Lagom – The Swedish Mindset for a Happy Life

The concept of “Lagom” is woven into the Swedish culture. Lagom is intertwined within the Swedish population. Some would say Lagom is the secret to Sweden’s happiness.

What is Lagom!?

The Swedish to English translation of Lagom is loosely translated as “moderate.” Wikipedia will tell you Lagom means “just the right amount,” “in moderation,” or “in balance.” Other websites and blogs may tell you Lagom means the “optimal choice” or “individual level of contentment.” Lagom is the idea that “less is more.”

Why is it important?

Culture comes from the latin word: colere or cultura – to cultivate. Culture is learned. Culture is shared. Culture is transmitted. Culture is cumulative. Culture is human.

I believe in the importance of gaining perspective. However, we gain perspective through the lens of culture. Since culture is human, how can we ‘cultivate’ perspective through sharing, learning, or transmitting information?

Lagom is important because it’s cultivated by Swedish culture, and Lagom is currently being adopted around the world. Some would argue that Lagom is the “The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life.” As an international student, I think we should dive right in.

How can you cultivate Lagom into your life? 

“How much Ketchup do you want?” – Lagom (not too much, but not too little)

“Which milk do you want?” – Lagom (1.5%)

The idea of Lagom isn’t new. There are parallels to the idea of contentment dating back to the 2nd century. The second Niyama from Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga is Santosha – contentment.  The Niyamas are the study of how we should treat ourselves.

Ekhartyoga says, “Santosha or ‘contentment’ doesn’t mean idly sitting back and relinquishing the need to do anything. It simply means accepting and appreciating what we have and what we are already, and moving forward from there.”

I can see the Swedish culture practice this idea of gratitude for what already exists. I see Swedes who don’t choose the biggest item in the grocery market. I see Swedes not taking advantage of free refills. I see Swedes choosing to pay for other people’s coffee. A Swede will go out of their way and spend the time to help you out without expecting something in return. It is amazing and admirable to witness Swedes think in the way that says, “I don’t need more.”

I come from the United States, a culture that promotes “more is better” and “bigger is better.” Personally, I try to practice contentment in my daily life. I use gratitude to support my practice of contentment. I sometimes look externally for happiness, but the idea of Lagom requires me to look inward for happiness. I love being surrounded by a culture that cultivates an environment that allows an opportunity for me to gain perspective.

Wouldn’t life be amazing if there was no lens in which you look at the world? (Impossible, no?)

Here are three ways I try to incorporate Lagom into my life:

1.Practise gratitude – Showing appreciation for what you have will not only connect you more to the Swedish culture, but you start to believe you don’t need more to be happy.

2.Never choose the biggest item, the most expensive item, or the free item – Stay away from the extreme. This way you force yourself to be somewhere in the middle. The free item is a tough one, but just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you should have it.

3.Practise being a good listener – By listening, you practice not needing to fill in the silent gaps of a conversation. Listening requires a sense of patience. It’s the Lagom of talking.

You don’t need to move to Sweden to practice LAGOM!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

-Drew