We live in a time where we are expected to wear multiple hats and be successful in each of the roles we play in life. We live in excess, in a consumption culture, extracting so much from ourselves and our planet. We've created unrealistic expectations and as a result burn-out from juggling family, work and personal life. Sweden consistently sits in the top ten countries in the World Happiness Report, and may just have the antidote to a balanced life - Lagom.
What Is Lagom?
Lagom is the Swedish philosophy that translates to being content with "not too much, and not too little". It is believed to stem from the Viking period when Swedes would eat or drink from the same bowl. When the bowl was passed around the group, they would only take enough for themselves, allowing everyone else to get their fair share - not too much, not too little. This is the act of being mindful of your surrounding - thinking about the group versus the individual, being nice to people and being aware of everything around you. Its about doing things in balance, and in moderation.
Lagom celebrates the concept of living, having and doing just enough, which is the quintessential space between minimalism and living in excess. Lagom is a lifestyle centered around being intentional, purposeful and living better with less. Its finding balance in your life without denying anything at all, and the idea that we, as a society, will thrive with a balanced amount of everything. Lagom recognizes that if you better distribute resources, including yourself, there will be more left later.
A Lagom Lifestyle
We've created unattainable standards where we pressure ourselves to be the best at everything - our jobs, being a partner and/ or parent, being financially stable, healthy and in shape, all while we are encouraged to travel more, do more, live a life that is 'instagrammable', wear clothes that are on trend, and always be doing exciting things. This is exhausting and has overworked us and our planet. We are living in turbulent times with COVID-19, climate change and extreme racial injustice, which has had a drastic impact on our mental and physical health, pushing us to the limit. There are many ways to adopt a lagom lifestyle - for our health, home, environment and work, which can help us be better balanced human beings.
Lagom encourages you to structure your life more intentionally, allowing yourself to be more productive and in better health. With a consumption led culture, we absorb so much from social media to news outlets, which has made us develop a need-to-know-everything-at-all-times mindset - this comes with a cost, making us feel bad and makes us question ourselves. Lagom teaches us to consume in moderation, with boundaries, removing all non essential things mentally and physically. It acknowledges that mental health affects physical health, which makes us less productive, holding us back from simply being. Lagom promotes self-care, taking plenty of breaks and giving yourself time in order to function better. Ways you can incorporate lagom in your health are:-
- consume news and social media in moderation
- set boundaries on the content you consume
- focus on what you have and not what you don't have
- being content in the present
- take regular breaks
- purposely schedule time for exercise, self-care, hobbies, coffee, movies, etc
- avoid fad dieting and unrealistic body expectations, eat healthy, in moderation and sustainably
A Scandinavian home is the essence of lagom - purposeful and intentional. Creating a home you love encourages you to be content in the present. The Swedes believe good design can improve your physical and mental wellbeing. That is why many Scandinavian homes have a clean aesthetic using muted colors, filled with light. Everything in your home should serve a purpose, adding functional value or holding sentimental value. Anything outside of that is not necessary and is a burden. We live in a 'throw-away' culture where we constantly replace items in our home and wardrobe, having a huge environmental cost to our planet. With the increase in cheap labour and lower environmental standards, trends come in thick and fast, and consumption is glorified while the planet suffers. Lagom encourages us to buy quality craftsmanship that may come with a higher price tag but is long lasting and made of natural, sustainable materials. This applies to your wardrobe and home furnishing:-
- buy quality over quantity and chose where you spend your money wisely
- create a timeless wardrobe that is simple and sustainable
- reduce, recycle and reuse
- upcycle or source secondhand pieces
- make sustainable choices when it comes to energy, clothes, and homeware
Work - life balance is something we all try to master, but sometimes fail. Personal health and relationships are often compromised in the quest to be successful at work. Work culture has made us feel we need to work overtime to be recognized for our efforts, striving for perfection. Incorporating lagom at work means instead of shooting for perfection, finding the balance in accepting a completed job is a job well done. Lagom means setting yourself free of high expectations and being content with the attainable outcome. Lagom is about being efficient in your job and creating ways to work better, not longer. The concept of quality versus quantity applies here too. Lagom encourages you to reduce multitasking and give your best at one task at a time. Lagom in relation to work also means taking enough breaks and practicing the Swedish concept of fika. When you take breaks, you clear your mind to be more productive after, and this prevents stress and negative impact on your mental and physical health. Lagom encourages you to take all your owed vacation and invest time in yourself. One method I have adopted since learning lagom is the Pomodoro Tecnhique where you work in intervals of twenty-five minutes with a five minute break to help with time management. A good tool to use for this is the tomato-timer. Other ways to life a lagom lifestyle in regards to work are:-
- celebrate job completion, not perfection
- lose high expectations and self judgement
- take regular breaks
- avoid having lunch at your desk
- work efficient; smarter not longer
- use all of your vacation time
Connecting with the environment and having a deep respect for nature is fundamental lagom. Appreciating what the world has given us without pushing the planet to the limits of what it can sustain, is living a lagom lifestyle. Our impact on the world is significant and grows on a daily basis. Everything has a footprint from travel to our clothes. Climate change has proved this. Lagom is developing ways in which we can act environmentally friendly and be less wasteful. We live in a consumption focussed society which will eventually strip the resources we have, leaving nothing for the future. There are so many things we can do to save our planet and incorporate lagom - taking not too much, and not too little:-
- get closer to nature by taking a walk in the forest or staying off grid overnight
- bike instead of driving
- cut down on plastic by using reusable bags, metal straws, soap bar instead of shower gel
- buy quality over quantity for your home and wardrobe, reducing how much you consume
- reduce, recycle and reuse
- make sustainable choices in regards to food, energy, clothing, homeware, consumption
Adopting a lagom lifestyle helps us create a sustainable path. When we are happy with the right amount of balance of all things, we live in better harmony with ourselves, society and environment. What are some things you will adopt from the Swedish philosophy of lagom for yourself and our planet?
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