If you haven’t noticed, this idea that you can work hard and play harder appears to be a thing of the past in America, but across the pond, they seem to have it made. Life just seems a little more lax over there, and I’m not saying this in a “grass is always greener” type of way: Danish folks practice hygge in their homes, Scandinavians are Päntsdrunk — aka literally Netflix-and-chilling with a glass of wine in their underwear — and then there’s "lagom." Lagom is a Swedish wellness trend I think we can all get behind, because it's all about achieving the epitome of a sustainable work-life balance.
Think about it: Aside from maybe yogi culture, is there any sort of lifestyle trend in the U.S. that encourages Americans to simmer down, relax, and work to live, instead of living to work overtime? Either there isn't, or the ideal is being overlooked, because according to research collected by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off, 52 percent of Americans didn't use all of their vacation days in 2017. Now, according to the statistics, that percentage has gone down, but only by about 3 percent over the last three years. And while I totally understand putting in extra time at the office if you genuinely love and enjoy what you do, overworking yourself can become a serious health issue if you don't proceed with caution.
Lagom is all about achieving that seemingly mythical work-life balance everyone's always talking about, and according to Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, it's not just something to strive for; it's something you should be working to put into practice ASAP to keep your mental and physical health in check.
"Life requires balance in order to reduce the risk of burnout, which can have devastating effects on your body and mind," Glatter tells Elite Daily, noting that symptoms like high blood pressure, anxiety, poor eating, and interrupted sleep habits are all red flags to look out for. "It all comes down to making a conscious effort to practice moderation in your daily activities."
Enter lagom: the Swedish lifestyle trend that'll help you achieve the ultimate work-life balance — even if you're putting in 40 hours a week at the office.
There’s such a strong emphasis on work in the U.S. — I mean, even the literal phrase “work-life balance” feels like it inherently emphasizes the professional over the personal. Lagom, on the other hand, encourages you to, essentially, do the opposite: Above all else, live your life the way you want to, spend time with your loved ones, and nurture your overall health. This isn’t to say work responsibilities are pushed to the side entirely, BTW; it just means, at the end of the day, you’re going to feel as if all your needs have been met on both a professional and personal level — life-work over work-life, so to speak.
"Sweden consistently ranks high in international happiness and productivity because its people do not believe in a life full of extremes — like working 50+ hours during the week and crashing hard on the weekend," experts from Swedish raw vodka brand RÅVO tell Elite Daily over email. "Instead, Swedes embrace 'lagom,' the ethos which is all about living a balanced, mindful, and unhurried life."
To put it into perspective, let's consider lagom a prime example of the Goldie Locks and The Three Bears complex. Goldie couldn't eat soup that was too hot, or sit in a chair that was too small; she needed to find her happy medium in all aspects of her day. For you, this might translate to working 40 hours a week — no more, no less — and checking in with yourself every few hours to make sure you’re still feeling and performing at your optimal best.
Lagom encourages you to prioritize living your best life while still being a boss babe at the office, so here's how you can start doing exactly that.
According to David Brudö, CEO and co-founder of the Sweden-based mental well-being app Remente, the first step to grasping the concept of lagom is to identify your stress triggers: Does running late to work because of commuter traffic make you feel anxious? Are you struggling to juggle responsibilities at the office? Once you know what sort of scenarios bring you down, Brudö tells Elite Daily, that's when you can start to introduce the quick-fix coping mechanisms of lagom to build you back up, reduce stress, and make room for feelings of fulfillment and pleasure.
When it comes to practicing lagom in the workspace specifically, Brudö recommends breaking down large assignments into smaller tasks you can check off your to-do list one by one. This way, he says, you'll feel a greater sense of accomplishment. He adds that it's equally, if not more important to learn how to turn down extra work if you simply don't have the time or energy for it. If it's not an emergency or pressing matter, he says, don't stress it. Either politely decline the excess, or set aside a certain time to tackle it.
Of course, if you do happen to find yourself getting flustered at the office, though, don't be hard on yourself — it happens to the best of us. What you can do, experts from RÅVO suggest, is create a workspace that's clutter-free, so even if your emotions get a little erratic, your atmosphere can offer a sense of comfort to a) calm you down, and b) make it easier to refocus.
So you see, lagom isn't about changing your entire lifestyle to fit the trend; it's about making this trend work for your lifestyle. Everyone has responsibilities, whether it's working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, balancing a hectic class schedule with extracurriculars, or a combination of the two. But despite your to-dos, your main priority should be to enjoy this beautiful life. In order to work to live, and not live to work, start practicing lagom ASAP.