My sister gave me a book for my birthday titled Lagom, a Swedish word which loosely translates to ‘just enough’. This delightful book delves into the notions behind Swedish living and their endeavour to live a balanced lifestyle. Which got me thinking…What does a balanced lifestyle mean? And what does it mean to different people?
Balance is a word which is thrown around continuously nowadays. Referring to diet, work, socialising, spending, physical balance – the list goes on. It is something which we all strive for but are also probably never quite sure what a perfectly balanced life means.
A large part of this is down to people’s varied lifestyles and subjective views. For example, those who absolutely love a bottle (or five) of wine on a Friday night, may feel that by not drinking in the week balances this out. Others, who find themselves feeling undernourished and lethargic from not eating meat, may discover that having the odd piece of fish or chicken helps them feel significantly better. Or maybe somebody loves their work and can’t get enough of it, so socialising becomes second choice. Are any of these right? Or should all of these people rethink and restructure their lives? I’m sure anyone reading this would give me a completely different answer or issue.
And therein lies the problem. Everybody is different and therefore different things will suit different people. There is no ‘one size fits all’, nor is there a quick fix to finding the perfect balance but there is the possibility to aim for something which works both for you and those around you. Which, in turn, will generate balance.
The Swedish concept of lagom is about finding just about the right amount for everyone. The collective is thought of rather than just the individual. This is an idea which I can completely get on board with. If the collective is happy and in harmony, then the individual will also be happy as a by product. Win win for everyone. The Swedes, therefore, give equal accountability to every individual; they strive for equality within the workplace and at home; they encourage coffee breaks and don’t expect employees to stay earlier/later than their contracted hours; huge spending sprees are not the norm; and environmental care is everyones responsibility. This sharing of the load has led to one of the most consistently happy populations throughout the globe – which is pretty impressive.
But how to integrate this into our own personal lives?
Living consciously, I think, is the crucial crux for living a balanced life. If we blunder through the everyday, with no regard for ourselves or anyone else, we will find ourselves surrounded by (and in) turmoil. Take Yoga for instance, physically there is a large focus on balancing postures. When the mind is busy, however, we often struggle to balance on one leg due to our thoughts being all over the place and as a result do not find that desired peace. This is very similar in life. If one aspect of life starts to go awry and take over, we often loose sight of the other things surrounding us, in turn loosing balance in those areas as well. So, although this may go against the collective initially, I would suggest starting with the self. Take the time and effort to work out what makes you happy, what actions positively and negatively impact your life? And how can you bring the positive to the fore? By creating positive changes within your own life, you will also have a beneficial impact on those around you. Maybe it will inspire people to make their own adjustments. Or maybe they will simply feel uplifted due to your own newfound optimism!
So, if you eat 50 steaks a week, maybe take a moment to look at whether this has a positive impact on your health and the environment surrounding you? If you work all the time and never see your friends or family, does this bring joy to you and the people you love? Should you read these and realise that no, these things do not bring me happiness, I do not mean you should never eat a steak again or quit your job forever. Instead, use it as a cue to cut down to maybe 10 steaks a week instead, or book every other weekend off work to spend with your family and friends.
Finding a balanced way of living will not be a quick fix over night, it will take time to establish and will probably continuously change as your life evolves. The important thing is to become aware of it. To start asking the right questions, to get to the right place for you. You shouldn’t punish yourself for eating that entire box of biscuits, nor should your never touch wine again if you enjoy it. A balanced life should bring you happiness and what works for one, may not necessarily work for another. There may be slip ups but that is what life is all about. No one is perfect.
Ultimately just be conscious of yourself and others. Be conscious of your home, your planet. We are a collective but we are also individuals and through conscious decisions we can create a place in which ourselves, our loved ones and our environment are happier, healthier and balanced.