Lagom, the Swedish recipe for happiness

Society Social transformation

The Lagom lifestyle, which originated in Sweden, has spread to the world through social media. Far from encouraging us to avoid problems as if they did not exist, this trend invites us to embrace a lifestyle based on moderation, sustainability and trying to live being more aware of our needs. The goal is clear: to achieve our balance. Do you dare to practice it?

The lagom lifestyle is based on moderation, sustainability and trying to live more aware of our needs.
The lagom lifestyle is based on moderation, sustainability and trying to live more aware of our needs.

In recent times, many people have declared themselves faithful followers of the lagom philosophy, a concept of Swedish origin that is widely accepted all over the world and which, according to its advocates, could be the key to happiness. A person with a lagom attitude seeks to have a more balanced and responsible life with themselves and everything around them. This does not necessarily mean rejecting any pleasure, but making conscious and rational decisions both for ourselves and for the environment.


"Not too little, not too much: just the right amount". This Swedish saying sums up, in a nutshell, what this philosophy is all about. Lagom, pronounced 'logom', defines the perfect amount, in the middle ground, an approach already proposed by Aristotle in the 4th century BC and which has now regained importance. But it goes much further and, more than a state, it is a way of life that advocates the pleasure of sharing and moderation as the keys to well-being and happiness. It encourages you to take advantage of the opportunities life gives you, to enjoy every moment according to your possibilities and not to regret what you don't have. 

Writer and editor Linnea Dunne, who published the 2017 book Lagom, the Swedish recipe for achieving balance in your life, notes: "A lagom type of happiness is neither exalted nor euphoric, and clearly not boastful, but restrained. And it is precisely this quality of balance that seems to be the secret of true and sustainable happiness". For her part, Lola A. Åkerström points out in her book Lagom, the Swedish secret of the good life (2017) that this philosophy aims to "ensure that we compensate for our needs in a way that constitutes an invitation to peace and fulfilment, beyond what we desire in life". He adds: "What lagom asks of me is to be more aware of my emotions, my body and my well-being.

There are several theories about the origin of the word lagom, which has no translation in other languages. The dictionary of the Royal Swedish Academy determines the etymology as an old declension of the word lag (law), but it was not necessarily associated with the legal framework, but with common sense. Another possible origin refers to a Viking custom. The word lagom is said to come from "laget om", an expression they used to specify that one should drink just enough of the mead horn so that everyone had a fair share.


The lagom philosophy cuts across all aspects of life. Therefore, if you want to apply its methods or customs, you must work on each of them. Here are some proposals:


 Reconcile, rest
Lagom promotes work-life balance. If your work circumstances prevent you from achieving a full work-life balance, be clear that there are limits to your working hours and dedicate your free time to other tasks such as sports.

If you suffer from stress, learn to listen to your body and take breaks. Swedes have the fika paus, which involves taking a short break to have a coffee, talk to colleagues and relax. A study conducted by the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University (USA) in 2015 concluded that people who take breaks at work have more energy, concentration and motivation, and suffer less from headaches and back pain. 

 Opt for a moderate diet
The lagom approach involves eating a balanced diet, but goes further and advocates sustainable, ethical and local consumption, with fresh and seasonal produce. In addition, you should prioritise eating only to your heart's content because going hungry is just as bad as going overboard: remember, the key is the middle ground. 


 Cultivate healthy relationships
Lagom pursues the search for consensus and prioritises listening to others. Relationships based on this lifestyle foster loyalty, self-reliance and the ability to respect each individual's space.


 Tidy up your home, throw things away
Get rid of everything you don't need. The lagom lifestyle proposes that for every thing that comes into the house, something else goes out. This way, you will only keep practical belongings, tidy and organised by space. This philosophy also encourages painting the walls in soft colours such as white, grey or earth tones to gain light. The key is to achieve minimalism and serenity.


 Consume consciously
"It is not he who has the most who is happiest, but he who needs the least". This is the basis of this philosophy, which will lead you to consume less, to respect resources more and to save. Restrained shopping will help you to value what you have rather than prioritise what you want. Moreover, it is better to spend on something good and long-lasting than on something poorly made. 


 Practice technological detox
Learn to disconnect. From time to time, turn off your phone and enjoy the moment. You don't always have to be available to others: prioritising being available to yourself will help you reconnect with your inner self. Detoxing and staying away from social networks will allow you to relax.


 Respect for the environment
Lagom promotes an intimate relationship with nature and encourages awareness of the human role in achieving a more sustainable planet. Recycle, reuse and give a new life to used objects. Avoid the consumption of plastics and non-recyclable materials.


 Apply the slow life
Enjoy a simple, unhurried life and give each task the time it deserves to enjoy life's little pleasures. Keeping your body, mind and spirit in balance helps to set your limits and is achieved by taking care of essential aspects such as food, sleep, basic exercise and social life.


Human longevity depends largely on how we live. A group of researchers from California (United States) conducted a study, published in 2018 in the journal Genetics, which concluded that aspects such as lifestyle have a 93% influence on living longer, while genes only have a 7% influence.

Advantages of applying lagom in everyday life.
Advantages of applying lagom in everyday life.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: Advantages of applying lagom in everyday life [PDF]

Bad habits have a negative impact on our well-being. For example, the World Health Organisation states that a sedentary lifestyle doubles the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and obesity, among other pathologies. And it points out, together with the International Labour Organisation, that working more than 55 hours a week is associated with a 35% higher chance of suffering a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease. 

Proponents of the lagom philosophy argue that, with this lifestyle, you can live a healthier and happier life by improving your work-life balance, respecting your time for hobbies and physical exercise, taking care of your social relationships, and keeping your house tidy. In addition, they point out that when you learn to organise yourself according to this philosophy and do not let your mind flow at a frenetic pace, you can lead your life in a more authentic way, accepting and coping with both good and bad experiences, and living in the present.