If there is one word that describes our modern lives, it is excess. From the very beginning we are often encouraged by the “go big or go home” mentality. We strive to be the very best version of ourselves, the version that looks good to the outside world. No matter how beautiful things look online, more and more people are stressed and burned-out, going from one task to another and juggling through never-ending to-do lists. This all comes at a social cost not to mention the environmental one. We live larger and larger – our appetites and quantities in which we buy new things grow, but the happiness levels are not increasing as expected.
"we are content with what we have."
In that fast-paced world, wouldn’t it be wonderful to slow down and enjoy life with less pressure not only during vacations but as a lifestyle in general? It seems like there is a whole country, which has achieved that state! That country is Sweden. Sweden consistently ranks top ten in the happiest countries of the world list, with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living. And one of the main reasons for that is the Swedish philosophy of “Lagom”.
“Lagom translates as “not too little and not too much” and it means having just the right amount of everything. The moderate choice between two extremes”.
In Sweden, Lagom is applied to almost every aspect of the life. Lagom food, lagom drinks, lagom working hours…the idea that the balanced amount of everything leads to not only a just and equal society, but a true balanced life.
“The philosophy of lagom is beautifully simple, and offers an alternative to always seeking the new best thing”.
For Swedes, lagom is a lifestyle, a habit of mind.
“There’s an internal mindset of acceptance and contentment in Sweden. That’s part of the secret to being happy”. “How are you?” can be answered with lagom. “How is the weather?” “Lagom”. Someone can be a “lagom” height.
This term not only has many applications but it represents the Swedish cultural and social ideals of equality and fairness. How does lagom apply to different aspects of life? The good news is that we don’t have to be Swedish to understand and perhaps live the concept!
Lagom at Work
As we know, Sweden is a country of many work benefits with extensive social support system. Sweden is known for its shorter working hours, which is one of the lowest rates amongst western countries. This limits the negative effects, such as personal health and stress levels.
People in Sweden believe that putting in overtime means that you aren’t working efficiently enough during your regular working hours. We usually see working long hours as a proof of commitment and dedication to both the work and our personal career goals. We think that if we’re not working too much- we are not working enough. Instead of perfection, a lagom lifestyle is about finding balance in being “good enough” where we can allow ourselves to enjoy satisfaction in a job, combined with enough free time for private lives. Swedes believe that concentration is the key. It is about the quality of the work that creates the balance.
“To have it all is a myth. But to have what we want in a moderate amount can be achievable if we let go of our expectations and self-judgments”
Lagom at Home
There’s a Swedish proverb that says:
“Away is good, but home is best”.
Creating a space that you love allows for a sense of balance within your home and that encourages you to be content in the now. When we live in a space that we love, one that is in balance with our personality and needs, we are also less likely to be searching for more “things” to make it better, we are content with what we have. Swedes believe that a good design can improve lives. Their houses are light, with a wood and natural materials-aesthetics that is appealing and inexpensive and most importantly- long lasting. Lagom way of decorating is choosing quality over quantity with a cultivated awareness for a good craftsmanship. According to the experts, lagom is much more than a way in which home looks.
Things should either have a functional value or a deeply sentimental value and anything that falls outside of those categories is considered an excess. It is less about the style of decorating, than the overall feel of your home.
Lagom for Health
In Sweden, people believe in prioritizing fighting stress first, so they can be more productive long term! They do this by taking regular breaks to recharge, and taking care of themselves with regular exercise. This doesn’t have to be excessive as that’s not lagom either. Fighting stress before it starts means that you don’t wait until you are sick to take a day off, by taking regular breaks to have a work-life balance. Taking time to really relax, recharge and rejuvenate and it will allow you to be more consistently productive, efficient in work and happier in life.
Lagom and Nature
The Swedish weather is pretty extreme; however there is a deep respect for its beauty in the Swedish culture. Sometimes we are too engaged in the fast-tempo urban style that we forget to simmer down and see all the beautiful things around us! Swedish citizens have realized that problem, so they decided to get closer to nature. Every week, most Swedish families will head to the forest, with no Wi-Fi, TV, electronic devices or urban noises or distractions, but a sheer nature, the awestruck sky and the simplest life in a primal cabin. This is a perfect lagom weekend.
"Lagom" is both a mental and physical state of being. It is all about moderation, meaning less about focusing on the things that we don’t have and instead appreciating what we do have. It’s a celebration of a balanced way of living. There is certainly a lot to learn from the Nordic country and its philosophy.
"The good news is that we don’t have to be Swedish to understand and perhaps live the concept!"