Why are Norwegians so happy?

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

It is innate in human nature to long for a better life. For centuries, scientists, psychologists, and doctors have researched how the pursuit of happiness could be achieved, measured, or defined. Even though the answer to this question remains subjective, we are now presented with tools that give us a clear idea of where to look. 

The HDI, or Human Development Index, calculates the level of development of a country based on its citizens’ knowledge, health, life expectancy, and well-being. Presently, Norway stands second on the list of most developed countries, having been ranked number one for six consecutive years before that. To the world, Norway has one of the highest standards of happiness and well-being, which makes us wonder: how did they achieve it?

“Koselig” is a difficult term to translate. Some dictionaries might bring the definition of coziness or comfort, but beyond the grammatical aspect, Koselig is a true philosophy of life that encourages each person to find serenity within nature. If humans tend to seek the environment to feel a sense of balance and calmness, Norwegians follow this motto throughout the year for a sense of happiness and self-development. This appreciation for natural sensations and empathy toward the environment leads to a greater awareness of environmental issues and sustainable behavior.

Koselig is all about seeking harmony and relishing the sensations evoked by the natural environment. By exposing yourself to the elements of nature, you feel safe and connected to your surroundings, reducing negative thoughts and increasing a sense of connectivity with the community. Besides that, Harvard research indicated that living near nature is not only linked to longer life expectancy but also to low stress and depression levels. 

Norway is known for its rigorous weather and temperatures that drop to an impressive -40°C. In northernmost towns, the sun barely shines during the long winters. Despite that, Norwegians reportedly have low rates of seasonal depression. It is said that this Koselig mindset is the reason Norwegians can approach even terrible days, when most people would stay indoors, with a sense of enjoyment and appreciation for nature. 

This “Culture of comfort” results in many outdoor activities that connect people with the natural world. Due to the beautiful and preserved landscapes, some of the most popular pastimes in Norway are those that deeply engage individuals with their surroundings: hiking, skiing, canoeing, and fishing. Diving into chilling arctic waters and bathing in ice-cold lakes is also a very common hobby: it increases endorphin and serotonin production, hormones linked to physical healing and happiness. If you are not a big fan of freezing underwater, you can still enjoy the landscape in one of the many cafes that keep cozy spaces with blankets outside.

Due to this positive way of facing one’s surroundings, nature-embracing countries are now considered the happiest in the world. The Koselig mindset brings many cognitive and emotional benefits, and might also be a major factor to connect certain communities. Norway is a perfect example of how embracing even the most extreme conditions can bring harmony and fulfillment to our lives. 

The best part about Koselig is that it is a simple philosophy of life that can be applied wherever you are. Nevertheless, if you wish to immerse yourself in the Norwegian culture of comfort, try to visit it during winter time: you might even catch a glimpse of the beautiful Aurora Borealis.

Writer: Sarah Tavares


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