Best selling author Helen Russell posing for a photo

Posted: four/four/2019 | April 4th, 2019

A handful of years ago, I study the book The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. I believe it initially came up as a recommended book on Amazon. I cannot totally keep in mind. But, I stuck it in my queue, ordered it, and it sat on my bookshelf till it was time to study it. I couldn’t place it down. It was funny, properly written, fascinating, and an insightful appear into Danish culture. It was a single of my preferred books I study that year.

Final year, I somehow convinced Helen to speak at TravelCon and got to meet her in particular person. Now, she has a new book out known as The Atlas of Happiness. It is about why persons in particular locations are happier than other people. It is a phenomenal book (you ought to get it). Currently, Helen shares some of what she discovered in researching that book!

Here’s a funny point: if you have been on the internet currently for much more than a fraction of a second, you could have began to get the sense that the globe is A Terrible Spot. Even the committed traveler with an open thoughts could be forgiven for pondering that the outlook is quite bleak.

And if you have observed the headlines currently or been on social media and you are feeling low as a outcome, you are not alone.

It is straightforward to get the thought that the globe is becoming much more miserable by the minute and that happiness is a luxury in these troubled instances.

But more than the previous six years, I’ve discovered that there are persons all about the globe discovering techniques to keep satisfied, each day. And that happiness is a thing we’re hardwired to seek out – wherever we are.

I began researching happiness in 2013 when I relocated from the UK to Denmark. I’d spent 12 years living and functioning in London as a journalist, and I had no intention of leaving, till out of the blue a single wet Wednesday, my husband came dwelling and told me he’d been presented his dream job…working for Lego in rural Jutland. I was skeptical to get started with — I had a excellent profession, a good flat, good good friends, close family members — I had a life.

Okay, so my husband and I each worked extended hours, we have been tired all the time, and never ever seemed to be capable to see each and every other incredibly a great deal. We routinely had to bribe ourselves to get via the day and we’d each been ill on and off for the previous six months.

But that was typical, suitable?

We believed we have been ‘living the dream.’ I was 33 years old and we’d also been attempting for a child for as extended as either of us could keep in mind, enduring years of fertility therapy, but we have been generally so stressed that it never ever rather occurred.

So when my husband was presented a job in Denmark, this ‘other life’ possibility was dangled in front of us — the likelihood to swap anything we knew for the unknown. Denmark had just been voted the world’s happiest nation in the UN’s annual report and I became fascinated by this. How had a tiny nation of just five.5m persons managed to pull off the happiest nation on earth title? Was there a thing in the water? And if we couldn’t get happier in Denmark, exactly where could we get happier?

In the course of our initial stop by, we noticed that there was a thing a bit distinct about the Danes we met. They didn’t appear like us, for starters — rather apart from the truth that they have been all strapping Vikings towering more than my 5’3” frame — they looked much more relaxed and healthier. They walked much more gradually. They took their time to cease and consume with each other, or speak, or just…breathe.

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And we have been impressed.

My Lego Man husband was sold on the thought and begged me to move, promising we’d relocate for my profession subsequent time. And I was so worn out by my hectic London life that I identified myself agreeing. I quit my job to go freelance and decided I would give it a year, investigating the Danish happiness phenomenon initial hand — searching at a distinct region of living each and every month to obtain out what Danes did differently.

From meals to family members life operate culture to functioning out and design and style to the Danish welfare state — each and every month I would throw myself into living ‘Danishly’ to see if it produced me any happier and if I could modify the way I lived as a outcome. I decided I would interview as lots of Danes, expats, psychologists, scientists, economists, historians, sociologists, politicians, everybody, in truth, to attempt to uncover the secrets to living Danishly.

I documented my experiences for two UK newspapers just before getting asked to create a book: The Year of Living Danishly, Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Nation.

Due to the fact then, I’ve been humbled and moved to hear from readers from across the globe with wide-ranging life perspectives, but the a single continual was a want to share the happiness secrets of their personal cultures. Some of the themes that sprung out have been universal — such as social interactions, working out out of doors and discovering a balance in life — when other people have been intriguingly special.

The Atlas of Happiness book cover by Helen RussellSo I set out to study into special happiness ideas from about the globe, interviewing persons internationally till The Atlas of Happiness — my new book-child — was born. It is not a compendium of the happiest nations alternatively, it is a appear at what’s creating persons happier in distinct locations. Since if we only appear at the nations currently coming leading of the happiness polls, we miss out on concepts and understanding from cultures we’re significantly less familiar with.

Nowhere is excellent. Each nation has faults. But I wanted to celebrate the finest components of a country’s culture as properly as national traits at their finest – simply because that is what we ought to all be aiming for.

Right here are a handful of of my favorites:

Did you know, for instance, that in Portuguese there’s a thing known as saudade — a feeling of longing, melancholy, and nostalgia for a happiness that when was — or even a happiness you merely hoped for?

And when Brazil could be well-known for its carnival spirit, the flipside of this, saudade, is so central to the Brazilian psyche that it is even been offered its personal official ‘day’ on the 30th of January each year.

Most of us will have skilled a bittersweet pleasure in moments of melancholy — flicking via old pictures, or caring about anybody sufficient to miss them when they’re gone.

And scientists have identified that this short-term sadness — counter-intuitively — tends to make us happier: offering catharsis enhancing our focus to detail rising perseverance and advertising generosity. So we ought to all devote time remembering these we’ve loved and lost — then practice getting a tiny much more grateful for the ones nonetheless about.

Finland ranked quantity a single in this year’s UN Globe Happiness report thanks to a good high-quality of life, absolutely free healthcare, and education funded by higher taxes.

