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The Swedish Concept of Lagom: How to Find Balance

The Personal Kaizen team reviewed the tenth annual rankings of the happiest countries in the world and read several books that examine what these countries do that is different and better. This week we share the Swedish concept of lagom and wrap up our series.

2022 Rankings of the Happiest Countries in the World

Below are the 2022 United Nations Rankings for a few of the Happiest Countries in the World. We share a few of the positive outcomes that contributed to the high ranking and one defining word for the country. Our previous posts have looked at how sisu helps make Finland the happiest country in the world, the Danish concept of hygge, and the Dutch concept of niksen.

RankCountryContributing to High ScoreDefining Word
1FinlandFreedom, communal support, trust Sisu
2DenmarkSupport, trust, equalityHygge
5NetherlandsGenerosity, low corruptionNiksen
7SwedenLack of corruption, GDP, life expectancyLagom

You can read the entire report with the study rationale here. For comparison, the United States finished in 16th place for 2022, a slight increase from the 19th place finish in 2021.

The Swedish Lagom Lifestyle

Lagom in the Swedish language literally means not too much, not too little, the right amount, and is a philosophy that aims for balance and moderation. Swedes tend to be optimistic and positive, always trying to find the good in every situation. They also strive to live in harmony with the world.

Lagom is also based on a proud opposition to excess and a rejection of originality at all costs (but probably not areas that Americans are known for). Swedish lifestyle strives for “balance” and “enough” as the ultimate goals. As you will learn from our upcoming post on The Paradox of Choice, Swedes appear to be satisficers more than maximizers.

Here is a simple video on the benefits of a lagom lifestyle:

Living with Less and Being Happy Through Lagom

Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life
Photo Credit: Condé Nast Traveler

Niki Brantmark wrote Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life in 2017. The book covers many aspects of Swedish culture including minimalist interior design, work-life balance, healing stress with nature, the importance of sleep and pre-bedtime rituals, waking up early, simple clothing, cold showers, hot saunas, and physical happiness.

Here are a few examples of lagom thinking:

  • Working hard, but not to the detriment of other parts of your lives. Swedes make sure to also have time to relax and indulge in the little joys of life.
  • A balanced and healthy diet, yet still being willing to splurge on treats. Swedes often restrict their children from eating sweets during the week, and, of course, resist overeating themselves.
  • Moderation in personality, views, and politics, although this might go overboard in my opinion. When Swedish children are told skratta lagom or teenagers are told to have lagom kul it doesn’t mean “have a bit of a laugh”, or “have a bit of fun,” it means “don’t laugh too much,” or “don’t go over the top.”
  • Save the world’s resources by recycling, buying secondhand, riding a bike, and carpooling.
  • Abandon the unattainable goal of perfection. True happiness is immersing yourself in life with joy and living with harmony and simplicity.

A Lagom Home

Lagom represents harmony, moderation, utility, and versatility – all concepts you can apply to your home. Swedes choose functional, logical furniture characterized by simple and clean lines, convenience, and resistance. The Ikea furniture brand even has an entire line of furniture dedicated to Lagom.

Here are a few ways to organize your home in accordance with Lagom philosophy:

Use houseplants to free the air from polluting substances and create small corners of peace - Lagom
  • Place the reading corners or desks where you work near the windows to take advantage of natural light and save electricity
  • Use warm wood furniture processed with a low release of pollutants
  • Use handmade materials such as wool and cotton with neutral colors to create a warm and serene environment
  • Use houseplants to free the air from polluting substances and create small corners of peace

Monitoring the Happiest Countries in the World

We plan to continue monitoring the annual rankings of the world’s happiest countries and learning what makes the country rank so high. We can see why sisu, hygge, niksen, and lagom all contribute to a country’s happiness – along with general wealth and strong social programs in healthcare, education, and retirement that strive for equality. What factors do you feel contribute?

Thanks for learning alongside us. Please leave your comments below and have a happy remainder of your day!

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