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Lagom: Balanced living, the Swedish way

The annual World Happiness Report, which ranks a total of 156 countries “by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be”, saw Sweden climb two spots up to seventh place this year.

The report finds that the happiest countries “tend to have high values for most of the key variables that have been found to support wellbeing: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.”

So, what makes Swedes some of the happiest people in the world? Aside from the country’s economic stability, honest government, and it being one of the world’s most beautiful places to live, one of the prime factors for the country’s happiness is its balanced way of living.

Pronounced lah-gum, the term lagom translates to "not too little, not too much or just right"- and in Sweden it represents the art of living a slower, balanced, fuss-free life. The word is said to come from the phrase ‘lager om’, meaning ‘around the team’. In Viking times, mead and other goods would be passed ‘lager om’, and you would be expected to take just enough for yourself, ensuring there’s enough for everyone.

What are the benefits of a lagom lifestyle?

A sense of belonging

A lagom attitude can help you feel part of something bigger and provide a sense of purpose in life.

Improved mental wellbeing

By taking time out to pause and reflect, you can live life in a more genuine and focused way.

Greater physical space

Decluttering and conscious consumption can make your home a more peaceful place to live.

Enhanced finances

At the beginning of each year it’s common to make resolutions to save more money. By becoming more conscious about your consumption, you’ll consume less while learning to look after and be thriftier with your finances.

How do I get more lagom?

Take more breaks

The Swedish fika paus is a coffee break, usually taken in the middle of the afternoon, often involving strong Swedish coffee and a sweet treat. It’s a common phenomenon shared with friends, family and co-workers all around Stockholm - in cafés, workplaces, even at home. Formal or informal, it’s about taking time out from daily routine to give yourself a breather, catch up with loved ones and switch off for a few minutes.

A recent study by the Draugiem Group found that the most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a 17 minute break. Worth keeping in mind!

Create a capsule wardrobe

Having a capsule wardrobe makes it easy to pick an outfit while taking the stress out of getting dressed. It’s also far more economical, and those who try it say it makes them feel happier.

Learn the art of listening

Converse with a Swede and you’ll notice that they very rarely interrupt or talk over anyone else. Voices are kept to even tones and pauses in conversation are completely acceptable. To Brits, this can feel painfully awkward. Culturally, we’re so anxious about a gap in the conversation that we constantly overlap before people have completed their sentence.

Perform random acts of kindness

As with all things lagom, sometimes the most ordinary acts add the most meaning and spread the greatest happiness of all. Here are a few simple gestures you could try:

• Leave money on a vending machine for someone else to use

• Pick up litter on the beach

• Give a stranger a compliment

• Give up your seat on the bus

• Write a list of things you cherish about a friend

• Finally, and most importantly, always be kind to yourself!


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