Lagom: This Swedish Lifestyle Trend Will Help Balance Your Life
As summer ended, the fall ushered in endless articles advising us all on what we need to buy for the new season — but also how we need to save, and how we can do all of these things while emanating the kind of Gwyneth Paltrow-glow that only comes from spending thousands of dollars on moisturizers and Moon Juice.
The frenzy of the season can leave anyone feeling burned out, oscillating between extremes of spending and thriftiness, parties and Netflix binges.
Fortunately, there's the Swedish concept of "lagom." Lagom is the idea of "just enough," and it is often interpreted as embracing a middle ground in life. Frequently compared to the tale of Goldilocks, lagom encourages people to find spaces, moments, and ways of living that are not too much and not too little.
It's about finding a state of being that's just right.
"I think that in a time of excess, which many of us are currently living in, lagom is key to becoming more centered, happy, and balancing the pressures of everyday life," Niels Eék, Swedish psychologist and co-founder of wellbeing app Remente, told Travel + Leisure in an e-mail.
Lagom can apply to anything from getting work done to limiting smartphone use, according to Eék, calling it a "good principle to apply to balance out the various areas of your life."
It can mean taking stock of your life and recalibrating priorities, allocating more or less time to an activity, or just making time for things like meditation.
The Swedish import has often been compared to "hygge," a Danish phenomenon that achieved prominence in the United States and elsewhere in Europe in 2016. In the frigid temperatures of Denmark's winters — a time of year that can often feel just as desolate in places like New York City, or Chicago — the Danes developed a way of living that embraced coziness all around them.
Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly, described the term as “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things."
This idea can often translate to reveling layers of thick knitwear or savoring a warm cup of coffee on a frigid day. Practicing hygge is more about embracing simple pleasures or moments of bliss.
Lagom, on the other hand, is a lifestyle.
The term is elusive and not quite captured by words like "minimalism." One British journalist living in Sweden has trashed the idea, calling it a "suffocating doctrine of Lutheran self-denial."
Hordes of Swedes might disagree with that categorization and have found comfort in the way that it brings a sense of balance to their life. The term is especially prominent when it comes to interior decoration, and Los Angeles-based Swedish designer Caroline Froberg described it as a guiding principle of much of her work. At the same time, she says the California glamour of Los Angeles has provided a satisfying counterpoint in its embrace of flashiness.
“I believe in a minimalistic approach to design. However, there is a much more fun and adequate design approach living in Los Angeles,” she told T+L in an e-mail. “Designing with the 'lagom' amount of items and proportions is something I apply to my design choices daily,” she added.
Those who embrace lagom can apply these principles to their own homes and apartments by de-cluttering their living spaces, and donating unwanted or useless objects to charity. Again, there's no need for extremes. If you find yourself shouting into the abyss "Does this object bring my joy?!" something has gone awry.
Once you have cleansed your belongings, bring in something new that makes you feel balanced, whether it's a piece of furniture that helps you stay organized, a new plant to brighten up a space, or a poster of a place you hope to visit in the new year.
Meditative practices often embrace this idea of "just enough," and more specifically, the notion that you are already enough. Adding a daily meditation (or weekly meditation if you just can't right now), can center your priorities.
Eék recommended bring lagom into daily life by changing the internal dialogue that we all have with ourselves.
"Instead of asking yourself ‘can I do better?’ or ‘should I try harder?’ ask yourself ‘is this good enough?’ and ‘have I done my best?’ This way, you will be more focused on finding the right balance, instead of simply pushing yourself towards something," he said.
Frankly, this shift from continually pushing to achieve and to accumulate, to a more attainable and balanced center, is something we could all use right now.