Lagom is a huge part of the culture in Sweden. It means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.
Lagom (pronounced “lar-gohm”) is probably why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world, with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living. Lagom is a huge part of the culture in Sweden. It means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.”
This single word encapsulates the entire Swedish socially democratic philosophy on life: that everyone should have enough but not too much.At the office, professionals who work hard — but not to the detriment of other parts of their lives — are following the lagom ideal.
Rather than burning yourself out with a 60-hour working week and then getting stressed, lagom encourages balance and living somewhere in the middle.
Other features include frugality, stress reduction, striking the perfect balance between work and play and focusing on environmental concerns and sustainability. The archetypical Swedish proverb, “Lagom är bäst”, literally means, “The right amount is best” but is also translated as “Enough is as good as a feast” and “There is virtue in moderation”. You are probably exercising lagom is many aspects of your life already.
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 — don’t obsess about it. The philosophy of lagom is beautifully simple and offers an alternative to the idea of ‘always seeking the next best thing. The concept encourages an overarching balance across our lives: everything in moderation.
It’s the opposite of materialism and consumerism.
Anna Brones writes in her new book, Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way, “Applying a sense of lagom to our everyday lives – in what we eat, what we wear, how we live, how we work – might just be the trick for embracing a more balanced, sustainable lifestyle that welcomes the pleasures of existence rather than those of consumption.”
Master the art of moderation
Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance. ~Epicurus
The key to experiencing greater fulfilment and pleasure is actually moderation. It’s about having only what you need. “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide, says Marcus Tillius Cicero.
In a busy world where we now have access to almost anything at any time, Lagom presents a simple and balanced way to live and work without missing out on anything.
Chef and author Bronte Aurell who runs a Scandinavian Kitchen in London’s Fitzrovia says, “Lagom is very important to the Scandi psyche.” In an interview, published in the telegraph, Aurell said, “There is balance and moderation in everything we do in Scandinavia — from our working hours to how many slices of cake we eat in one sitting. How much milk we take in our coffee, to the portion sizes of our dinner.” Lagom is the new minimalism for anyone with the desire to live with fewer material possessions but aim to enjoy a fuller life. But lagom goes far beyond embracing minimalism. In fact, it can teach us valuable lessons about how to live a happier life.
Niki Brantmark, autor of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, argues, “In an age when we’re leading increasingly busy lives and feel connected 24/7 I think we should channel the Swedes, slow down and take more time out to relax. This might be enjoying fikas with colleagues, friends or family, it might be taking a decent lunchbreak to relax and prepare for the afternoon, using the weekend to head out for a day to the forest, beach or local park or enjoying an analogue activity like baking, reading, or crafting.”
Pursuing a more lagom style of happiness is preferable in many ways.
Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at James Madison University writes in Psychology Today:
For a happier, more balanced life, start by asking yourself, “Is this lagom?” Ask it when you look inside your crowded closet, or as you consider your relationship with your work. Ask it when a massive portion of food is placed before you, or as you consider that second bowl of ice cream. Ask it about your life in general. Amid the more typical American life questions, like “Am I joyful?” and “Can I do better?” add in these much more reasonable questions: “Am I content?” “Is this good enough?”
If you can find that balance between work and your personal life — giving yourself time to do the things you love — in the long run, you find that balance. If you finish work on time, you give yourself more time for family and your relationships. Give yourself more personal time to do the things you love, you will become healthier and happier in the process.
Find ‘lagom’ by keeping track of your spending, upcycling furniture, consciously reducing your environmental impact on the world, taking purposeful breaks from work, spending quality time with family and friends, focusing on what is essential, and knowing when to stop.