Lonely Planet Writer

Need a mood lift? Try visiting the happiest countries on Earth

If you’re looking for a mood lift and a change of scenery, travellers should consider visiting the Nordic countries, a new survey reveals.

Man soaking in natural hot spring surrounded by nature in Iceland...and looking pretty happy about it.
Man soaking in natural hot spring surrounded by nature in Iceland…and looking pretty happy about it. Image by Sam Spicer/Getty Images

March 20 is the UN’s International Day of Happiness and to mark the occasion, the World Happiness Report is released every year since 2012. Since the survey began, the Nordics have consistently ranked highly and this year they take the top three spots, as well as a respectable fifth and tenth out of 155 countries.

Here are 2017’s happiest countries:

1. Norway

2. Denmark

3. Iceland

4. Switzerland

5. Finland

6. Netherlands

7. Canada

8. New Zealand

9. Australia

10. Sweden

Statistically, these women swimming in icy water in Norway are among the happiest people on earth.
Statistically, these women swimming in icy water in Norway are among the happiest people on earth. Image by Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

With a strong showing by traditionally cold climates, this is perhaps proof that you don’t need a lot of vitamin D to keep a smile on your face.

Israel is the first country in the Middle East to rank at number eleven, while Singapore is the happiest Asian country, coming in 26th overall. Costa Rica flies the flag for Central America at number 12 while people in Chile are ranked the happiest in South America, coming in 20th overall.

Denmark came second in the happiest countries on Earth
Even cycling can bring on happiness in Denmark. Image by Robin Skjoldborg/Getty Images

While there is little change in the happiest countries on earth from last year, there have been some big gains in other countries. Nicaragua saw the biggest jump in happiness, closely followed by Latvia and Sierra Leone.

The global index of the world’s happiest countries gets their findings by asking participants to rank how good their current life is, out of a scale of one-ten. As a way of understanding why people consider themselves happy or unhappy, they also measure social support, GDP per capita, life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and corruption within the country.

Finland is the top 5 of happiest countries on earth.
Finland is the top 5 of happiest countries on earth. Image by James Bedford/Lonely Planet

“Happiness is increasingly considered the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy”, the authors of the report say. The head of the UN Development Program recently called for more attention to be paid to happiness levels, saying it should be “part of our efforts to achieve both human and sustainable development.”