The Malta Independent 22 March 2023, Wednesday
View E-Paper

Three things that Finns do in order to maintain a high quality of life

Sunday, 29 January 2023, 08:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

An interesting conversation between Frank Martela and Kenneth Vella

For the past five years, the World Happiness Report has ranked Finland as the happiest country in the world. Last year's report showed that people in 156 countries were asked to "value their lives today on a 0 to 10 scale, with the worst possible life as a 0". It also analysed factors that contribute to social support, life expectancy, generosity and absence of corruption.


Dr Kenneth Vella, Ambassador of Malta to Estonia and Finland has been collaborating with Finnish entities for over 15 years. Recently, he had the opportunity to discuss these results with one of his friends and colleagues in Finland, Dr Frank Martela. The latter is a leading philosopher and psychologist in this Nordic country. Martela is also a researcher who studies the fundamentals of happiness. He is also a lecturer at Aalto University in Finland and the author of A Wonderful Life: Insights on Finding a Meaningful Existence. This publication has really influenced Vella and he encourages those interested to read it.

During one of his recent conversations, Vella asked Martela what are the secrets that make the Finnish people so incredibly satisfied with their lives? However, instead of mentioning these secrets, Martela preferred to mention the three things that Finns do in order to maintain a high quality of life.


Do not compare yourself with your neighbours

"First of all we do not compare ourselves to our neighbours.  In this aspect I always refer to the verses by one of our leading poets which states that "Kell' onni on, se onnen kätkeköön". In other words, "Don't compare or brag about your happiness". I assure you that Finns really believe in this, especially when it comes to material things, materialism, money and wealth. For example, "I once ran into one of the richest men in Finland, pushing his toddler in a stroller towards the tram station. I thought he could have bought himself an expensive car or hire a driver, but he opted for public transportation," commented Martela. The Finnish philosopher and psychologist added that this man showed that he wants to be treated just like everyone else. Martela suggests that we should focus more on what makes us happy and less on looking successful. The first step to true happiness is to set our own standards, instead of comparing ourselves to others.


Be aware of the benefits of nature

During our lengthy conversation, Martela also reminded me that according to a survey carried out two years ago, 87% of Finns feel that nature is important to them because it provides them with peace of mind, energy and relaxation. "In Finland and in summer employees are entitled to four weeks of holidays. Many of us use that time to live in the countryside and immerse ourselves in nature. Sometimes we even stay in country houses without electricity or running water. Similar to other major European countries, a lot of Finnish cities are also densely built, however many people in these cities still have access to nature on their doorsteps."

Martela reminded me that he lives next to Helsinki Central Park, where he goes on regular walks and for cross-country skiing in the winter. He stressed that spending time in nature increases our vitality, improves our mental well-being and helps us to grow personally. "We should all find ways to add some greenery to our life, even if it's just buying a few plants for our home."



Various international research studies have confirmed that the higher the levels of trust within a country, the happier its citizens would be. For example, last year an interesting experiment was carried out which was referred to as the one of the lost wallet. This tested the honesty of the people by dropping 192 wallets in 16 cities around the world. In Helsinki, 11 out of 12 wallets were returned to the owner.

"Finnish people tend to trust each other and value honesty. If you forget your laptop in a library or lose your phone on the train, tram or bus, you can be quite confident you'll get it back. Kids also often take a public bus home from school or they go to school on foot or play outside without supervision. This is because we are still considered a safe country. I suggest you and your fellow citizens to think about how they can support their community. How could you bring about and create more trust? How could you support policies that build upon that trust? Small acts like opening doors for strangers or giving up a seat on the bus make a difference, too," concluded Dr Martela.

Martela and Vella are planning to organise a seminar in Malta later on this year on Martela's publication and research. More details will be provided in the coming weeks.


Dr Frank Martela is a philosopher and psychology researcher who studies the fundamentals of happiness. He is also a lecturer at Aalto University in Finland and the author of 'A Wonderful Life: Insights on Finding a Meaningful Existence'


Dr Kenneth Vella is the Ambassador of Malta to Estonia and Finland and head of Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School Paola. He has been collaborating with Finnish entities for over 15 years facilitating the organisation of conferences on Finnish pedagogy in Malta and training of Maltese educators in the Finnish cities of Tampere and Helsinki

  • don't miss