Last year was all about hygge, the Danish concept of cozying up with candles, blankets, and nourishing meals. (Yes, Netflix, I’m still watching.) As far as self-care goes, it’s about as good as it gets. But hygge isn’t exactly conducive to tackling a to-do list.
Enter, lagom, the Swedish word for a lifestyle that encourages balance and mindfulness in everything that you do. Lagom translates roughly to: “not too little, not too much,” according to Linnea Dunne, a native Swede and author of lagom lifestyle guide Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living.
According to Dunne, lagom is the secret to Sweden’s high rankings on international happiness and productivity. Instead of a life full of extremes—like working your butt off 60 hours during the work week and completely crashing on the weekend—lagom is all about consistently living somewhere in the middle.
How exactly do you live the lagom life in a society that values extremes? Keep reading for six ways to bring balance into your life—Swedish style.
1. Take regular breaks
“It’s been proven countless times that our brains weren’t made to plough through for hours on end,” Dunne says. “We produce poor quality work, and then feel unhappy, tired, and ineffective.” Which is, you know, not exactly ideal.
Taking a five-minute break for every hour you spend working—whether you’re at the office or at home cleaning the bathroom—is a great way to start living the lagom way. And while it may be tempting, try not to fill every break with social media. Instead, Dunn suggests talking to a co-worker or just taking the few minutes to check in with yourself.
2. Keep your to-do list realistic
Because American culture values a packed schedule, your default is probably to charge through as much as you can as quickly as possible. Instead: Be realistic. “Your to-do list should have ‘not too little, not too much’ on it,” Dunne says. Then, you will actually enjoy everything you have to get done instead of just seeing it as yet another obstacle.
But even a perfectly crafted to-do list doesn’t always prevent the wall of brain fog that can hit around 4 p.m. If you find yourself feeling stuck or uninspired at work, Dunne advocates for finding some creative inspiration rather than staring blankly at your computer screen. “A magazine, for example, can provide a different perspective and a break to the mental cycles that can sometimes get you stuck in a rut,” she says.
3. Do more with less
Dunne is a major proponent of having a comfy—yet uncluttered—space to call home. After all, minimalism and functionality are at the heart of Swedish design, à la Ikea. “It’s all about functionalism and a touch of cosiness,” she says. In this regard, it actually goes hand-in-hand with hygge: Picking furniture with storage solutions (think: an ottoman that hides remote controls inside), shows character.
4. Enjoy doing your own thing while still spending time with your partner
If you’ve ever spent a lazy Sunday morning in bed sharing the New York Times with your partner, you’ve already integrated lagom into your relationship. “Swedes can have ‘me’ time together,” Dunne says. “You simply don’t have to talk all the time, which leaves a lot of space,” she says. Hitting up a yoga class together is another way to practice lagom.
5. Only follow people on Instagram who you actually like
Sometimes, scrolling on Instagram is exactly what you need to recharge and feel inspired. Other times, it may leave you feeling kind of irked. Why? It could be who you’re following. Only fill your feed with accounts that are funny, inspiring, grounding, or that just generally make you feel good. In other words, no following someone who you don’t actually like—just to see what they’re up to.
6. Like hygge, lagom all comes down to self-care
It’s no secret that this generation is busier—and more stressed—than ever. Part of that has to do with having a jam-packed schedule. According to Dunne, lagom can also mean reprioritizing what matters most to you in day-to-day life and letting go when the situation calls for it.
“When there simply aren’t enough hours in a day, drop a few balls, accept it, take an evening on the couch with those you love, and then start again.”
Take a break from your to-dos and snuggle up in style this hygge season. Plus, these are the mantras wellness pros swear by to squash stress and anxiety.
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