Is it just me, or do the Swedes seem to have a word for everything that could benefit our mental wellbeing? Not long ago, I wrote about Fika, which is another great Swedish tradition. Now here I am writing about Lagom and how to apply it to Christmas so you can get through the season with your mental wellbeing intact.
What Is Lagom?
As evidenced by our consumer-based society, we’ve been trained to have an unquenchable thirst for stuff. This insatiable appetite is nothing new. You can even find it in ancient texts and religions across the world. But according to the Big Think, Lagom (lah-gomm) is a way to change that.
Scandificantion calls Lagom a Swedish philosophy. One that can be translated to mean just enough or “not too much, not too little”. This basically means it’s about finding the right balance. That’s because Lagom is an extension of the minimalist idea of finding joy in your possessions.
Lagom builds on the minimalist idea, so it’s of no surprise that IKEA also supports the idea of Lagom. IKEA has a phrase they’re using as part of their sustainable living community: “Lagom är bast”, which means “the right amount is best”.
However, Lagom is more than just being about furniture, no matter how good you are at putting flatpack furniture together. It’s about finding a balance in all aspects of life, which includes your relationships with others, within yourself, and not just the environment (Health). Christmas is just another situation where this can be applied.
All you need to do is live a life by finding the right state of being that’s not too much and not too little, being happy, and balancing the pressures of everyday life (Hortop, 2019). The balance of Lagom means you have time to have fun and feel fulfilled, which can include time with loved ones, exercising, and hobbies (Health).
In short, Lagom is the Goldilocks zone. What applies to finding the right porridge, the right bed, and the right habitable zone in a solar system also applies to happiness and feeling content.
How To Apply Lagom To Christmas
It’s easy to go overboard at Christmas. We’ve all pretty much been conditioned to believe that going overboard at Christmas is the thing to do. There’re memes about weight gain caused by Christmas and movies about doing whatever it takes to get the sort after Christmas gift (Jingle All the Way).
There’s also a film about putting up enough Christmas decorations to cover a street’s worth of houses (Deck the Halls). Christmas and overdoing it go together like a “hand in glove”. The problem is, this can drastically affect our wellbeing for the worse.
Christmas can be a very stressful time of year, especially for those that have to prepare everything and cook the Christmas dinner (House Beautiful). Lagom, can be beneficial for such stressful times, where healthier habits and routines based on balance can return your sense of control (Health).
Be more conscious about purchases
Nowadays, it’s easy to just scroll on your phone and buy whatever you want whenever you want. Contactless payments haven’t helped as it separates us from our money while shopping at a physical location. According to Stacey Lowman (The Guardian), when paying with cold hard cash, we experience a sense of financial loss. This is also known as the pain of payment. This pain is lacking when paying by contactless or online.
To apply Lagom to your Christmas, try to be conscious about what you bring into your life (IKEA) and what you’re spending your money on. To avoid spending money on items you and your loved ones don’t want. A way around this might be for everyone to create a Christmas wishlist.
It’s easy to fill your calendars up with social engagements, especially with work Christmas parties commencing at the start of December nowadays. I went to one on the 2nd December. The problem with a full social calendar is that you can soon run out of steam. And if you’re also trying to work and prepare for Christmas, you can quickly feel burnt out.
By applying Lagom to your Christmas schedule, you’ll be able to embrace a slower but just as meaningful, fun, and peaceful way of life to your festive season. Choose your Christmas parties and other events wisely. You are not obligated to attend events, especially if it’s too far from home or too expensive (House Beautiful). Instead, try picking the ones that’ll be the most meaningful to you.
After all, going out with a friend to catch up over a coffee or a drink is nice, but doing that ten times in a row doesn’t mean you’ll feel 10 times as good. Lagom is about accepting this (Big Think).
