2023 is here! Hmm, are we comfortable with that? I mean, who else still feels like it’s 2003? Or maybe it’s just us…but at any rate, with the new year – and the winter – stretching out ahead of us, you might be thinking about comfort, and about getting things around you cozy and organized.
You might also be thinking that you’ve been there, done that with the whole trying to rearrange your space and make life comfier for the new year. But what if we look somewhere new this year to get some inspiration? Like, say to our friends in the far north of Europe: the Scandinavians. They have a few things to say on this topic, and you might come away with some very cozy, but still practical, ideas!
5 Scandinavian Concepts for a Better Life
The following terms might sound a bit like the names of IKEA furniture, but trust us. After all, did you know that Scandinavian populations are consistently rated among the happiest and healthiest in the world, and their cities the most livable? Hey, they take time to unwind in the sauna, they eat ridiculously healthy while still putting butter in everything, and they really, really appreciate the sunshine and take full advantage of being able to get outside. They really know how to seize the dag (day), while at the same time living simply, and with comfort and mindfulness at the forefront of their daily philosophies.
So let’s get down to it, and check out the best concepts Scandinavia has to offer:
This word is a big part of Swedish culture. It translates to something like, “not too much, not too little, just the right amount.”. You can look at this as a philosophy that encourages an overarching sense of balance in your life. And reminds you to do everything in moderation. Don’t burn yourself out at work, for example, but find a better work/life balance. Don’t overbuy and become swamped with things you don’t need. After all, the best way to get and stay organized is to not let yourself get bogged down with too much stuff in the first place, right?
But lagom isn’t just about you as one person, it’s a whole social philosophy: everyone should have enough (and certainly not too little), but that means you shouldn’t have too much. So you can practice lagom by keeping furniture to just what you need, trying to use less water, reducing electricity use, reusing items whenever possible, and cooking at home more often. In the end, lagom can be a pretty powerful organizing concept, because it promotes getting rid of unnecessary things. But the great twist is that it promotes feeling more socially connected at the same time!
Stressed out because you feel like you should be getting all organized and perfect right now? Or worse, stressed about how you should be practicing more self-care? Well, that’s exactly the opposite of what self-care should be all about! So it’s time to check out what the Danes (and the Norwegians, although this concept is more central to Danish culture) call hygge, or a concept meaning “to give courage, comfort, and joy.”
If you’ve heard this term before, you might think of it as just “coziness,”. But the translation above shows that it’s much more than that. It’s the ultimate concept in self-care. It’s all about giving that responsible you (you know, the one who’s stressed out and working too much?) a little (or a lot of) space to just live in the moment. Yes, when it comes to hygge, that moment should be a bit cozy (why not?), but don’t forget that coziness is meant to help you experience the joy of simply being.
How to get closer to hygge? Get rid of unnecessary clutter in your house, but don’t forget to keep the things that you love, including your snuggly blankets and candles.
3. Kura skymning
This Swedish term translates to “sitting quietly and pondering at dusk.” Lovely, right? We all seem to have such busy schedules these days. We often end up just feeling like all we can do is binge-watch some bad TV at the end of the day. It can start to feel unnecessarily difficult to enjoy just a few quiet moments of reflection. Or no, maybe it’s not that we think it’s difficult, but that we simply forget that that’s a thing.
But the Swedes would probably tell us that missing that in our lives is a pretty good way to let stress and feeling unorganized take hold. So next time you feel stressed and unorganized, think about kura skymning, slow down, and take those moments of fading light in the evening to refocus. You might find yourself refreshed enough the next day to tackle what you’ve been putting off. If not, at least you’ve had time with yourself. And if you make that a regular habit, you could find out what it is you need to be doing in your life – and actually do it.
In Norway, they don’t get a whole lot of sunlight in the winter. But instead of complaining about it (OK, we’re pretty sure there must be some Norwegians who complain about it), they’ve gone in the opposite direction with the concept of friluftsliv, meaning they really enjoy being outside when they can. This is basically the outdoorsy version of carpe diem, meaning you need to remember to connect with nature every chance you get. It’s also about emptying your mind of clutter and breathing in fresh air to bring more balance to your life. Instead of getting caught up in the rush of things.
Getting into friluftsliv can obviously be as simple as getting outdoors more. But to connect this concept with ordering your life and being more mindful and comfortable, think about replacing certain things with outdoor time. For example, you won’t see many Northern Europeans flooding malls on a Sunday afternoon. But if it’s nice out, you will see them heading outdoors to parks, nature areas, or anywhere else they can their outdoors on. And we’re pretty lucky in this part of the world – depending on where you are in the U.S., you might even get to enjoy some nice weather this winter. So really enjoy it!
Lykke is another Danish concept, but where hygge emphasizes comfort, lykke encompasses that not-so-little, or easily attainable, feeling we call happiness. For the Danes, “happiness” is not a destination, but a habit, a journey. And you have to actively take the wheel and participate in it! It’s about being part of a community and using your resources to support those around you. As well as to enhance your life with experiences rather than stuff.
Consider this: no one really likes paying taxes, right? So why are the Danes, according to studies, so happy to do it? Well, according to a Gallup poll, they know they are “purchasing a quality of life. They are investing in their community. Happiness doesn’t come from owning a bigger car but from knowing that everybody you know and love will be supported in their time of need.”
So to increase your lykke, and to do the things you want to do, you might actually have to be a little less focused on productivity. Sounds counterintuitive if you think happiness and success go hand-in-hand. But the Danes believe that happiness – lykke – is built on community and experiences.
So to get you in the right mindset, consider:
- Finding time to unplug, and having times with friends and loved ones where they do the same
- Eating together, and really being present (and sitting for ages, talking in the candlelight, as the Danes do!)
- Using your money to buy experiences instead of things. And focusing less on “keeping up” with what other people are buying
- Thinking about physical and mental health in a less transactional way. Try to focus less on calories-to-gym-hours conversions or self-care checklists
- Showing kindness intentionally, not just randomly (although random acts of kindness are lovely, of course). And instead of putting the burden on others by asking them what you can do for them, just do it!
What Does All This Have to Do with New Year’s Goals?
Maybe our Scandinavian friends didn’t give you a step-by-step guide to dealing with the junk drawer or overflowing closet that’s giving you nightmares. We’ll leave that to Mari Kondo (and she can keep it, ha). But the point here is not that you need to stress about following some formula for how to organize your life. It’s about really living your life, and cutting down on the clutter so you can simply live (simply) and in comfort. Enjoy the outdoors, care about your community, take just what you need, buy experiences – and declutter. That part will come naturally when you’re less focused on stuff and more on your hygge and lykke!
Co-written by Joanna Bowling