Not only is it far easier to pronounce ('la' like 'bar', 'gom' like 'prom'), but 'lagom' is much more easier to understand than the indescribable feeling of 'cosiness' [see Hygge: A heart-warming lesson from Denmark].
“At one end, we are excessive in our work habits, connectivity and indulgences. On the other hand, we are advised to limit ourselves by trying a new fad diet or a trendy detox.
“In a world of contrasts and contradictory advice, lagom hits the middle – allowing people to enjoy themselves, but stay healthy and content at the same time.” [//middle path in Buddhism]
The true reason it’s difficult to translate is because it mutates, changing meaning in different situations and within various contexts.
It could mean ‘appropriate’ in social settings,
‘moderation’ in food,
‘less is more’ in interior decor,
‘mindfulness’ in wellbeing,
‘sustainability’ in lifestyle choices
and ‘logic’ in business dealings.
All these carry a connotation of ‘optimal’ decision-making.
Lagom teaches us how to avoid both excess and extreme limitation, allowing us to better understand what makes us happy and what works for our own, unique, mental wellbeing. By adopting a lagom mindset, we teach ourselves to avoid extremes of mood or feeling.
That's the idea behind a new book called The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Easy Tips for a Happier, Healthier Life, a new book by Swedish physician and researcher Bertil Marklund.
"We have an expression, 'lagom is best,'" Marklund said. The word encapsulates the Nordic distaste for doing anything to extremes, from adopting a strict low-carb diet to clocking a lot of overtime.
"I think if you asked most people, they would admit to working more than they would like and some of that's by choice."
While there's always something more that could use your attention at work, Marklund's book encourages workers to be satisfied with "good enough."
"It makes your life easier, cuts stress, and enables you to live a longer and happier life."
"The important and interesting thing is that it's every day exercise, 30 minutes or more, that's a very good base for good health," he said.
Spending half an hour daily walking, cycling, gardening or taking the stairs goes a long way in combating the effects of a desk job, for example.
Exercise is an easy sell in the Nordic nations — Sweden even has an autumn school holiday called "sport week."
Rather than an overhaul of what you eat, Marklund's book prizes simple changes that you can implement one at a time — adding more high-fibre grains and antioxidant-rich fruits, for example.
Coffee lovers will be glad to know Marklund says three or four cups a day contributes to good health.
The critical thing is to develop a healthy diet you can stick with over time, he says. It's an approach that discourages drinking soda but still allows room for a little cake with your coffee at work.
Living well does mean accepting death, I am sure. Theoretically, all lifestyle is a preparation for death.
Funny, wise, and deeply practical, Swedish artist Margareta Magnusson offers advice on how to declutter your home and minimize your worldly possessions so your loved ones don’t have to do it for you.
In Swedish there is a word for it: Döstädning, “dö” means “death” and “städning” means “cleaning.” The idea behind death cleaning is to remove unnecessary things and get your home in order as you become older. But this word also can be applied whenever you do a thorough cleaning, to make your life easier and more pleasant. It does not necessarily have to do with age or death. If you can hardly close your drawers or shut your closet doors, it is time to do something about your stuff.