The Nordic countries seem to have a few secrets up their sleeves when it comes to living a happy, content life. The Dutch have hygge, the Norwegians have koselig and as for the Swedes? They have lagom.
Pronounced “lah-gom”, lagom is a Swedish way of living that translates to “not too little, not too much” or “just right”. But lagom is more than just a Goldilocks attitude or perfectly portioning your food. To live lagom is to live balanced, slow and sustainably.
The Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst”, meaning “The right amount is best”, is underscored by the concept of slow living, where sustainability, mindfulness and purposeful actions pave the way to a content, joyful life. As Niki Brantmark, author of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, writes: “By deliberately seeking a more manageable, comfortable, balanced way of doing things (and finding perfection in imperfection), you’re not just taking the pressure off yourself — you’re taking the pressure off others, too. And you’re gaining more of today’s most precious resource: time.”
Lagom happens to be one of those terms that answers all of life’s questions: How are you? Lagom; What’s the weather like today? Lagom; or perhaps you’re looking for a lagom work–life balance. Think of lagom as the ultimate antidote to the chaos and clutter of modern life; the key to growth and new beginnings.
Creating a “lagomist” world
The pandemic has shifted every aspect of life as we knew it, from the economy to work to life in the home. As many of us search for our new “normal”, we are seeking a more mindful approach to the everyday. As a global community, we lack a sense of lagom and are instead driven by excessive consumption and a biggeris-better attitude. As Swedish activist and climate change warrior Greta Thunberg said, “We are in the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” Society as we know it does not understand the concept of just enough.
Our world is one of an excess that is hard to comprehend. We live in a world of 7.67 billion people; we gaze at billions of stars in the sky each night; we applaud and reward the billionaires who have more wealth than 60 per cent of the population — all without being able to cognitively understand what one billion even looks like. To put this into perspective, one million seconds is 11 days; one billion seconds is 32 years.
This lifestyle is the antithesis of a lagom mindset: having so much of something you cannot even fathom it. Economic stability is necessary for the world to function and for us to live our everyday lives, but this post-pandemic era is the perfect time to re-evaluate our goals and idea of prosperity. As we rebuild economies across the globe, we should do so with new models that prioritise areas we want to thrive in. One such example of this is measuring national prosperity not by looking at GDP, but by measuring happiness.
The World Happiness Report was launched by the UN in 2012 and has since seen countries such as New Zealand prioritise national wellbeing through investing in mental health, easing financial hardships, better healthcare and sustainable land-use packages. It is the perfect example of lagom in action on a larger scale, turning away from material things and towards complete equilibrium. And it should come as no surprise that the top six happiest countries — Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Sweden, respectively — have mastered the Scandi art of contentment and balance.
Lagom your life
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