If you follow health trends, you have no doubt experienced the “hygge” fever that spread like wildfire through the wellness world this past winter. Hygge (pronounced hue-guh, not hoo-gah), for those who are unfamiliar, is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming, or special.
According to Hyggehouse.com, “Hygge (or to be “hyggeligt”) doesn’t require learning “how to hygge”, adopting it as a lifestyle or buying anything. It simply requires being present and recognizing a moment that feels so sweet, cozy, charming, special or nice that you just have to name the moment.”
In the United States, hygge has come to describe “the warm and fuzzy satisfaction of going the extra mile to feel cozy.” Hygge can be experienced in a plethora of different ways. It can be nestling in front of a crackling fire with a cup of hot cocoa in an oversized mug. It can be cuddling up in a large-knit cashmere throw with a favorite book. It can be playing with and laughing and tickling a family member or friend. Ultimately, then, hygge ranks comfort and ease above all else.
Because of this, you might believe that “lagom” – a Swedish term that means “not too little, not too much” or “just the right amount”, is just another Scandinavian trend that is essentially another word for or form of hygge. However, I am here to tell you that this is not the case. (But you can rest easy – hygge fever isn’t going anywhere, either!).
Lagom – which, according to Google, has been searched for more in 2017 than in any other year already – is already the topic of several books due to be published this fall and is also the cornerstone of Swedish furniture and home décor brand IKEA’s new cost-conscious sustainability philosophy. At its core, the very essence of lagom is somewhat of an antipode to the concept of hygge. After all, lagom finds its roots in the more austere traditions of the Lutheran faith and describes a form of moderation that emphasizes discipline and restraint over comfort and ease.
The preeminent example for lagom used in popular press is that of milk preferences in Sweden. Apparently, Swedes opt for 1.5 percent milk for the most part – they strike the balance between creamy, whole milk and milk that is entirely free of fat. In simplistic terms, then, if hygge is about the extra touch, lagom is about the basics and the essentials.
Lagom philosophy extends far beyond dairy products, of course, and extends into areas including politics, personality, and even creative expression. Lagom has a largely positive connotation, but even a Swede was quick to point out that “it’s inherently limiting.” One blogger was quick to point out that when applied to wellness and health, lagom would call for, “Nothing too intense or extreme, of course, so say goodbye to boot camp, marathons, #yogaeverydamnday, and your plant-based lifestyle. But on the flip side, it means 35-hour work-weeks, more vacation days, and more time spent with friends and family.”
In my opinion, moderation is not a bad thing. In fact, I believe that our society can stand to gain a lot from lagom thinking, what with our multitasking, over-scheduled, overbook, overwhelmed, stressed out, caffeinated, burnt out, sleep-deprived, media-saturated lives. When I think of lagom in terms of its religious roots, I view it as describing the balance and equanimity that people from many different spiritual traditions strive for. Maybe lagom is just a word that can remind us that when things get shaky in life and we are trying to get our balance, we need to fall back on what we know to be true and follow the principals that help us to live the life we desire
To end on a rather meta note, I propose that we take a lagom approach to lagom. Let us at once heed Epictetus’ view that “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please” while also remembering W. Somerset Maugham’s musing that “Excess on occasion is exhilarating [because] it prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.”
After all, everything in moderation… including moderation itself!
- Had you heard about lagom previous? What about hygge? What are your thoughts on each?
- How do you or would you like to practice hygge in your life?
- How do you or would you like to practice lagom in your life?
- How can you cultivate balance and efficacy in your life while also finding opportunities for daily joy and authentic self-expression?