Move over, hygge: lagom is the latest Scandinavian trend that will legit change your life. While Denmark’s hygge is the idea of happiness through coziness, Sweden’s lagom—which translates to “just the right amount”—is the doctrine of living a balanced life. It’s the idea that you should not have too much of one thing or another if you want to live well. Since Swedes are notoriously gorgeous-looking creatures and are rated some of the happiest people on earth, it’s safe to say they have a thing or two figured out.
Cue Dr. Bertil Marklund’s new book The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Tips For a Happier, Healthier Life (Greystone Books, $15). In the chic, pocket-sized paperback, the Swedish doctor and researcher reveals simple tips on how to live your healthiest life—sans dieting or killing yourself on the treadmill—lagom-styles. Since we all know regular exercise and balanced eating are cornerstones to good health, here’s six other ways to maximize your time on the planet, courtesy of the Swedes.
As the second-largest consumers of coffee in the world, Sweden is a country that believes in the benefits of a cup of joe. Since coffee contains both caffeine and antioxidants, it has a range of health benefits, with the majority of them coming from antioxidants. From a reduced risk of stroke to lessening the chances of developing Parkinson’s disease, daily moderate coffee consumption—which Marklund says is three to four cups a day—is real good for your bod. Now go fill your cup!
You’ve probably read that drinking red wine is good for you, and while Marklund acknowledges moderate consumption can have a positive effect on your health—including reducing the risk of heart attack and diabetes—these benefits only occur when you hit middle age. Mid-life is when the risk of cardiovascular diseases rise, so a glass of Merlot once a week ain’t a bad thing at age 45. But for young people and binge drinkers, booze has no health benefits. Womp womp.
Be an optimist
Finding the silver lining in life not only makes you an enjoyable person to be around, it helps keep your body healthy, too. Marklund cites research that says those who have a positive view on life are twice (!) as likely to have good heart health, compared to those Negative Nancys. And, if that wasn’t reason enough to start seeing the glass half full, the doctor also writes that optimists can live up to seven years longer than pessimists. Since optimists are solution-oriented and pessimists are problem-focused, cheerful folk are naturally more likely find success in jobs and relationships.
Catch some Zzzzs
We all need solid sleep to restore our bodies and keep our minds strong. A good night’s sleep supports a strong immune system, which in turn reduces the risk of diseases and depression. While the optimal average amount of sleep is seven hours, this number changes with age: teenagers need waaaay more rest, while 60-year-olds may be fine on less. And when it comes to naps, take them! Marklund writes that those who regularly sleep in the afternoon have almost a 40 per cent lower chance of cardiovascular disease. But keep the cat naps to 20 mins max; any longer can disrupt your bedtime routine.
Who would you be without your besties? Being social and having meaningful relationships is key to reducing stress and recovering from illness. Marklund points to research that shows loneliness increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as stroke. But you don’t need to be a crazy socialite to reap the health benefits of being around others; joining a weekly club or becoming a member of a community organization nurtures the body and mind, too.
Get sun—but not too much
Sun is a natural feel-good generator, and sunbathing for short periods of time is actually good for you, as vitamin D can help keep various cancers, depression and infections at bay. Marklund’s advice? Lie out in the middle of the day—when the sun provides the most vitamin D—for only 15 to 20 minutes, and wear UV-proof sunglasses and a full coat of SPF 15 minimum to protect your eyes and skin. (Don’t forget to apply that sunscreen 15 minutes before heading outside to make sure you’re 100% protected.)