Helen Russell, a journalist and global happiness expert who wrote The Year of Living Danishly and The Atlas of Happiness, says that there are ways in which different nations worldwide enhance their experience of happiness through a mindset or an attitude that runs deep within the culture.
Read through these six examples to see if one or more of these practices resonates with you and your journey.
Saudade, from Brazil
“In [Brazilian] Portuguese, there’s something called saudade, which is a feeling of longing, melancholy, and nostalgia for a happiness that once was—or even a happiness you merely hoped for,” explains Russel. The concept is so entrenched in Brazilian ideology that it’s celebrated every year on Saudade Day (January 30th).
“Most of us will have experienced a bittersweet pleasure in moments of melancholy—[flipping] through old photos or caring about anyone enough to miss them when they’re gone,” says Russel. These sentimental moments can make us appreciate these memories even more and encourage us to pay attention to the details of the here and now. The concept of saudade reminds us to “spend time remembering those [we’ve] loved and lost, then practice being a little more grateful for the ones still around.”
Meraki, from Greece
According to Russel, meraki refers to “an introspective, precise expression of care, usually applied to a cherished pastime.” The idea behind meraki is to challenge yourself to break up the monotony of your regular routine (say, your nine-to-five job) by intentionally carving out time to invest in activities that inspire and relax you.
“Having a passion that you can take pride in can be of extra benefit to those who can’t say the same for their primary occupation,” says Russel. It can also give you something to look forward to throughout the day which will surely boost your happiness.
Dolce far niente, from Italy
This Italian phrase translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing,” says Russell, adding that the concept is “all about savoring the moment and really enjoying the present.”
While many western cultures tend to save up “their ‘fun quota’ for an annual escape or a boozy weekend, Italians spread it over the minutes, hours, and days throughout the year.” Adopting this attitude can remind you that you deserve to enjoy life all year round, not just while on vacation.
Friluftsliv, from Norway
We’ve mentioned the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv, or “free air life,” in an article we shared about enjoying outdoor socials, even in cold winter conditions. In Norway, time spent outdoors is central to their way of life—but the concept of friluftsliv isn’t just about being outside, it’s about engaging with nature in an intentional way.
“Most Norwegians believe you have to work for things—to earn them with physical endeavors, [or by] battling the elements. Only once you’ve [literally] climbed a mountain in the rain and cold can you truly enjoy your dinner,” Russel illustrates.
Now, not all of us will be climbing mountains regularly, or even live in a landscape where that’s an option but embrace the spirit of friluftsliv by going for a walk or sitting in your garden, watching the birds visit your birdfeeder.
Smultronstӓlle, from Sweden
The essence behind smultronstӓlle, which literally translated means “field of wild strawberries” or “wild strawberry patch,” is to establish a place to go when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed where you know you won’t be disturbed.
Even though the phrase is linked to the outdoors, you can also practice this indoors, as long as it’s “your happy place that just makes you feel better.” Having a smultronstӓlle can be a great way to “stay calm, restore balance, and feel rejuvenated.”
Wabi sabi and kintsugi, from Japan
Our society often values perfection, which may lead us to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our performance in life and work, however, the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, which translates to “the beauty of imperfection,” can help relieve us of this weight. Accepting the beauty in imperfection can make us feel better when things don’t turn out exactly as planned.
Kintsugi is a physical manifestation of wabi sabi—it refers to the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold or metallic lacquer. While many of us may discard a broken teacup, believing it has been rendered useless, kintsugi celebrates this imperfection by piecing the shattered pieces together extravagantly, highlighting the scar in a manner that makes it even more beautiful than when it was whole or “perfect.”
This story was part of our Best of 2022 series highlighting our top solutions from the year. Today we’re featuring education-focused solutions.