The Scandinavian Secret to Happiness

Relaxing in a sauna is a way to let go of stress.

Relaxing in a Finnish sauna.

(Billion Photos /

The Finnish people are known as being some of the most relaxed, easy-going people you could meet. In fact, Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the fifth year in a row, according to the World Happiness Report. Could this be down to the fact that Finnish citizens use saunas more than any other country? 

The world’s happiest country
The report identified that a sense of harmony and balance among citizens was one of the key reasons for the high levels of happiness in Finland, with some 90 percent of survey respondents agreeing that their life is in balance.

It’s likely that the sauna is one of the reasons for this national sense of balance. There are approximately 3.3 million saunas in Finland, according to Travel + Leisure. For a nation of just 5.5 million people, this means that there are only 40 percent more people than there are saunas! 

While a sauna is defined as a steam bath where water is thrown on hot stones, it has evolved to so much more. There are three types, the traditional smoke, wood, and electric.

There are saunas in homes, conference rooms, and even one on a ferris wheel. Saunas are such an integral part of Finnish culture that in 2020 it was added to UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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The tradition of restoring life force
The sauna is the ultimate representation of self care, enabling people to let go of their day-to-day stress for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, to dedicate time to simply existing in their bodies. For many Finns, the sauna is a spiritual experience. 

According to a UNESCO report, saunas are considered sacred spaces in Finnish tradition. The heart of the experience is löyly, the spirit or steam released by casting water onto a stack of heated stones.

Löyly is what makes the Finnish sauna experience so powerful. According to Finnish ancient folklore, löyly has a deeper aspect. It’s representative of the component of the soul that is related to the body, or the person’s life force. It’s thought that the löyly in a sauna contains spiritually restorative qualities, helping people to let go of any negative spiritual influences and reconnecting their souls.

Sweating out stress
It’s not just the soul that appreciates the sauna, but it’s good for the physical body, too, according to Medical News Today. Saunas may improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and could reduce some of the symptoms of asthma

One of the biggest benefits to the sauna is its ability to reduce stress levels and promote feelings of well-being. The relaxative properties of the steam in the sauna encourages your body to produce serotonin, which is known as the happy hormone. 

This stress reduction could be the key to the link between saunas and happiness. So take a moment out of your busy day to prioritize going to a sauna, sweating out your stress, and relaxing like a Finn.

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