Fall is well and truly here and with winter around the corner we see countless articles on what everyone needs to buy for the new, colder season. There is no escaping the fact that we live in the world of material things and we constantly hear how buying new things can make our life better and improve our mood, whether that be a new decor staple piece or a pair of new boots.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to achieve happiness but unfortunately the capitalist culture teaches us that we can buy happiness. If you don’t feel happy enough, the chances are you just need to buy something, and then repeat this step again and again…
However, it’s easy to notice that this method just doesn’t work in the long run. Eric Stambaugh from College Writers, who has lived in Stockholm for 13 years, notices: “We want to buy more so we have to work more, and overworking becomes the norm for many Europeans and Americans. Is there any alternative to such an excessive and exhausting lifestyle? The answer is yes, and the secret of happy life has long been known to one of the happiest nations in the world — the Swedes. ”
What is lagom?
Lagom (pronounced as “law-gm”) is a Swedish lifestyle concept focused on living in moderation. The word “lagom” can be roughly translated as “not too much, and not too little.” Many Swedes live their lives following the principle of lagom: they don’t buy too many things, don’t work too much, and don’t procrastinate too much either. It turns out that such a perfectly balanced lifestyle can make you feel happier, reducing stress and making life more meaningful.
The lagom concept was born during the Viking era. Ancient Swedes used the phrase “laget om” when referring to a team and community. When Vikings gathered around the fire, they used to drink mead from a horn, passing it to a person who sits nearby. Everyone understood that if they drink too much, somebody else won’t be able to take a sip. Even now, lagom remains a part of Swedish social culture: The government guarantees education, child care, and health care to all citizens, making sure all the people have equal opportunities. Although such a policy may seem expensive, it pays for itself. Sweden has higher employment rates than many other European countries, in fact, a well-educated workforce produces much more income (with no need to overwork).
Why you need to embrace lagom in your personal life and work
Mental Health: Today, many people suffer from mental conditions related to stress. For many of us, the main source of stress is our job. We try to be more productive so that we work extra hours or choose not to go on vacation. As a result, we feel exhausted and stressed out.
The Swedes have a different opinion on productivity. They consider fighting stress one of the main priorities because you cannot be productive if you’re stressed out. You shouldn’t wait until you need to take a day off because of your exhaustion. It’s much easier to create a perfect work-life balance every day. Take breaks, don’t sit in the office when everyone else is already at home, exercise, eat healthy food, and prioritise your mental health. When you’re happy and healthy, you can be much more productive.
Sustainability: Sustainability is a crucial thing in the lagom concept. When people live according to the principles of lagom, next generations have more chances to live a fulfilling life.
Social media and celebrities promote the excessive lifestyle and many of us try to live the same way. However, such a lifestyle is hard to sustain, which results in exhaustion, stress, and debts. If now you live as large as you can, the chances are this period will be followed by a decline, which can be illustrated by multiple examples from history.
Work: Many people work too much because they see it as dedication and a commitment. This way, we want to show our bosses that we’re worth promotion. Some people even don’t feel like they work enough unless they overwork, which is certainly an unhealthy attitude. The Swedes see this issue differently. If you need to work too much, it means that you’re likely bad at your job. If you think that such a philosophy is ineffective, consider this: Sweden is 11th in the world by per capita GDP, while the UK is 23rd. Don’t overwork, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and you’ll see that you’re much more productive.
A step-by-step guide on how to live lagom for non-Nordic people
Do Fika: Fika is a Swedish word that means taking a break to socialize, with a cup of coffee and if you are feeling cheeky… a pastry or two. All Swedes love fika — they take breaks a few times during the day to have a small talk with colleagues while drinking coffee or eating something tasty. Sometimes, even a little break can help you clear your head and recharge.
Declutter Your Place: Lagom doesn’t require you to redesign your home. However, if your home is a complete mess, you obviously have to do something with it about it ASAP as this kind of environment doesn’t correspond to a moderate and minimalistic lifestyle. You may also want to move your furniture, creating more space and implement a dose of FengShui.
Learn to Say No: The best way to stop overworking and over-committing is to simply learn how to say no, without feeling guilty. Sometimes you may waste your time doing unnecessary tasks just because your boss has told you to do so. Sometimes, you cannot say no to your friends because you think they’ll take it personally, but don’t be afraid to make it clear what your priorities are and what you can or cannot do.
Set Expectations and Goals: Lagom is not only about moderation but it’s also about living on your own terms. Don’t set goals which ultimately are too hard to achieve. Be realistic. It’s always better to exceed your own expectations. You can take a pen and a sheet of paper and write about your priorities in life, and read it from time to time when you don’t know what to do.
Oftentimes you may find yourself asking whether you’re good enough? Or, if you should try just a little bit harder? Put in that little bit more of effort…? Of course, self-criticism is a good thing, but it’s also important not to push yourself too hard. Let’s be honest, you don’t really need too much — you need just enough. Lagom is a principle of living in moderation. Don’t work too much and you’ll have more energy and show a better productivity. Don’t buy too many unnecessary things, and you’ll have more money for more important things. Find the right balance and you’ll feel much more happy, being satisfied with what you have.