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Let’s Talk Lagom: How to Use "Just Enough" for Happiness

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Let’s talk lagom! “Lagom” is a Swedish word that can be translated roughly to mean “just enough.” Lagom is a word used to describe moderation and balance. For example, two pairs of flip-flops are lagom, but 25 is not. Alternatively, one scoop of ice cream is lagom, but three bowls are not. Essentially it is our concept of "less is more," or it can act as a contrast to "more is better."

Of course, the Swedish aren’t the only ones to have a word like this. For example, and please excuse my poor pronunciation, in Norway, they have "passelig," in Finnish, they have "sopivasti," in Russian, they have "normal’no,” in Albanian, they have "taman," in Indonesian, there is "pas," and in ancient Greek, there is even “metron ariston.”

Now, if all of these countries, many of which are known for having happy, vibrant societies, have this word, then there must be a justification for it. If one were to really break it down, it is simply the concept of moderation. Rather than always wanting more or bigger or better, we take happiness and joy from a modest, appropriate, sustainable amount.

Moderation is healthy in all aspects of life, including happiness. Now, you may be thinking, moderation in happiness…say what, Katie? Isn’t the whole point of this podcast to increase happiness? Yes, but one must increase it in a sustainable, healthy way.

Research has shown that people who place too much of themselves into chasing happiness often experience less of it.

First of all, forcing happiness never turns out as one would hope. You can’t force yourself to experience happiness where you otherwise wouldn't, so your mind must recognize that it is content or satisfied, but it doesn't have to be jumping for joy.

Second, extreme positive states like euphoria and exuberance are not good long-term. They often leave people unaware of their environment and lacking in empathy. As doctor Jaime Kurtz explained, you can “Think of excessive happiness as a broken thermostat. It’s unsustainable and likely to lead to disappointment.”

Rather than pursuing excessive happiness or trying to force it, it is better to approach a lagom style of happiness. This is where you experience happiness as it comes naturally and recognize when you need to process and experience negative emotions. Doing so will give you a balanced and sustainable sense of positivity and happiness that serves you better in the long run.

In the comments, tell me where you have recently practiced lagom. For example, having lagom with a single brownie, rather than going back for seconds…thirds…or sixths.

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