Happiness Is…

Happy, happy Iceland!

Ice fields, volcanic eruptions, lava flows and whole months of the year filled with complete darkness. With all of these elements making up the the island nation that is Iceland, you wouldn’t think it’s inhabitants would be particularly happy, but Iceland consistently ranks within the top 10 of the happiest countries in the world, most often in one of the very top spots.



So what is it about this isloated little land, scattered with active volcanoes, vast and sprawling glaciers and the violent geological activities to match, that makes its inhabitants so happy? Despite the tumultuous and ever-changing weather, the erupting volcanoes spewing lava and ash, and the vast expanses of daunting nature across the country, Icelanders are still some of the happiest and healthiest people in the world.
Lets have a look and see just what it is about this unique Island Nation that breeds such unwavering happiness!


Anyone who has been to Iceland knows that it is one of the most welcoming nations in the world. The people are kind, genuine, friendly and incredibly helpful. Even as a visitor, one gets the sense of belonging to a community when in Iceland, you won’t find yourself lost for too long before someone stops to give you a helping hand. While there are many different factors that contribute to happiness, and yes, the definition of the word itself is very subjective, there is no denying that it is just about impossible to feel comfort and safety when another person shows generosity. The strong sense of community and willingness to support ones fellow countrymen is arguably the strongest contributing factor to the overall happiness of a country, and in Iceland, the sense of community and generosity and kindness towards your fellow man is simply undeniable.


The world happiness report, which is a measure of happiness by country, published by the Sustainable Developments Solutions Network, a department within the United Nations, which is conducted once a year, evaluates countries based on several factors and elements to determine their overall happiness.
There are 6 main variables that account for 3/4ths of overall happiness scores:
  • GDP per capita
  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Having someone to count on
  • Perceived freedom to make life choices
  • Freedom from corruption AND
Beginning with GDP per capita; we all know that money is certainly not the only factor in what determines happiness, but it is also true to say that having enough money to upkeep human needs and comfort is essential to happiness. There is no great difference in happiness between an individual who earns $50,000 a year and one who earns $6 million, but the level of happiness between someone who earns $50,000 and someone who earns $15,000 a year is significant. But GDP in relation to happiness with regards to the Icelandic economy is about more than the average, which puts Iceland at #17 in the world, not too bad for such a small country, and even more impressive considering the massive financial setback Iceland faced not all that long ago.
The Northern Lights are seen above the ash plume of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in the evening April 22, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (ICELAND - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)   FOR BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE: ALSO SEE GM1E7BR1LRV01 - RTR2D5FN


The events of 2008-2011 in Iceland were considered to be one of the most significant financial crises in history. The economy grew incredibly quickly, the citizens gaining masses of earnings per capita, and seemingly just as quickly, it disappeared. Following this tragedy, the island nation made some massive changes.They pulled themselves out of this devastating economic dark place and watched their salaries rise, their national debt fall, and the economy completely turn around as a result of their hard work and the changes they made to their laws.
Which brings us to another important factor that determines happiness within a country; Freedom from corruption.
Following this massive tragedy, the people of Iceland put in place many changes in order to strengthen their economy and prevent it from falling victim to further tragedy. A professor of economics at the University of Iceland, Thorvaldur Gylfason stated in 2008:
“We need to ensure that the sort of malpractice and negligence that…led to the collapse of the Icelandic economy 2 years ago cannot happen again” (via The Guardian) .
In 2010, it was decided that an assembly should be formed to rewrite the constitution to prevent such an implosion from happening again. Like a true democracy, the new assembly was formed from a randomly selected group of 1000 Icelanders, who would all offer their opinion of what should be put into the new constitution.
The individuals who make up the community of this country came together to form a new set of rules that would work towards creating a new system that works towards everyone’s greater good, not just one person.


Not every nation is even a fraction of this lucky to have a government that recognizes and punishes its own flaws. Clearly it is one of the many reasons that make Iceland so unique.
Prime Minister in 2010, Johanna Sigurdardottir said:
 “We are hoping this new constitution will be a new social covenant leading to reconstruction and reconciliation, and for that to happen, the entire nation needs to be involved” (Via The Guardian)
So there you have it, in the face of one massive crisis, freedom from corruption, having someone to count on AND a strong show of community and generosity all in one.
Clearly Iceland has found the key to facing their challenges and emerging as a healthier and stronger community overall!


Another key factor in explaining what makes Iceland such a happy country is their healthy life expectancy.
Healthcare in Iceland is universal, which means that it’s covered for every single individual. Having access to good healthcare with no exceptions is a strong determining factor in a nation’s happiness.
Universal access to healthcare and medical professionals means that not only are citizens healthier overall, but also that sick individuals need not be faced with the burden and stress of having to pay for their medical treatment when they are ailing. Illness is a burden enough itself, without having to be concerned with how it will be paid for.
Not only do all Icelander’s have access to healthcare, but there are endless health benefits from inhabiting one of the strangest geological formations on earth.


Icelanders swear by the benefits of the natural hot springs that cover the country. There are many residents who would credit the long life expectancy and longevity of the citizens to this magical water. Bathing in, drinking and using the purest glacial waters on Earth is certainly one of the keys to a long, healthy and indeed very happy life.
The cleansing process of alternating time in a steam room with periods of cooling off, or relaxing in mineral rich nourishing waters, purifies both the body and mind. Leaving an undeniable sense of tranquility and happiness.


Iceland has clearly managed to make incredible strides in building an even healthier economy for its already very healthy citizens, eliminating corruption and creating a stronger sense of democracy in the process, factors that are guaranteed to contribute significantly to happiness overall. But it is plain to see really what it is that makes this isolated northern nation such a happy little one, and that is the incredible sense of community and strong social bonds between the citizens.
A trust amongst one another, unspoken and strong enough for mothers to leave their children peacefully outside while they step into a shop or to grab coffee. A bond formed through months of cold and literal complete darkness, social connectedness and strong relationships are highly prevalent in Iceland, and undoubtedly the most significant factor in what makes this unique little nation, so very special, and yes, so incredibly happy!


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