Sixteen years ago, writer Niki Brantmark received an invitation from a friend to vacation on the west coast of Sweden. It turned out to be the ideal setting to start a love affair – both with her Swedish-born husband and the way of life in Sweden, as she noted in her book Lagom. (1) Translated, this term means “just the right amount” and represents the way Swedes like to live their lives. They take in the sights, smells, and sounds, and aim for a more relaxed life. Below we’ll share her six tips from her book.
Start With a Morgondopp
Sweden has more than 7,000 miles of coastline and thousands of lakes, so it’s not strange that Swedish people love to go for a dip and bathe. However, the morning dip, also known as the morgondopp, is something everyone should try. It’s mostly performed in the morning before your coffee between the months of May and September. All you have to do is bring a gown and walk down to the local pier or deck.
Temperature and personal preference dictate how long you spend in the water, and these decks and piers tend to have a thermometer nearby which helps people decide how long they want to bathe. For example, Niki’s in-laws start when the temperature is just above 50°F or 10°C.
If taking a dip in the ocean, a river, or a lake is not an option, you can try to end your morning shower with a few minutes of cold water. Health Line reports that a cold shower below 70°F increases endorphins and helps improve metabolism. (2)
Go out on Your Own
Brantmark mentions a story shared by her Swedish friend Yvonne who had embarked alone on a five-day camping and hiking trip. The noises coming from the woods during the night were unnerving, but the only thing that really bothered her was a group of campers nearby who played guitars throughout the night. Overall, her trip had left her feeling empowered and liberated. And what Yvonne felt science backs up. A study from the University of East Anglia, (3) reveals populations exposed to higher levels of green space seem to be in better health, according to data collected from almost 300 million people.
Simplify Your Wardrobe
Going further, you could simplify your wardrobe, slim it down, and take a minimalist’s approach popular in Sweden. Use a limited number of clothes that are versatile, high-quality, and easy to mix and match. This way, you take the stress out of choosing what to wear.
Take a Break, Enjoy the Little Things
Fikapaus is the Swedish equivalent of a coffee or tea break. You could use it for a chat with your coworker or schedule ahead and make it more formal. Those of us who live busy lives in big cities might feel guilty about this little indulgence, but giving yourself a well-deserved break makes complete sense.
Morning breaks at work reenergize people, give them more motivation, but also alleviate headaches and back pain, according to a study from the Hankamer School of Business. (4) However, the positive benefits of taking a break diminished slowly as more time passed between each one.
If, as an introvert, small talk drains your batteries instead of filling them up, you can always take a break and spend some time alone. This is what Niki’s former HR boss announced he was going to do and recommended others try it out, too.
Turn Listening Into an Art
Those of us who had the pleasure of talking to Swedes have surely noticed just how adept they are at listening. Moreover, they allow for pauses in the conversation without needing to jump in with a reply. They also keep an even tone, which can be awkward for the average person from England or the US used to fill in every gap.
While this way of conversing isn’t perhaps ideal at a party where small talk is king, it still gives everybody a chance to participate. The next time you strike up a conversation, give this a try by slowing down and really listening to what other people are telling you. Think about what you’ve heard and then give a thought-out reply.
Share Your Kindness With Others
Following the all-things-in-moderation mantra of lagom can be extended to small acts of kindness which seem more meaningful than grand gestures. When her daughter was born, Brantmark remembers a friend from Sweden bringing her a meal and insisting she wasn’t staying to give her a chance to rest. Another friend with a busy schedule would visit and make her tea daily when her leg was injured.
- “Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living,” Amazon,
- “Cold shower benefits for your health,” Healthline, Kathryn Watson, 11 April, 2017,
- “It’s official – spending time outside is good for you,” Science Daily, 6 July, 2018,
- “New research confirms how to take better workday breaks,” Baylor University, 9 September, 2015,