Looking for new ways to look after your mental wellbeing? Hyyge and lagom – two Swedish concepts for living contentedly – as well as ikagai – the Japanese equivalent – are three ways of doing just that. Understanding the difference between hyyge, lagom and ikigai can be confusing though, so we’ve done some research and cross referenced all three to bring you top tips for a healthier head.
What is Hyyge?
An ongoing stream of press on hyyge means you’re probably familiar with this concept already, but for those that don’t know, it means making the most out of the tiny little things in life that bring you happiness, like wearing fluffy winter socks in front of the fire on a cold night or going to your local pub with a group of friends. Hyyge is very much about enjoying moments that do nothing but make you feel a sense of contentment.
What is lagom?
Lagom – another concept created by the Swedes – means not too much and not too little. The Swedish saying ‘Lagom är bäst’ literally translates as ‘The right amount is best’ and in English it translates to “Enough is as good as a feast” and “There is virtue in moderation ”. Lagom can be applied to everything from how many sweets you eat, to what your salary is, to not being too outgoing but not too shy either.
This one sounds neither here nor there but – if you think about it – actually makes a lot of sense. It’s eating the whole packet of biscuits rather than the occasional one that has a negative impact on your health. And you don’t need to push your body to its limits every day to reap the rewards of regular exercise. Lagom is a great mantra to follow if you’re trying to find a good balance of hard work, healthy eating, me-time, exercise and having fun.
What is ikigai?
Loosely translated, Ikigai is your purpose in life. From the Japanese ‘iki’ to live and ‘gai’ meaning reason and many describe it as ‘your reason for getting up in the morning’.
As opposed to hyyge, practitioners focus more on motivation, fulfilment, what they earn and what improves their life. It’s all about cross referencing these factors to work out what your own, personal ‘ikigai’ is and how it can improve both your short-term and long-term wellbeing.
Ken Mogi, a Japanese neuroscientist and author of The Little Book of Ikigai defines an ‘ikagai’ as something that gives you pleasure or purpose no matter how big or small. Mogi believes having one long term goal is a very Western notion and emphasises the ikigai way of living as giving love to the short term just as much as the long term.
3 ways to benefit from Hyyge, lagom or ikigai
Be present : Though telling someone to ‘be present’ sounds like an odd thing to do, failing to appreciate your current situation due to looking too much into the future will leave you missing out on the small moments in life that count for keeping you happy.
Mindfulness – a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present - will help you to achieve this and not only does it help with low mood, anxiety and can allow people to deal more effectively with stressful situations, it can also benefit physical health problems and give us the mental space to develop a sense of acceptance.
Set aside time for hobbies : It doesn’t matter what hobby it is, setting aside time for doing the things you love is just as important as a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Finding time for your hobbies is sometimes easier said than done, but you’d be surprised what you can fit in if you get up a little earlier, use your lunchtime wisely or even replace watching TV with some dedicated hobby time for a couple of nights per week.
Find some balance : When we talk about balance we mean finding the time not just to concentrate on your work life but to concentrate on eating healthily, staying active, and enjoying yourself, too. And that doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym every morning, denying yourself of cake forever or attending every social event going… we’re only human after all!
Finding balance means a lot of things. It means offsetting a hard day at work with a relaxing bubble bath and a glass of wine, it means doing parkrun on a Saturday morning and then treating yourself to a bacon bap because you’ve already burnt off the calories, it means having a green juice for breakfast because it’s pastry day at work and it means going to yoga because you need some well-earned me-time.