Fourteen years ago, Niki Brantmark was invited to spend her summer vacation with a friend on Sweden’s West Coast. “It was the perfect setting for the beginnings of a love affair—not only with my Swedish husband but also with the Swedish way of life,” she writes in her new book Lagom ($20, amazon.com). Pronounced LAH-gum, the term translates to “not too little, not too much” or “just right”—and in Sweden it represents the art of living a balanced, slower, fuss-free life. “Swedish people take their time. They stop, they look, they listen and they wait. The beauty of slowing down, I’ve learned, is that it helps you be more in the moment and enjoy the simple pleasures in life,” Brantmark writes. “And there’s something very relaxing and satisfying about it, too.” Below are six tips from her book, to help you add more lagom to your everyday life.
Adopt the morgondopp
Blessed with 11,500 km (over 7,000 miles) of coastline and around 100,000 lakes, it’s little wonder the Swedes love to bathe. But one type of alfresco bathing stands out: the morgondopp, or morning dip. Most commonly enjoyed between May and September (although some hardy types go year-round), the morgondopp is usually enjoyed first thing in the morning before coffee. The bather dons a dressing gown and wanders down to the local bathing deck.
The length of time you stay in the water depends on the temperature, which I’ve noticed is something of a national obsession. Bathing piers wouldn’t be complete without a small thermometer bobbing on the end of a string. Some people decide their bathing ‘season’ around these numbers. For example, my parents-in-law, Inger and Bo, begin their season when the mercury rises above 10°C (50°F)! ‘As soon as I hit the water, I feel completely awake and ready for the day ahead,’ enthuses Inger. ‘It’s just you and the great expanse of water. It’s an incredibly humbling experience and so relaxing to feel the warm sun and cool breeze on your body afterwards.’
Nowhere near any sea, river, stream or lake? Try ending your daily shower with a cold-water blast. It may not be as mindful or empowering as a swim, but you’ll still get many of the physiological benefits and will almost certainly wake up with a jolt!
My Swedish friend Yvonne recounted how she’d once gone on a solitary five-day hike across a nature reserve. Although she confessed that it’s incredible just how many noises there are in the woods at night, the only time she was uncomfortable was when a party set up camp next to her and played the guitar until the small hours. Above all else, she enthused about how liberating and empowering the experience was.
To be honest with you, I can’t quite see myself camping alone in the woods at night, but it does inspire me to head out for a few hours to feel the power of being alone in nature, and I hope it does the same for you. It’s in these solitary moments that you appreciate the rustle of the leaves in the wind, the sound of the breaking waves or the distant melody of a lark.