Is this the secret to Scandinavian happiness?
If you look at the world happiness rankings, you will find that Scandinavian countries do particularly well.
In 2018, Finland, Norway and Denmark occupied the top three spots. The previous year, it was Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
In fact, regardless of the year you’ll find this group of countries tends to occupy positions near the top of the table.
Why is this? What is it that they have that other countries don’t that makes them happier?
One reason is likely to do with an unwritten rule that governs their societies and keeps every individual in check.
It is called ‘Jante Law’.
It refers to ten rules for living as outlined by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose’s 1933 novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks.
They are as follows:
1) You’re not to think you are anything special.
2) You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
3) You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
4) You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are.
5) You’re not to think you know more than we do.
6) You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
7) You’re not to think you are good at anything.
8) You’re not to laugh at us.
9) You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
10) You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
These ‘ten commandments’ are basically different articulations of the same sentiment so you are crystal clear that individual success and showing off is the most serious of social crimes in Scandinavia.
It’s a sentiment that fosters the idea that we’re all in this together and that we shouldn’t place too great a prize on the individual doing better than everyone else. Nobody is made to feel inadequate, the individual ego is kept in check and the health of the group always comes first.
Given that comparison with the successful lives of others makes us unhappy, this approach makes sense.
One handy tip to stay clear of these unhappy comparisons is to spend less time looking at sites like Instagram and facebook. Below is short clip from Meik Wiking taken from The Happy Course that may be helpful.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy The Happy Course created in collaboration with The Happiness Institute.