I know it’s Christmas and everyone expects to eat everything in sight, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, take the Lagom approach and eat what you need (IKEA). It doesn’t matter if it’s sweet and unhealthy or wholesome. After all, Swedes love a cake during their Fika’s. It’s not about denying yourself the joys of eating, because eating is pleasurable. It’s about not overdoing that indulgence.
As the name suggests, this Lagom approach is about avoiding excess. That includes drinking, eating, and your social commitments. Try to unlearn that Christmas is about over indulging, and find a balance that makes you happiest without leaving you feel stressed.
A tidy home
According to House Beautiful, having a clean and uncluttered home means you’ll have a perfect respite after a long day. And it’s hard to argue with that. There’s nothing worse than coming home exhausted and realising you’ve forgotten to put new bed sheets on your bed and other such annoying chores.
Embrace the Lagom approach and keep your home free from of clutter, especially after the Christmas presents and everything else that has been dealt with. So put the wrapping paper in the recycle bin once you’ve done opening the presents.
Remember to take regular breaks over the festive season. Why not try taking a break like a Swede and have a Fika (IKEA)? But remember, it’s also Lagom to take breaks to relax, where you don’t have to socialise at the same time (House Beautiful). If you’re only taking breaks to socialise, then you’re going to find that you’re no longer relaxing pretty fast. Socialising can be draining.
The cost of living (greed) crisis is hitting us all pretty hard this year, so now more than ever, the expensiveness of Christmas needs to be balanced properly, Lagom style. Get your journal out and create a budget, so you don’t overspend and risk going into debt. Do a Secret Santa instead of buying everyone you know a gift. Split costs and save money wherever you can. The amount of fun you experience this Christmas isn’t equal to the amount you spend. Less can really mean more (Big Think).
The Lagom way of living is about removing some of the things that cause you stress, while bringing in more things that make you happy (IKEA). If you know being around a certain someone this Christmas is going to bring you the opposite of joy, then maybe don’t be around them. I haven’t spent Christmas with my mother since leaving home, and I never will. Life is too short to put up with people who make you feeling crappy.
For a truly Lagom Christmas, remember it’s not just about gift giving, but also giving social support. A study by Inagaki et al. (2016) found that giving and receiving social support decreased negative emotions. By social support, they mean stuff like making someone feel loved, cared about, and valued. However, brain scans showed that only giving was associated with less stress and more reward activity in the brain.
Support for this study comes from Balconi, Fronda, and Vanutelli (2019). They found that there was a strong relationship between gift donation and cooperation. This sees empathy, positive emotions, and the reward mechanism reinforcing and enhancing social bonds. One way to tap into social support and strengthening social bonds is to volunteer (Health), rather than just gift giving, to truly live a Lagom lifestyle this Christmas.
Christmas can be a very stressful time of year as everyone panic buys their last-minute shopping. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can all have a lovely stress free Christmas if we just take a leaf out of the Swedes’ book, and give Lagom a try. Find that balance, and learn to say no to the things you don’t need, the thing you don’t want to do, and say no to overdoing it.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with Lagom in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Balconi, M., Fronda, G., & Vanutelli, M. E. (2019). A gift for gratitude and cooperative behavior: brain and cognitive effects. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 14(12), 1317–1327. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsaa003 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7137728.
Hortop, A. (2019). Harnessing the Scandinavian concepts of ‘Lagom’ and ‘Hygge’ in creative bliss. Brit. J. Occup. Ther, 82(8), 24. Retrieved from https://www.rcot.co.uk/sites/default/files/Session%2037.1%20-%20Harnessing%20Scandinavian%20concepts%20of%20lagom%20and%20hygge.pdf.
Inagaki, T. K., Bryne Haltom, K. E., Suzuki, S., Jevtic, I., Hornstein, E., Bower, J. E., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2016). The Neurobiology of Giving Versus Receiving Support: The Role of Stress-Related and Social Reward-Related Neural Activity. Psychosomatic medicine, 78(4), 443–453. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000302 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851591.