6 Ways to Bring a Little Lagom Into Your Life
This Scandinavian philosophy can help you have more balance and less stress, Swede-style. Consider it the new hygge.
The latest lifestyle trend from our friends in northern Europe is lagom, a Swedish concept of living a better life by living with just enough. While hygge, the Danish phenom of 2016, embraced coziness as the path to a better life, lagom, pronounced, "Lar-guhm," is about living a slower, more balanced life that has far less stress than we Americans are used to. Lagom translates to “not too little, not too much,” or, “just right.” It’s about putting relationships over possessions, listening more than talking, and living in the moment and paying close attention to what’s going on around you.
So why are we taking advice from Sweden? Because it’s a regular on most top 10 lists of the world’s happiest countries.
Niki Brantmark, a Londoner who moved to Sweden more than a decade ago and fell in love with all things Scandinavian, wrote the book on this way of life that embraces simplicity and slowness. In “Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life,” she gives tips on ways you can put a little Nordic zen into your life. Here are a few of them:
Go Into Nature, Alone
Nothing makes you feel the power of nature like experiencing it by yourself. You can hear the wind in the trees, animals in the forest and feel the power of the wild, with no human voices to push it into the background. Take a day-long hike by yourself. Spend a day kayaking on a river. Walk on the beach for a couple of hours. Or, if you’re brave, camp alone overnight in the woods. Do not spend the day with your earbuds on, listening to an audiobook. Listen to the world.
Grow a Plant That’s a Memory
Take a cutting or division from a plant that belongs to a friend or loved one. Grow it, and you’ve got a leafy reminder of them. “Our most treasured plant started life as a cutting from one of my grandfather-in-law’s shrubs,” Brantmark writes. “Sadly, he’s long since gone, but the plant lives on in his memory.”
Take a Morning Dip
Many Swedes go down to their corner dock first thing in the morning and jump in the lake. Or river. Or sea. It’s called a morgondopp, which means, “morning dip.” And yes, the water and air in Sweden is cold, even though this is generally a spring/summer routine. Swedes do this before their morning coffee to make them feel “awake and ready for the day ahead,” Brantmark says. It’s about being one with the water, feeling the cold and being warmed by the sun afterwards. If you don’t live near chilly water where you can take an al fresco dip, end your morning shower with a blast of cold water. The Swedes are onto something, because there’s science to support the benefits of a blast of cold water: A 2008 study at Virginia Commonwealth University found cold showers once or twice a day can have anti-depressant effects.
Make a Capsule Wardrobe
You knew there was going to be a tip where we tell you to get rid of some of your stuff. In this case, clean out your closet. We’re not talking full-on Swedish death cleaning, because that misses the entire point of lagom. We’re talking just editing your wardrobe. Give the trendy items to a charity, and create a minimalist wardrobe with a small number of versatile items that can be mixed and matched. You’ll spend less time shopping for and paying for clothes. You won’t waste valuable time and brain cells sorting through racks of clothes and picking out an outfit each morning. Which means you’ll have more time for your soul-awakening morgondopp.
Do Something Nice for a Stranger
Make the world around you a little better by doing random acts of kindness. Leave a nice note in your mailbox to thank the mailman. Compliment a passerby. Offer to buy a stranger's coffee. Write a letter or card (no emails) to a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Brantmark says there’s a Swedish proverb that says, “One must learn to make others happy if one wants to be happy.” Science says this too. Studies have found cooperating and lending support to others gives us pleasure.
Brantmark says Swedes “rarely do extracurricular activities.” She advises letting your children be bored and not organizing their days so they’ll be forced to come up with ways to entertain themselves. The same goes for you. Leave yourself some unscheduled, empty time. Put down your smart phone, and stare into space. Quiet time is good for you.