It’s fair to say that the Nordic countries are doing plenty of things right – they consistently rank among the top 10 happiest countries on earth.
You’ve may have heard of hygge, the Danish concept of cosy contentedness. I’m certainly a big fan and have written several posts on how incorporating hygge into your life can boost your well-being.
But as I’ve discovered, hygge isn’t the only piece of Nordic wisdom to live by.
In this post, I’ll share some Nordic ideas which, when applied to your own life, can truly have a positive impact on your well-being.
They are timeless, simple and inexpensive – all they require is a little shift in perspective.
Here are 7 Nordic Ideas you can try:
Lagom (pronounced “LAH-GOM”) is a Swedish word literally meaning “the right amount is best”. Or in other words “just the right amount – not too little, not too much”.
Equity and fairness are important in Swedish society, and lagom encompasses the ideal of balance and harmony both in society as a whole as well as in their personal lives.
The Swedes approach everything from what they eat and drink, and how many possessions they have, to how many hours they work, with the attitude of lagom.
It’s all about balance and moderation. Slowing down to appreciate the good things that you have in your life right now.
So how can we incorporate lagom into our lives?
Aim to maintain a healthy work/life balance
(i) Make sure you take breaks during your working day.
- take your time over a nice lunch rather than gulping it down at your desk
- get outside into the fresh air (see friluftsliv below)
- enjoy a coffee or tea break with friends (see fika below)
(ii) Disconnect or unplug at the end of the day.
Spend some time away from your devices doing something that helps you to relax and unwind.
(iii) Make time for self-care.
Prioritise activities that boost your mental and physical well-being. Those things that relax, revitalise and recharge you.
Consider areas of your life where you feel overwhelmed
Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of clothes, other possessions, or commitments in your life?
Clearing the excess is definitely lagom.
Read more: 15 Quick & Simple Decluttering Projects
If you feel that you spend too much, eat too much, or hold on to too much, start taking some small steps to cut back.
Lagom encourages you to make small changes so you can find the right balance for you and your life.
Friluftsliv (pronounced “FREE-LOOFTS-LIV”) is a Norwegian word which literally means “free-air life”.
The concept of friluftsliv is all about connecting with nature by being in nature.
It’s something we instinctively know, and it’s been backed up by many studies – we feel good when we are outdoors experiencing nature.
Practising friluftsliv isn’t however about being traditionally “outdoorsy”.
It’s not about undertaking big hikes, long bike rides or gruelling outdoor adventures. It’s not about rock climbing, canoeing, or water-skiing or doing any other specifically outdoorsy-type of thing.
In fact, it’s not about “doing” at all, but rather about “being”.
The point of friluftsliv is to slow down and reconnect with your natural surroundings.
It’s about detaching from the need to be doing something, going somewhere or achieving something.
You can do this by going to a park, walking through a woodland, or sitting in your back garden.
Ditch the distractions (such as your phone) and just take in your surroundings. What can you see, what can you hear, and what can you feel?
You don’t need to spend huge amount of time doing this to feel the benefits.
Even just paying attention to the natural elements in your everyday life, such as the tree near your bus stop, or the flowers growing through cracks in the pavement can boost your mood when done regularly.
Fika (pronounced “FEE-KAH”) is a Swedish word that means something similar to “coffee break”.
There is no clear translation, but the intention is to take a daily break involving the comforting ritual of a warm drink and something small but tasty to eat.
Fika is not just a coffee break, but a state of mind in Sweden.
It’s about slowing down, taking a break, and savouring the good things in life. Enjoying the company and conversation with family, friends or co-workers, while eating and drinking something delicious.
Contrast this to how many of us see coffee purely as fuel – revving us up in the morning, or helping us get through the afternoon. Something to quickly grab on the run and chug down as fast as possible.
It’s not just about coffee though. Fika can involve tea, hot chocolate, iced tea, or any drink really that prompts you to slow down and savour the moment.
You can enjoy Fika at home, at work, at a coffee shop, in the park, alone or with friends, colleagues, or family. The point is to take a proper break – and make it enjoyable.
Hygge (pronounced “HUE-GAH”) originates from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being’. The word hygge is also believed to be loosely connected to the old English word ‘hug’ which means ‘to embrace’.