But there’s also a thing else the Finns get pleasure from that is infinitely much more exportable: kalsarikännit — defined as ‘drinking at dwelling in your underwear with no intention of going out’ — a pursuit so preferred it even has its personal emoji, commissioned by The Finnish Foreign Ministry.

In widespread with most Scandinavians, Finns are not shy about disrobing, and they all have such enviably properly-insulated homes that stripping down to their pants is apparently fully okay even when it is minus 35 degrees outdoors. What you drink and crucially how a great deal of it you knock back is down to the person, but it is a uniquely Finnish type of happiness and mode of relaxation that we can all give a go.

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Best selling author Helen Russell working on her laptop

In Greece, they have a idea known as meraki that refers to an introspective, precise expression of care, typically applied to a cherished pastime — and it is maintaining Greeks satisfied in spite of turbulent instances. This is simply because obtaining a hobby improves our high-quality of life according to scientists, and difficult ourselves to do a thing distinct also creates new neural pathways in our brain. Getting a passion that you take pride can be of additional advantage to these who cannot say the very same for their major occupation.

Since meraki can make life worthwhile if your 9-five is much more of a everyday grind. A lot of tasks that want to be taken care of on a day-to-day basis are not specifically difficult or inspiring – from filing, to raising buy orders or even — dare I say it — some of the much more gruelling elements of parenting.

But we can break up the never ever-ending cycle of mundane operate with our personal private challenges — factors that we’re passionate about that we can genuinely appear forward to performing. Our meraki.

Dolce far niente — or the sweetness of performing nothing at all — is a a great deal-treasured idea in Italy — usually hashtagged on Instagram accompanying photographs of Italians in hammocks. Okay, so Italy hasn’t precisely topped any happiness rankings in current years, but the cliché of the carefree Italian nonetheless exists – and with excellent explanation.

Italians do ‘nothing’ like no other nation and perfecting the art requires style and ability – simply because there’s much more to it than meets the eye. It is watching the globe go by more than coffee and a cornetto. It is laughing at vacationers. Or politicians. And crucially it is about savoring the moment and actually enjoying the present. A lot of of us search for relaxation by traveling to exotic areas, drinking to oblivion, or attempting to blot out the noise of modern day life.

But Italians let the chaos wash more than them. Alternatively of saving up our ‘fun quota’ for an annual escape, they spread it more than the minutes, hours and days all through the year and ‘enjoy life’ in all its messy reality.

A single of the happiest nations in the globe, the Norwegians will have to be performing a thing suitable. And rather aside from their enviable Scandi-lifestyles and the security net of all that oil, Norwegians have a secret ace card up their sleeves: a idea known as friluftsliv. This roughly translates as ‘free air life’ and it is a code of conduct as properly as a life aim for most Norwegians – who like to devote time outdoors and get higher, as usually as attainable.

Everyone who’s ever visited the nation will know that if you meet a Norwegian out in nature, their objective tends to be the highest mountain nearby – and there’s a saying in Norway that “You will have to make an work just before you can have pleasure’.

Most Norwegians think you have to operate for factors, to earn them with physical endeavors, battling the components. Only when you have climbed a mountain in the rain and cold, can you actually get pleasure from your dinner. It is an old fashioned strategy to the excellent life but a lot of research show that making use of our bodies and having out into nature as usually as attainable boosts mental and physical wellbeing.

Best selling author Helen Russell posing in front of a colorful mural

Which is all incredibly properly, on paper. But how to apply these principles and all the factors I’d discovered in genuine life? Properly, I took it gradually — dolce far niente style. I had to study not to be the archetypal Londoner, functioning all hours. Alternatively, I had to attempt relaxing when in a when.

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Radical, I know.

Subsequent, I got on the hobby train. I identified my meraki in pottery, in cooking and attempting out new recipes, usually inspired by the nations I was researching. Some weeks, we ate properly. Other people, not so a great deal (my husband nonetheless hasn’t forgiven me for ‘Russian month’). I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve performed a fair quantity of underwear-drinking, also.

The Finnish idea of kalsarikännit and I are now firm good friends. And simply because I was functioning significantly less and getting much more mindful of living properly and searching just after myself, it was somewhat straightforward to adopt the Norwegian ethos of friluftsliv.

So now I attempt to ask myself: what did I do currently? What did I climb? Exactly where did I go? But the greatest thoughts shift was the realization that to be satisfied, we have to be comfy getting sad often, also. That we’re at our healthiest and happiest when we can reconcile ourselves to all our feelings, excellent and poor.

The Portuguese saudade was a game changer for me — assisting me to come to terms with the life I believed I’d have and obtain a way to move on, without the need of resentment or bitterness. Since when you let go of these factors, a thing quite astounding can come about.

By studying from other cultures about happiness, wellbeing and how to keep healthful (and sane), I identified a way to be significantly less stressed than I was in my old life. I created a improved understanding of the challenges and subtleties of coming from an additional culture. My empathy levels went up. I discovered to care, much more.

Optimism is not frivolous: it is needed. You are travelers. You get this. But we want to spread the word, now, much more than ever. Since we only have a single globe, so it would be actually good if we didn’t mess it up.

Hellen Russell is a British journalist, speaker, and the author of the international bestseller The Year of Living Danishly. Her most current book, The Atlas of Happiness, examines the cultural habits and traditions of happiness about the globe. Formerly the editor of, she now writes for magazines and newspapers about the globe, which includes Stylist, The Instances, Grazia, Metro, and The i Newspaper.

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