Hygge, Lagom, and Sisu: 3 Nordic Life Philosophies and 9 Lessons We Can Learn From Them

By Berta Melder

Posted 4 months agoGROWTH

Hygge, Lagom, and Sisu: 3 Nordic Life Philosophies and 9 Lessons We Can Learn From Them

Life is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s a pleasurable experience, and sometimes it’s just a sequence of obstacles that make you think, “How am I supposed to handle all of this?” Sometimes it’s hard to navigate through all the surprises this life offers.

Any busy man has his priorities and long-term goals so there’s no time for taking a break just in order to think of what the life is, and what to do when you go down on this weird roller coaster. If you’ve found yourself in the exact same situation where you don’t know what is the best solution, then you certainly need to approach this situation philosophically.

During the last couple of years, Scandinavian life philosophies became quite popular in western countries. There are many books, lectures, and articles that describe Scandinavian concepts, for example, Danish hygge. Hygge (it’s pronounced as ‘hoo-guh’) is a Danish approach to living which means creating a comfortable and peaceful environment. Why is it so popular?

Well, Danes are the happiest people in Europe, is this reason enough to listen to them? Of course, not all the difficult situations can be handled by just creating a peaceful atmosphere around. What to do if you lack energy? In this case, Scandinavians also know the answer. This time, Finns are ready to help you with their concept of sisu (‘see-soo’) — it will help you be dedicated and keep trying no matter what. If you suffer from bad habits or lack self-control, Swedish lagom (‘law-gm’) is your solution.

Let’s take a closer look at these philosophies and find out how you can use them to become more productive, determined, chilled, and satisfied with the present moment.

Hygge, Lagom, and Sisu

Hygge is one of the most popular Nordic philosophies. If you googlehygge,’ you’ll see many photos of people wearing sweaters, drinking hot chocolate, and staring at candles. However, hygge isn’t just another trend focused on materialistic things. Hygge is a feeling. You can feel hygge when you’re relaxed, when you enjoy an interesting conversation with friends, when you put on a cosy sweater, or when you look at the fire, drinking hot wine.

Lesson 1: Spend More Time With Friends

Many Danes note that they haven’t seen hygge in the USA because Americans are too independent. In contrast, Danes see their friends more often than other Europeans, and the sense of community is very important for most of them. Sometimes, all you need to do is just be around people who understand and support you, even if there’s no particular purpose of meeting them.

Appreciate your friends and spend more time with your family. These are your community which can empower you and give you a sense of belonging.

Lesson 2: Enjoy the Present Moment

However, hygge is not only about meeting people. It’s also about staying in the present moment and enjoying it. Danes think that you can enjoy your life if you create a nice, peaceful atmosphere and surround yourself with little things that make you happy. These may be scented candles, warm socks, a cup of coffee, or your favorite music. The point is to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere wherever you go so that you can feel happy.

Lesson 3: Work and Enjoy Life Moderately

Swedes think that the key to happiness is to live in moderation. This is the easiest way to bring more balance to your life. Don’t work too much, otherwise, you’ll feel exhausted. Don’t buy too many things, otherwise, you’ll become obsessed with things but they won’t make you happy. Don’t eat too much fast food, don’t drink too much, don’t procrastinate too much — this is what lagom is all about.

That doesn’t mean that you cannot do these things, quite the opposite, you can do whatever you need to feel happy. The key is to take the middle ground and to not push the limits. This simple approach can help you avoid most of your everyday stresses.

Lesson 4: Never Give Up

If things get really bad, you’ll certainly benefit from following the Finnish philosophy of sisu. This principle can be roughly described in English as having a backbone and courage.

However, sisu is more than just that. Sisu is an almost mystical concept that means being a hero of your own story. As Winston Churchill once said, if you’re going through hell, you should keep going! Sisu is a life-saving principle. No matter what happens to you, the best thing you can do is stay strong and remain hopeful.

what we can learn from nordic philosophies

How to Incorporate Principles of Hygge, Lagom, and Sisu in Your Everyday Life

As you can see, these three philosophical principles consider different aspects of our lives, so there’s no need to choose among them. If you’re in a situation where you have to make an important decision and act decisively, sisu can help you. If you need to relax and recharge your energy — this is where you’ll benefit from hygge and lagom. However, it may take some time until you learn how to live according to these principles.

