Lagom – not too much, not too little. Just right.
In a world of ever increasing polarisations and contradictions, and when the cost of living is on the rise, it seem prudent to live a life of balance; not exceeding the limits and taking more than you need from the planet, nor forfeiting the things that you love. Lagom derives from the Swedish archetypical proverb “lagom är bäst”, translating into “the right amount is best”. Lagom can exist in many different forms, from living more sustainably to less interaction with your mobile phone – balance is a prerequisite to living a more joyful and free life. As Hygge took over many people’s lives in 2016, there is much anticipation that lagom is the new Scandinavian phenomenon to embrace this year. It could well be the line of thought we really need to get us through 2017.
Millennials have grown up in a digital world where you can be connected 24/7 to anyone around the world. However this is having a negative effect on people’s mental health, their physical health and their social interaction skills; they are becoming addicted to their mobile phones and to social media. If you wake up in the morning and check your phone before saying ‘good morning’ to your family or housemates, then you are addicted. If you are texting other friends whilst sat around a table at a restaurant, you are addicted. If you turn to your phone when are waiting for a meeting or for a friend to arrive, then you are addicted. If one does not receive enough ‘likes’ from a post, or a friend or partner does not reply instantaneously to a message, then this can impact their mental wellbeing. There is no wonder that there has been an influx in mental health issues in the younger generation, an increase in suicides, and an increase in those not able to socially interact with new people with ease. Social media is not a negative thing, but engaging with it too much can be. Using your mobile phone isn’t harmful, but too much of it can be. We need balance. Instead of constantly checking your phone whilst waiting for a friend to arrive, why not enjoy just being where you are. Take in the surroundings, talk to a stranger, let your mind wander – innovation and creativity stems from embracing the people and environment around you and will lead to a more joyful experience of life. Rather than charging your phone next to your bed, charge it in the living room; you do not need to be constantly connected everyone. Live in balance.
Living more sustainably and using less of the planet’s resources has been embraced by Swedes for a long time. More specifically, IKEA embarked on a Live Lagom programme to help promote the concept of lagom with participants being given vouchers to help them get started on living lagom. Being able to live in a more sustainable home, whilst making everyday life better and more beautiful, has been the fundamental mission of the project. After a year of lagom living, the responses of those participants have given evidence to the positive effects of the Swedish psyche. Participants focused on a variety of projects to change their lifestyle, for example, some grew their own food, others learnt how to use less energy, and some changed their eating habits. Food, energy and fuel is advancing in cost and we should look at the ways in which we can cut back the right amount so as to cut down on expenditure and use less of our planets resources. Once people start living more sustainably, they will want to share their experiences. Many of the participants in the IKEA programme resonate with this and have continued to live the lifestyle and encourage friends and family to participate.
Lagom goes beyond just living sustainably and having a balance of social media and mobile phones, everything can be lagom; having the lagom amount of clothes, having the temperature set at lagom – there is no set rule to follow and those to follow the lifestyle and pick and choose what works for them. Yet we can hope that 2017 brings about the furthering of connecting with local communities and embracing the good nature of your neighbours. If people are able to put their trust into their neighbours, as many Swedish people do, then communities will be able to see collectivism and cohesion save them time and money, yet also bring them happiness. For those who worry less and put more trust in others are more likely to lead a more fulfilled life.
This concept runs parallel to living sustainably and reducing the time spent on your phone and social media – balancing these out will give more time to interact with people in the real world and build meaningful and trusting relationships. Changing just one aspect of your life can have a knock-on effect and help transform the way we live.
Lagom isn’t just a short term event, it is a way of life that can see benefits in many different forms by those who adhere to its concept. 2017 may be a difficult year for a lot of people, yet hopefully lagom can help bring the right balance for people to enable them to lead happy lives.
Below are a number of ideas to get you started in the new year on how to live lagom.
1. Changing to LED lights. LED bulbs use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 20 years. Replacing all halogen bulbs can help save you £30 a year on your electricity bills.
2. Be conscious of switching lights off that aren’t in use. Turning off lights for a few seconds saves more energy than it takes to start it up again.
3. Say no to standby – save yourself up to £30 a year by turning off appliances by the wall instead of leaving them on standby.
4. Don’t take your phone out for a day – you will feel the freedom that it brings.
5. Charge your phone in your living room rather than next to your bed – if your phone is your alarm clock, then buy an alarm clock.
6. Purchase durable, reusable items such as a tea flask or water bottle. This can help reduce the amount of plastic purchased whilst on the go and will also save you buying a drink whilst out.
7. Turn down the temperature. Turning down your thermostat by just 1℃ can help you save 10% on your heating bill. Moreover, invest in cosy blankets and thick jumpers to reduce the amount of energy used.
8. Plan your meals – in advance of a food shop, plan what meals to cook for the week. Cooking big dishes can help you save money and reduce the time and cost of cooking multiple meals in a week.
9. Store your food properly – use tupperware to store leftover food and freeze if necessary.
This can help minimise the mound of food wasted – on average, food wastage can cost a household up to £470 a year.
Words by Samuel Smith