are needed and at this moment there is lack of employees in Finnish Tourism industry. Hospitality enterprices refuse to pay higher salaries and offer better living conditions for seasonal employees because of bad marging. Political decisions to support the industry, high standard education and very good management is needed.

One of the projects to find solutions is the one funded by The Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland called Matkailudiili ( Tourism deal). Please, read more about it here in English: Tourism deal

So – what´s my point in all this?

I would like to point out, that Responsible way should be the only way to develop Tourism. Responsibility is about making human decisions, respect the local and understand that where ever we travel, the time and skills of the Service providers and resources of the experiences should be paid, because Tourism is industry and profession.

In Finland we need to take special care of our nature. In many destinations where overtourism is recognized as a problem, the problems have started from the sights free of charge – because that´s the way to be as a local – finding the places where the locals are – and over time they get overcrowded.

Tourism is hospitality industry where human meets human with respect. Let the locals be hosts and the visitors be guests – it might be the fairest deal for everybody. To conclude my message, I invite you to read also this very good article by Harold Goodwin resuming the history and actual situation about overtourism as it can be understood now: Overtourism

Thank you for following the blog.
Any comments are appreciated!
With arctic regards,
Anu

ps. If you read the definition of  ”Tourist” of two pages (p.499-591) from the Encyclopedia of Tourism edited by Jafar Jafari (Routledge 2000) – you would be proud to be a Tourist!

Rakkauden Metsä

Rakkauden lukot? So last season

Maailman metsäpäivä ja oivallus! Suomessa on käyty alkuvuonna 2016  yhteiskunnallista keskustelua metsien suojelusta ja metsähallituslaista. Metsien monimuotoisuuden suojeleminen on päivän puheenaiheena. Metsien ja luonnon terveysvaikutukset on tunnustettu saatujen tutkimusten perusteella ja luonto on Suomen tärkein matkailullinen vetovoimatekijä.

21.03.2016 oli Maailman metsäpäivä ja seurasin keskustelua sosiaalisessa mediassa. Minä sain päivän aikana idean, jonka haluan viedä käytäntöön. Olen jo viestinyt ideasta Visit Finlandin Matkailujohtajalle Paavo Virkkuselle ja Media- ja yhteiskuntasuhteiden johtajalle Jari Ahjoharjulle. Odotan vahvistusta tapaamisesta, jossa keskustelemme Joulupukista ja ilmastonmuutoksesta ja toivottavasti myös uudesta ideasta.

Aion olla lähipäivinä yhteydessä Ville Niinistöön ja Anni Sinnemäkeen. Listalla on myös Suomen luonnonsuojeluliiton Leo Stranius. Kerroin ideasta  Reilun matkailun yhdistyksen vuosikokouksessa ja Vanajalinna Groupin toimitusjohtaja Pekka Vihmakin sai viestini.

Idea on kiinnostanut kaikkia, joille olen siitä kertonut. Kukaan ei ole ainakaan suoraan sanonut EI. Vahvan KYLLÄ sanoi Haltia luontokeskuksen johtaja Tom Selänniemi, joka on lanseerannut ajatuksen Helsingin brändäämisestä maailman Luontopääkaupunkina.

Jos ei olla nopeita, voi olla, että ruotsalaiset vievät hyvän idean!

Metsä

Rakkauden metsä – tätä päivää!

Ehdotan, että Suomeen perustetaan Rakkauden metsä tai metsiä. Ne ovat vaihtoehto rakkauden lukoille ja silloille. Tiedättehän tavan, jossa rakastavaiset käyvät sulkemassa lukon sillan kaiteeseen ja heittävät avaimen veteen todistaakseen ikuista rakkauttaan. Kuuluisimmat sillat ovat Pariisissa, Venetsiassa ja New Yorkissa eikä ongelmilta ole vältytty – lukkojen paino on aiheuttanut siltojen romahtamista eikä tapa ole ihan varauksetta ympäristölle hyväksi.

Ehdotankin siis, että Helsingin lähistöltä, vaikkapa Keskuspuistosta, varataan metsäalue, johon rakastavaiset voivat istuttaa oman puun ikuisen rakkauden symboliksi. Tai ehkä pari voisi saada nimikkopuun jo olemassa olevasta metsästä.

Voisiko joku hotelli profiloitua rakkauden metsän hotelliksi ja tarjota koko paketin kansainvälisille vieraille?

Jatkona tarjotaan mahdollisuutta ostaa palvelu, jossa hoitaja tai kummi lähettää kuvia puusta esim. vuoden välein. Suunnittelussa tarvitaan ammattilaisia jotta metsän istutus hoidetaan vastuullisesti ja harkiten, luonnon ehdoilla ja ympäristöä kunnioittaen.

”Repeaterit”!

Todennäköistä on, että pari käy katsomassa puutaan ainakin tärkeinä suhteensa vuosipäivinä ja haluavat ehkä tuoda jälkikasvunsakin puun luokse kylään. Voihan käydä niinkin, että joku haluaa kaataa puunsa rakkauden loppuessa, joten pelisäännöistä pitää sopia. Rakkauden metsästä tulisi varmasti vetovoimainen kohde ja me saisimme matkailulle tärkeitä ”repeatereita” Suomeen.

Anu j a kuusi

Minulla on kuvassa näkyvä oma kuusi. Se ei ole kovin vahva, mutta minulle  rakas ja tärkeä. Se symboloi minulle aikaa, jolloin siirryin lapsuudesta nuoren naisen polulle, sain sen rippilahjaksi ja se istutettiin lapsuuden kodin pihalle.

Olemme saaneet kiitettävästi huomiota kotimaisessa mediassa. Radio Suomen toimittaja Tiina von Martens teki aiheesta kivan radio- ja nettijutun kesällä 2016, Olli Ihamäki teki haastattelun syyskuussa 2016 Metsäradioon ja Helsingin kaupungihallituksen päätöksen jälkeen syyskuussa 2017 iloittiin Yle Helsingin kanavilla Sannika Michelssonin kanssa. Helsingin Sanomat, Metro-lehti ja paikallislehdet ovat kirjoittaneet aiheesta kiitettävän usein. Mainostoimisto suunnitteli ja lahjoitti yllä näkyvän logon Rakkaduen Metsän käyttöön.

Rakkaudenmetsä on totta!

Päivitys 26.6.2020:

Ensimmäiset Rakkauden Puut on istutettu lunastamaani pieneen hehtaarin metsään Lopelle. Helsingin Vuosaaren Rakkauden Metsän avajaisia vietetään 28.8.2020, johon tarjoalla olleet puuntaimet olivat varattavissa kaupungin avaamilla sivuilla.

Sinä voit istuttaa rakkauden puun, olla mukana kasvattamassa Rakkauden Metsää ja suojella luontoa! Rakkauden Metsän idea on jalostunut ja yksinkertaistanut. Rakkauden puu on symboli rakkaudesta, sen voi situttaa mihin tahansa luonnonvaraiselle paikalle ja olla mukana tekemässä hyvää. Muistoksi ostetun todistuksen hinnasta lahjoitetaan 10€ Luonnonperintösäätiölle ikimetsien suojeluun.

Lue lisää  tästä: Rakkauden Metsä

FB: Rakkauden Metsä – Love Forest Finland
IG. @rakkaudenmetsa