Now considered a Danish concept, it’s not easy to translate into one word or idea. It generally refers to a feeling of contented cosiness. It’s the feeling you get where you feel cosy, safe and comfortable. Either when you are on your own, or when you are with friends and family.
Hygge is all about enjoying the simple pleasures of food and drink, home, friends and family, and nature. Where you appreciate the comfort and loveliness of everyday moments.
It encompasses the feelings of well-being, comfort, safety, relaxation and contentment.
You can create hygge moments throughout your day by taking some time to slow down and be truly present, either in the company of friends or family or on your own. Hygge doesn’t happen when you are rushed or distracted.
When you add small pleasures to your day through moments of hygge you’ll boost your feelings of well-being and contentment.
It’s those little things that we do every day that bring us pleasure that lead to feelings of happiness. As Benjamin Franklin said
happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasure that occur every day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom– Benjamin Franklin
Read more: How You Can Live a Hygge Lifestyle
Lykke (pronounced “LOO-KAH” is a Danish word meaning happiness.
Think of lykke as a method, an attitude that you can use in your own life and circumstances that can increase your sense of happiness and well-being.Tim Rayborn: The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness
Even though it’s something we all strive for, it’s fair to say happiness is a fairly broad and somewhat nebulous concept. It’s difficult to define because we all have different thoughts and ideas about what happiness means to us.
I believe happiness comes from both the big, significant moments as well as the small everyday moments in our lives.
I also believe that it comes from working towards fulfilling our goals and living according to our values.
But regardless of how you see happiness, the key to lykke is to be present in your life. So that you can see these moments when they come. And then embrace, appreciate and treasure them.
Gratitude is a proven happiness booster. Countless studies have demonstrated that it is one of the most powerful things we can do to boost our health and well-being.
Sisu (pronounced “SEE-SU”) is a Finnish concept. The word isn’t directly translatable but is thought to stem from the Finnish word sisus which literally means “guts”.
Sisu is all about facing life’s challenges.
It’s about acting with courage, determination and grit in the face of adversity – keeping your head, staying calm, and acting rationally.
It also encompasses the ideals of resilience and bouncing back from hard times.
Sisu is invaluable because no matter how hard we try to avoid it there will be times in our lives where we face difficulties. That’s life after all.
What’s important is how we react to these moments.
The essence of sisu is taking action.
Sisu is not shown by talking about it, it’s shown by getting on with things. Your actions are what show sisu.Tim Rayborn: The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness
When we embody sisu we don’t try to deny or hide from our troubles. We recognise them and face them head-on. We put together a plan of action, and then put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
Þetta Reddast (pronounced ” THAT-TA RE-DUST) is an Icelandic word that means “it will all work out”.
It’s an optimistic point of view held by the Icelanders that no matter what the problem, they’ll get through it.
Þetta reddast is not a naive hope that nothing bad will happen, but a more mature acceptance that yes, things can and will go wrong, but we can get through them (maybe with a bit of sisu thrown in?)Tim Rayborn: The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness
Here’s a few suggestions to help cultivate an attitude of Þetta reddast:
(i) Don’t expect perfection, or suppress uncomfortable feelings. Accept that in life sometimes things will go wrong, or don’t work out as planned, and that it’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, angry or upset about it.
(ii) Realise that while we might not be able to change what has happened, we have a choice about what action we are going to take next.
(iii) Keep the bigger picture in mind. When faced with a problem ask yourself whether this will still be a big deal in a week, a month, or a year. If it is, what small step can you take now to move towards addressing it?
By embracing some Nordic ideas we can build confidence and feel prepared to embrace all aspects of life.
By cultivating happiness, contentment, feelings of safety, and determination, we can become better equipped to be in the right state of mind for when problems drop in our lap.Tim Rayborn: The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness
When it comes to boosting happiness and well-being, I have no doubt that adopting even a few of these Nordic ideas will have a positive impact on our lives.
Slowing down, enjoying the moment, connecting with nature, embracing comfort and contentment, facing problems head-on and practising optimism all contribute to living a balanced, healthy and happy life.