Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living
If you’re feeling a bit frenzied now that the new year is in full swing, like all your good intentions can’t be met because you simply don’t have enough time, then Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living is for you. In the book, Linnea Dunne, a Swedish-born writer who now calls Dublin home, explores the idea of lagom, a word for which there is no true English equivalent, though the loose translation is “not too little, not too much, just right.” This seemingly simple idea is the key to slowing down, steadying yourself, and making room for those good intentions.
One point Dunne makes is that lagom isn’t something done in isolation–it’s an ongoing thing, a mindset or a way of conducting your life. From growing your own vegetables to preparing healthy, delicious meals at home, there are several small steps that can lead you to the balanced life promised by lagom. A personal favorite is the idea of having a Friday night taco bar at home, something Dunne insists most Swedes do. The idea is to stay in with family, wear your pajamas, and celebrate the end of the work week and the comfort of one another’s company. Recipes and beautiful, full-color photos make the book as much of a visual treat as it is an emotional one.
The concept of lagom may sound similar to the recently popular Danish notion of hygge, but hygge is more about creating a feeling of something special, while lagom is rooted in the practical. Being Swedish myself, I can tell you we love our pragmatism: why do two things when you can do one, why work hard if it means not having much of a life at home, and so on.
And that is the next important element of lagom: it involves slowing down not just at home but also at work. Swedes clock in and clock out at their appointed work hours, rarely staying late or arriving early, and their workdays often feature multiple fika, or coffee, breaks. This is rooted in the idea that work is a part of life, but it is not all of life. So workers need to tend to their other needs, often socializing over pastries and coffee before returning to work, a small break that makes them more focused and energized for the rest of the day to come.
If you, or someone you know, could use a push in the direction of self-care, this is the perfect book (I’ve already ordered three copies for friends and family). It is about moderation and connection and taking the time to appreciate what you really need and what you already have. As Dunne says, “If you know what’s just enough, why go overboard?”