New Data Reveals The Happiest Country In The World For People Under 30

Folks under 30 in Lithuania are the happiest young people in the world, according to the World Happiness Report.

Each year, the World Happiness Report releases an annual ranking of the happiest countries in the world. For the seventh year in a row, Finland earned the top spot overall.

But for people under 30, the top ranking went to Lithuania.

“I think that it can be surprising,” said Junona Almonaitienė, an associate professor in the health psychology department at Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. “When you look from the United States, … it’s somewhere near Russia,” an area that is often linked to danger, she said.

“Lithuania regained its independence not so long ago — it was in 1990,” said Antanas Kairys, an associate professor in the department of general psychology at Vilnius University. “That means that young people under 30 have spent their life entirely in independent Lithuania while other age groups … experienced the harsh reality of [the] Soviet Union.”

Since then, Lithuania’s economy has improved along with its national relations — the country joined NATO and became a European Union member in 2004. “Lithuania had a really strong transformation of its economy and society, and I think the main factor of this happiness is that Lithuania is … strong, safe and a modern democracy,” Kairys said.

But other aspects of the country’s culture and norms help fuel happiness in young people. Below, experts outline a few:

People feel a sense of opportunity.

According to Kairys, Lithuania’s economic growth not only means young people have more money overall, but it creates future opportunities for them.

“That means that they have they have opportunity of education, of travel, of choosing leisure activities, and, actually, if you look at the capital of Lithuania — Vilnius — you see young people everywhere and they are doing what they like to do,” Kairys said.

Another major door-opener is education, which allows Lithuanians to learn new skills and enter different careers. “We have really high level of people with a university degree or college degree,” Kairys said.

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Folks under 30 in Lithuania are the happiest young people in the world, according to the World Happiness Report.

They prioritize time with family and loved ones.

“Family ties are still very strong in our country,” Almonaitienė said. In fact, many young people live with their parents. If they work or go to school in a different part of the country, Lithuania is small enough for them to still easily visit their hometown.

Additionally, older Lithuanians are known to protect their children, said Almonaitienė. “It’s kind of insurance — young people always know that economically, they also can rely on their parents,” she said.

It’s well-established that social connections are key to well-being, so it’s no surprise that familial connections aid in young peoples’ happiness.

Kairys said if you are missing social connections in your life, start by joining a volunteer group or picking up a hobby you can do with others. This is one way to meet people and foster meaningful relationships.

“If we are talking about people who have a lot of social connection, then probably we should think about deepness of connection, because not the quantity, [but the] quality matters,” Kairys said.

Gregory Sullivan, the program director of the Positive Coaching and Athletic Leadership master’s program at the University of Missouri, previously explained this kind of connection as a “3 a.m. friend,” meaning someone you can call for help or advice in the middle of the night.

They have gratitude for their current circumstances.

Comparison is often known as the thief of joy. Think about it: When you’re scrolling social media and see a seemingly-perfect family in a giant house you probably side eye your smaller, messier home. But in the case of young people in Lithuania, Kairys said comparison may actually be bolstering their joy.

“I think that I should mention that we have something to compare with … historically … youth can compare their own experience with experiences of parents or grandparents,” he said, adding that young peoples’ parents and grandparents had to endure a problematic and difficult time with the Soviet Union.

“And also, we have some neighbor countries in which there is much less freedom and opportunities, and this also creates a possibility to compare with and to feel that we are living quite well,” Kairys said.

While the United States has not been through recent history that resembles the hard times Lithuania faced, you could lean on gratitude in your own life. This could mean being proud of yourself for your work achievements when you think about a previous job where you felt stuck. Or it could mean feeling happy about the progress you’ve made after a divorce when compared to the less fulfilling life you were living years ago.

They live in the moment.

With neighboring countries that often deal with conflict and unrest, feeling grateful for the upward trajectory of the country is only natural. But it also helps people appreciate what they have and encourages them to do the most with it while they can.

“There are also sociological surveys which show that many people here in Lithuania feel stressed because of war because the they are afraid of possible invasion,” Almonaitienė said. “But what they usually do, they try to live their life just now … not to delay good things for future.”

While it’s easy to think you’ll take that dream trip eventually or learn that new hobby in the future, allowing yourself to do those things now can help you feel more joyful.

Happiness won’t just appear out of thin air, it has to be cultivated — and some of the factors that help people feel good are not in your control.

It’s not so much that Lithuanian young people are doing something radically different from other young people across the world, but it’s the growth, independence and possibilities that exist within the country that give them the space to feel good, according to Kairys. How good can you really feel if you’re dealing with an unsupportive government and constant conflict?

Additionally, Kairys said there are certainly people in Lithuania who are unhappy or who are dealing with mental health challenges, so this doesn’t mean the entire country is jovial.

When it comes to happiness, Kairys said it’s important to control what you can and manage the things that are harder to control. For example, while you can’t control your personality traits, such as whether you are more easily stressed than the average person. But you can practice meditation and mindfulness to calm down. “There are factors you cannot change and there are some factors you can change with some effort or with a lot of work,” he said.

Sleep, a nutritious diet and exercise are important, too (along with social connections, as mentioned above), Kairys added.

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