What is Lagom? (How to Practice the Swedish Lifestyle )

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Lagom (pronounced “lar-gohm”) is a Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount” or “not too much, not too little, but just right”.    This Swedish life hack is one we can all learn from.

Lagom is not about achieving a perfect life.  Trying to achieve perfection is stressful since obviously it’s never fully attainable. However, it is about finding a simple and balanced life.  It means finding practical solutions to daily stressors such as work-life balance, eating well, finding time for self care and achieving happiness.

The Swedes (and other Scandinavian countries) consistently rank high on the world happiness report.  Swedes also rank high on productivity reports.  This in part is due to the lagom lifestyle.  It’s not about extremes, but about balance.  So working yourself to the bone is not the answer.  Which is something we can definitely get behind.

So how can we adopt some lagom in our lives when we live in societies that favor being busy and extremes?

6 ways to practice Lagom for a happier life.

Be Nice

The practice of Lagom derives from the Viking tradition of “laget om” which translates to “the whole team around”.   When the Vikings would pass around food and drink each person would ensure that they took just enough for themselves.  Thereby leaving enough for the rest of the group.  So in relationships, it means being caring and mindful of the people in your life.  In Sweden, it’s considered nice to be nice.

There is an informal rule that is part of Scandinavian cultures known as the “law of Jante“.  The idea is egalitarian, i.e. that “you are not better than anyone else”.   Therefore in Swedish culture, bragging about achievements or flashing status symbols isn’t considered cool.  The focus is on everyone being equal.  Sweden also ranks high for gender equality.   And equality makes for happier people.

Give Yourself a Break

The practice of Lagom is about finding the middle ground of “just enough”.  So naturally work-life balance is an important part of the culture. Working too much is the antithesis of lagom.  

The Swedes generally take a 20-minute break in the morning and again in the afternoon.  Fika, is a vital part of Swedish culture.  Fika does not mean grabbing a coffee at your desk or on the run.  It’s considered a ritual in Sweden and an important part of Swedish culture.  It means making time out to sit down with friends or colleagues.  And savoring a cup of coffee and perhaps with something sweet to eat. Minus the guilt.  It includes taking time to pause and have a meaningful conversation.  Fika strengthens relationships which make for happier people and better work-life. 

Swedes also don’t eat lunch at their desk.  They take time out of their day for going out for a meal with friends or colleagues. Unlike some cultures, working overtime is not valued in Sweden.  While the country ranks high in productivity, they also value the joy that comes generous vacation time, flexible hours and an emphasis on spending time with loved ones.

Keep Your Home Tidy and Uncluttered

Lagom focuses on a mindful way of life and that includes fewer material possessions.  Sweden is known for minimalism and good design.  If you are looking to live a simple life, start with a good decluttering of your home.  Having less helps you appreciate what you do have and allows space in your home and your life.

Swedes are naturally good at maintaining a minimalist, clean home.  Scandinavian design focuses on having fewer pieces that are high quality and well designed.  This “less is more” approach is more sustainable – with an emphasis on quality items that are timeless and last.  Not on mass-produced products that often end up getting thrown out.  Even Swedish design giant, i.e Ikea, focuses on functionality and good design.

Own Less and Keep it Simple

The same philosophy of “just enough” can be applied not only to your home but to your wardrobe.  Swedes are very stylish but with a slant towards minimalism and good design.  Swedish fashion is often neutral colors and gender-fluid pieces.  With an emphasis on fewer pieces, more quality.  Swedes have effortlessly nailed the concept of a capsule wardrobe.

A minimalist closet with quality pieces you love that can be styled together in different ways makes getting dressed easier and less stressful.  Less time and energy spent on shopping and laundry means more time to do what makes you happy.  Add statement pieces to an otherwise neutral wardrobe with jewelry or other accessories to create your own signature style.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Lagom is a lifestyle focused on being mindful and purposeful.  With an emphasis on living better with less.  Taking time for yourself in not considered selfish, it allows you to be more present in your life and relationships.   Lagom means prioritizing what makes you happy and matters the most to you.  And letting go of the rest of it.

Fredagsmys is a Swedish tradition that roughly translates to cozy Fridays.  It’s an easy ritual to practice. Basically put away your phones and spend time with your loved ones for a cozy evening.  A simple family meal (think pizza or tacos) and a board game or activity.  Even watching a movie with popcorn is lagom.  Light some candles and cozy up in your favorite PJs for some relaxing family time.

Balanced Meals

Lagom applies to the kitchen too.  When it comes to food, lagom means everything in moderation. That includes a balanced diet and never dieting extremes like juice cleanses or other fads.  Nordic cultures are known for a well-rounded diet including whole grains, fish and vegetables.  But they’re not opposed to their treats either including a mid-day coffee and a sweet treat for Fika, a daily Swedish ritual.

Eating and cooking in lagom style means being mindful about what you eat and enjoying balance.  Eating foods that are in season and feed your soul.  Comfort food on a cold winter night and lighter meals on a hot summer’s day.  Enjoying a sweet treat with a friend for a coffee break.

Lagom is everything in moderation and enjoying it all to the fullest.