Lesson 5: Take Some Time for Yourself

Hygge is not only about making a cozy atmosphere and meeting friends, but it’s also about little traditions that help you forget about any troubles and just enjoy your life. For example, you can organize a game night every week, or you can rent a cabin on Sundays and spend some time far from the loud city. Meet people who you love and do something together. Just sit and talk, drinking hot chocolate, or play board games and talk. You can also learn some craft. Making something with your own hands may turn out to be the most effective way to calm down.

Lesson 6: Unplug

All modern people spend too much time on their smartphones. For many of us, smartphones and tablets have become a sort of extension of our bodies. On one hand, those devices help us in everything, from communicating to booking hotels and to paying bills. On the other hand, the more time you spend in the digital world, the less aware you are of the present moment and real things that surround you. Hygge is about enjoying real things. Just turn off your phone for a couple of hours, light a candle, and read a book instead.

It’s important to appreciate the real world we’re living in, even if it’s far from the idealistic standards that we see on social media. Danes also pay particular attention to everything associated with nature. They even try to bring the outdoors in their homes, decorating homes with wooden items, plants, rocks, etc. All these objects can help you feel closer to nature.

Lesson 7: Try to Find a Balance

There are many problems that have the same roots — we’re over-doing something. We overeat, we work too much and even check our work emails at home. We want to be the best at everything so we multitask and push as hard as we can just to feel a little more successful. However, this approach doesn’t seem to work.

Instead of feeling satisfied with our achievements, we feel exhausted and distracted, which is the easiest way to lose motivation at all. Lagom is a principle that can help you find a balance in everything and so have more energy and feel less stressed. Do you really need to have too much? What if you try to have just enough?

Lesson 8: Love Who You Are

You should understand that the excessive lifestyle has its consequences. We follow celebrities on social media and constantly get told about what we should be. Perhaps, you often think: “I should work out/work/travel/socialize more. I need a better job. I should stop eating meat. I should buy a better car…” Instead of being a motivational impulse, such a rat race often becomes an obstacle for our happiness. We are constantly looking for more and cannot enjoy what we have. We don’t love who we are.

Lagom teaches us that it’s ok if you don’t have a six-figure salary and a big boat loaded with pretty models. The main thing is to feel happy, isn’t it?

Lagom is not just about personal goals. Moderation is good for everything. For example, let’s say you want a bigger car to feel more masculine. You’ll need to buy more gas, which means that you will waste more money, and your car will produce more emissions, hurting the environment. The more we buy, the more we throw away and waste.

Lesson 9: Don’t Hesitate

Another important thing is to stay active and to not hesitate when you need to make a decision. The philosophy of sisu teaches us that being engaged and active is the best way to overcome any obstacles. Believe in yourself and, if you want to do something, do it. Don’t think of whether you’re good enough, just try. You can train your ability to make decisions quickly by trying bungee jumping or skydiving. Once you overcome your fears, you’ll feel much stronger, and everyday problems won’t be so hard for you anymore.

Sisu is about not being afraid of difficulties. Sisu means pushing forward even if you’re not sure you can win. Sisu means having guts, and everybody needs to embrace this principle to feel stronger and to achieve important goals.


Hygge, lagom, and sisu are nordic philosophical principles that can help you in many difficult situations. We live in a crazy world. Sometimes all we need to feel happy is just a cup of hot chocolate and a sound of our best friends laughing. Sometimes we should just embrace the fact that more things or more money won’t necessarily make us happier, and sometimes, we need to believe in ourselves and stay strong. Practice these principles in your everyday life and, maybe, you’ll see why Scandinavians are ranked as the happiest people in the world!

About the author Berta Melder

Berta Melder is an experienced brand manager, content strategist and co-founder of the Masterra WritersMasterra Writers. Being passionate about her job, she constantly tries to bring Scandinavian wellbeing philosophies into the workplace. Berta is a regular contributor to publications on a broad range of digital topics. Follow her on Twitter.

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