Lagom: the new hygge
In 2017, look to Sweden (and Goldilocks) for your new fast-track to true happiness
Even too much hygge can be a bad thing. Discover balance, Nordic-style
LLast year saw us all embrace hygge with teen-at-a-bieber-show enthusiasm. The wellbeing approach – centred on cosiness and cake – caught on lightningfast, cementing Nordic nations as the go-to spots for happy living. So, what’s the Scandi-inspired trend for 2017? That’d be lagom (law-gom), the Swedish concept for a mindset that encourages you to relish that cake, but not every single day; to talk, but also embrace comfortable silences; to decorate your unit, but not go OTT. In short, to strike balance in your life. “I translate it as ‘Not too much, not too little, just right’,” says Anna Brones, the Swedish-american author of Live Lagom: Balanced Living, The Swedish
Way. Seems Goldilocks was onto something, then. “Take the US, which isn’t a moderate culture in a lot of ways – the food is big and the personalities are big – and I think, for a Swede, it just feels a bit too much. That sense of lagom is about the middle ground.”
Lola A. Åkerström, author of Lagom: The Swedish Secret Of Living
Well, prefers to define lagom as ‘optimal’ rather than ‘everything in moderation’. “It means that whatever decision you make is the very best for you or the group,” she explains. “‘Moderation’ has more negative connotations like middleof-the-road, mediocre or austere, whereas looking at lagom as ‘optimal’ carries a more holistic view of the choices we make in our lives.”
Aiming for that lagom-inspired middle ground has major wellbeing-boosting potential. Rather than
going to excess, we’re able to find our happy place in what we already have. “I have a friend who calls it ‘healthy hedonism’,” says Brones. “For example, it’s pretty uncommon to find a Swedish person who’ll have a glass of wine with dinner on a weekday, but they’ll certainly have an enormous dinner party on the weekend. You live with a little bit of restraint but also allow yourself to let loose and you don’t feel bad about it. You appreciate the moment and find genuine enjoyment in that.”
Åkerström adds that a lagom mindset is about taking care of what you value – and this includes nixing the unnecessary. “When it comes to decor, lagom morphs into a ‘less is more’ ethos that pares things down to either functional items or ones with sentimental value. Those are the things to take care of and everything else can be considered excess.” The same, she explains, can be said for relationships, where you prioritise a close-knit squad.
The place to start? Actually ask yourself what’s important to you. “Usually the answer is about family or something like spending time in nature or pursuing a creative thing that fulfils us,” says Brones. “If we ask ourselves these questions, we realise we live a life of luxury in comparison to a large part of the global population. Be aware of that fact and ultimately know we’re all part of a larger community. The Swedish model is very much about fostering the common good.”
Heart of it
Let’s be clear: Swedes don’t all live this way and the country has issues like any other, so Brones is keen not to over-romanticise their way of doing things. Ultimately, she points out, living a more balanced, lagom life comes down to things that we already know are good for us: simplifying, slowing down and being truly present.
“I think these are things we’re all working on, all the time, and it can be difficult putting them into practice. But for me, the takeaway is thinking less about what you don’t have – whether it’s food or whatever – and more about how to appreciate what you do have, and being mindful of that.” And if that means we still get to have our cake and eat it, too, then we’re all for it.