How practising the Swedish concept of lagom could help boost your wellbeing

Sarah Biddlecombe,-Lifestyle Editor

This simple Scandi method really could do wonders for your wellbeing

Do you remember the hygge trend of 2016? Cast your mind back to six years ago when we were all trying to embrace the Danish lifestyle concept of cosiness and conviviality (with varying measures of success). Our Instagram feeds were full of images of socked feet relaxing in front of open fires, and we filled our homes with blankets, candles and warm mugs of hot chocolate. Numerous non-fiction books were published to help us be more hygge, and it was even chosen as a word of the year by both the Collins and Oxford dictionaries. 

Hot on the heels of hygge, a number of equally appealing Scandinavian lifestyle trends emerged, from friluftsliv (the Norwegian concept of being outside in nature) to koselig (the Norwegian concept for cosiness). Then the Swedish concept of lagom burst onto the scene, encouraging us all to find more balance in our lives. The word loosely translates to ‘not too little, not too much – just right’ in English, and practising it has the potential to do wonders for our wellbeing.

The Scandi way of wellness

What is it about Scandinavian wellness trends that we find so appealing? ‘Nordic lifestyle concepts speak to the parts of us that yearn for meaning, with less focus on the outcomes,’ explains psychologist Lee Chambers, the founder of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing and the winner of the Great British Entrepreneur Award for Service Industries in 2021. ‘Essentially, they can help us to embrace the “being” in human being,’ he adds.

‘They all highlight the benefits of living slower, celebrating small things, embracing challenges and becoming more self-aware,’ continues Lee. ‘They also have no fixed definition, but a framework to allow you to create your own expression. Rather than being told what to do, you choose things that generate the feeling. Looking across them as a whole, some of the biggest takeaways are to embrace nature and light, find a balance between comfort and challenge, live in rhythm with the seasons and listen to your body.’ 

The link between lagom and wellbeing

Lagom has a number of powerful facets that can help boost how well we feel,’ explains Lee. ‘Life itself is all about equilibrium and rhythmicity, and within our own bodies and within nature this harmony plays to create the conditions to thrive. Lagom can bring this into our conscious decision-making, supporting us to achieve this in our surroundings and environments, our work, our relationships and how we interact with society.  

According to Lee, it’s all underpinned by an empowerment mindset. ‘Appreciation that polarity and all-or-nothing is rarely optimal and likely to cause stress and resistance,’ he explains. ‘At its heart, you decide where you fall in that middle ground and find a balance that works for you in a mindful, intentional way.’

What is the meaning of lagom?

With its focus on balance, one of the most helpful takeaways from lagom is an appreciation for what we already have as being ‘just right’. Essentially, embracing the concept can help us to be happy with what we have, and let go of the need to always strive for more. 

Lagom is the perfect antidote to the toxic productivity that’s often fostered by society’s drive to make things happen and constantly be chasing success,’ says Lee. ‘Practising lagom gives us the benefits of mindfulness and gratitude, and can help to reduce social comparison and perfectionist behaviours.’

But how exactly can we embrace lagom and be more appreciative of what we have? ‘Things to consider are being kind to ourselves, thinking about the impact of social media and friendships, taking care of our sleep, moving our body and eating well lagom-style, and finding acceptance while healthily expressing our emotions,’ advises Lee.

How can I practise lagom?

So, the burning question is: how can we apply lagom to bring more balance into our own lives? Lee suggests the following:

  • ‘Build little mindful breaks into our day. This simple act allows us to disconnect and attach to something other than work, whether that’s a walk around the block, brewing a cup of coffee or popping out to see a friend. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life, so book these breaks in as if they were a meeting you can’t talk your way out of.’
  • ‘Check the clutter. A disordered environment generates cognitive distress, even when we aren’t aware of it. But lagom isn’t about going full minimalist or Instagram organised: use it to look at the items you own, and consider releasing a few that don’t hold emotional or practical value.’
  • ‘Create boundaries that balance. Part of lagom is learning to find social harmony in what we do. This depends on where we get our energy from, whether that’s from within groups or from spending time alone. We all need quality social interaction, but we should also have boundaries and the ability to say ‘no’, so we don't overcommit beyond what works for us. Taking a little time to decide when it’s a ‘no’ can help us find a social cycle that works for us, rather than against us.’
  • ‘Build a sustainable life. Something that symbolises lagom is the question of sustainability and moderation. We can challenge ourselves in a healthy way to look at what we do and why we do it, and ask whether it fits a sustainable life of moderation that serves us. This gives us space to consider our choices, such as the value of working overtime versus what we’re looking to achieve and our wellbeing.’
  • ‘Create a support network. The fundamental basis of lagom is the relative aspect of ‘on your own terms’. Being clear on these allows you to see when things are optimal, good enough or need some work. This is also easier to articulate to others as it’s something set by you, which means you decide the pace, rather than being blown around by the wind. And the beauty of this is that it’s flexible, allowing you to be mindful of those you spend time with and understand if your needs are being met.’

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