10 Ways To Use The Swedish Philosophy Of 'Lagom' To Bring Balance To Your Life

Photo: Kitreel / shutterstock
woman in the woods

By Colleen Stinchcombe

It's fair to say we're a little invested in Scandinavian culture, and it goes way beyond lining our walls with IKEA furniture.

We're hygge-ing out our homes or at the very least trying to add some gezellig to them, while also suggesting more people take time out for fika, a coffee and pastry break, instead of (or in addition to!) happy hour.

But just in case you thought you'd brought all the Nordic trends home, there's another you should know about: lagom.

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What is lagom?

Pronounced LAW-gum, it is kind of like Sweden's version of mindfulness but rooted in a collective spirit and moderation. Lagom roughly translates to “not too little, not too much” or "just enough," though its full essence goes further than that.

It comes from the old Norse language "lagom" which means "to place limits."

According to, the term is defined as "the principle of living a balanced, moderately paced, low-fuss life."



The concept is often used when foraging in the forest. It is meant to keep a balance in life. You take what is needed while ensuring enough is left for the forest creatures.

An example of using the term would be, "I have foraged a lagom amount for my family," or "Janette is a model of lagom — I've never seen her the slightest bit perturbed."

Benefits of Lagom

The most profound benefit of practicing lagom is having balance in all aspects of your life. From work to your love life, lagom helps you balance it all out so that one aspect of your life doesn't override another.

This concept is especially beneficial during trying or stressful times as routine can help one gain control of their life. It also aids your well-being — mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Sweden is ranked as the seventh-happiest country in the world and it's no wonder why they created this practice. Lagom allows us to remove ourselves from the extremes and make decisions more easily.

How To Practice Lagom

1. Slow down.

Lagom is largely about the art of slow living. Not rushing around so much, not always being driven by whatever the next great thing could be.

Try taking more time to appreciate the experience you’re in, whether that’s savoring a success (rather than planning for the next one) or taking your morning routine at a more leisurely pace.

2. Spend time in nature.

The Swedish take outdoor recreation time seriously. In her book "Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living," Linnea Dunne says the Swedish have a rule called allemansrätten, which literally means "freedom to roam."

It's a nearly universal right to access the outdoors. It doesn't have to be a butt-kicking hike, but rather whatever kind of activity that puts you in touch with nature.

And lagom isn’t the only practice that utilizes this concept — you’ve probably heard about the Japanese practice of forest bathing. So take a walk by yourself in a nearby park or a weekend trip to the mountains and let nature give you just enough of what you need.

3. Simplify your possessions.

Lagom may sound similar to the principles of minimalism, but rather than obsessing over how little you can live with, lagom is more about encouraging people to focus on having enough, knowing that those parameters change regularly.

Dunne's book recommends trying out a capsule wardrobe. The capsule should focus on the functionality and comfort of clothing to cut down on unnecessary closet clutter. At home, she suggests ample storage space and taking up hobbies like knitting that can be used to decorate your home.

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4. Try a little fika.

Fika is, essentially, an additional break during the day for a coffee and pastry with friends. No surprise, fika is totally part of the lagom lifestyle.

These coffee breaks are generally unrushed, cozy, and full of conversation. And there’s plenty of science that suggests that breaks can improve your focus, so if you’re having trouble making an argument for why slowing down is useful, now you have it.

5. Focus on the success of the community.

As Dunne writes, the Swedish culture she grew up in was focused intensely on rules and collective well-being. While lagom is a more friendly approach, it still prides itself on “just enough” — because then everyone is getting their fair share.

“A lagom attitude can help you feel part of something bigger and provide a sense of purpose,” she writes. Sounds like something we could all use right now.

6. Avoid drama.

Drama is something that easily weighs a person down, but that's exactly what the concept of lagom tackles — learning how and what to let go of.

To live a lifestyle of lagom, it means taking a good look at your life and deciding to cut some people, and drama, out of it.

7. Make conscious purchases.

Today we are more inclined to throw our money at every and any product that seems interesting. With online shopping especially, we don't even have to go out and get it.

Lagom asks us to be more conscious of what we intentionally bring into our lives. So, start making your purchases with intention, rather than simply "wanting" something.

8. Practice active listening.

A conversation needs to be balanced, not one-sided. By using lagom and actively listening, whether it's to your romantic partner, friends or family, you are effectively building a positive relationship.

Not only that, but you are giving both verbal and nonverbal cues that you are interested in what the other person is saying.

9. Exercise... but not too much.

Exercising has many benefits, including less stress, better sleep, and disease management. But overexercising can lead to problems like sore muscles, feeling tired all the time, sleep troubles, anxiety and depression.

To practice lagom, be sure to exercise to get the activity your body needs, but never go overboard.

10. Give and receive.

Giving and receiving gifts, support, or love is a great way to practice lagom.

Giving has been linked to reduced stress and a decrease in negative emotions. Another study also found that giving and receiving gifts increased positive emotions.

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Colleen Stinchcombe is a freelance writer whose work focuses on travel, health, and outdoor activities. Her work has been featured on MSN, Self, Business Insider, Trip Advisor, Medium, Seattle Times, and more.

This article was originally published at SheKnows. Reprinted with permission from the author.