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Ask The Expert: Sisu, the Finnish art of inner strength

Ask The Expert: Sisu, the Finnish art of inner strength

Dr Emilia Elisabet Lahti is a Finnish educator specialising in sisu, the Finnish art of building inner strength and resilience in the face of life's challenges

What is sisu?

It’s an inner fortitude we can develop that will not let us perish or give up in the face of adversity. It’s a personal reserve of energy that helps us push through hardships and carry on.

How did you become an expert in sisu?

My journey to researching sisu started when I was going through a difficult time personally. I wanted to know how humans overcome extreme adversity and what life force carries us. I did a PhD on the topic, which included challenging myself to run and cycle over 1,491 miles across New Zealand.

How can it help people?

Sisu helps woman build inner strengthSisu helps people build inner reserves to draw from during challenging times

When we think we have come to the end of our mental and physical resources, we can access our personal reserve of energy to help us cope with illness, anxiety, personal and other problems.

It helps us push through “the wall” and gives us courage to follow an impossible dream, find hope when there seems to be none, manage when we have to deal with sick kids or a spouse and still get up early to perform at work.

How should people get started?

Own the fact that you do have hidden reserves. Then commit to small daily practices that allow you to get constructively uncomfortable with hard things so that when life does get tough, you are prepared.

What tips can you give for developing sisu?

Man running using sisu techniqueSet yourself a demanding challenge to start practising sisu

Firstly, in a quiet moment note down something in your life that felt impossible and what helped you. This will help you see you have the strength.

Secondly, think of a challenge and set a plan for when and how you will move towards it. It might be signing up for a running event, going cold-water swimming, or having the tough conversation you’ve been putting off.

Challenge a friend to move towards their own sisu with you.

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