What makes people happy?
Is it money? Family? Success?
Philosophers and regular people alike have driven themselves crazy in the pursuit of happiness, but the key to a fulfilling life may lie in a certain Scandinavian nation.
In March, Denmark was named the happiest country in the world for the third time.
Many pointed to things like income equality, trust in government, a high minimum wage, and personal freedoms as reasons for Danes’ sunny dispositions.
But apparently, there’s a lot more to the story.
For instance, there exists a Danish code of conduct called the Law of Jante that dictates how people should enjoy life.
Some of its rules include “you’re not to think you are anything special,” and “you’re not to think that you are more important than we are.”
In short, this law suggests that Danish people should try to be average, and nothing more.
Additionally, the idea of “hygge” is also very important in Denmark, a word which loosely translates to the enjoyment of everyday things. This idea is so essential to Danish life that the chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen even cites it in his new book.
While the idea of not aspiring to some kind of greatness may sound strange, especially in our Western society where it seems like almost everybody is looking for their 15 minutes of internet fame or to be the next Zuckerberg, it makes sense when you think about it.
“With such a mentality, you’re likely to be quite content when life hands you very average things,” writes Lindsay Dupuis, a Canadian therapist working in private practice in Copenhagen. “On the other hand, if life happens to hand you something above and beyond average, you’ll likely feel pleasantly surprised, and in most cases, pretty darn happy.”
Essentially, “no expectations, no disappointments” is the Danish MO. Clearly, it’s working.
There’s also science to back up the sentiment. In a happiness study by neuroscientist Robb Rutledge of the University College of London, the results showed people were happier when they received a reward they didn’t expect than when they received one they did.
So instead of beating yourself up about not being on a “30 under 30” list or having a successful startup under your belt, take a page out of the Danes’ book and just chill the f*ck out.
You might actually end up happier in the long run.