From East to West, more and more of us are taking inspiration from other countries in our pursuit of happiness. From Gezellig to Ikigai, these are the life mantras to have on your radar
When it comes to finding happiness, our search has gone international. Phrases such as Hygge have become commonplace in the English language, with many of us taking inspiration from the cultures and philosophies from all corners of the world to achieve more fulfilling professional and personal lives. Learning life lessons from our neighbours in other nations has helped provide new ways of thinking and a further wave of wellness trends headed our way from overseas looks set to provide even more food for thought. From Sweden to Japan, The Netherlands to Denmark, here are five new arrivals that look set for big things.
With healthy work-life balances and high standards of living, Sweden has become one of the happiest countries in world. The secret behind it? Lagom - a word that helps sum up the Swedish mindset and culture. What are the foundations of living a more Lagom-like life? Words that come to mind are harmony and contentment - but avoid using the word ‘balance’. “Calling it balance is lazy in a way,” says Linnea Dunne, author of Lagom , “I think it's really more about a functionalist, pragmatic attitude of always finding what works, and sticking with it.”
Promoting an ethos of increased consciousness in your decision-making and being more present and reflective, the idea touches on all aspects of life including work, food, fitness, finances, design, socialising and being more environmentally conscious. How can you start? “I think the best way to apply lagom to your life for the benefit of pretty much anything and everything is to regularly remind yourself to pause to reflect,” says Linnea. “When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, step away from the screen and close your eyes and think about what's good right now and what you could do to feel better. When there's conflict in work, take the time to consider everyone's perspective to understand how fruitful dialogue can be promoted. That consideration of what's needed right now - not just ploughing on for the sake of it - that's what's great about a lagom mindset, and about Swedish society.”
You can do it at work, you can do it during the weekends, you can Fika with friends, but you can’t Fika alone. Our friends in Sweden love to Fika and loosely translated, it means to meet up for a coffee and something sweet like a pastry. However, it’s more than just a simple coffee break, it’s the Swedish equivalent of grabbing a drink round the pub with friends and is a concept that’s integral to the lagom culture. Used as a tool to foster a greater feeling of community and togetherness, it helps memories and bonds to be made and provides an opportunity to break from the working day - in fact, it’s actively encouraged in many offices as a way to disconnect from your computers and connect with your colleagues.
When it comes to the secret to happiness, there aren’t many people better qualified to comment on it than The Little Book of Hygge author Meik Wiking. Having spent five years as CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, where it is his job to measure, understand and generate happiness on a global scale, his next book sees him delve into the world of Lykke - the Danish word for happiness and good fortune - a project inspired by the response to his first book and the things he’s learned about happiness during his career. The intention? To “take the reader treasure hunting; to go in pursuit of happiness; to find the good that does exist in this world – and to bring this into the light so that, together, we can help it spread. The keys to happiness are buried around the world – and it is our job to gather them up.” Think of it as the Lonely Planet of happiness guides that takes inspiration from all corners of the globe when it comes to modern stressors such as money, health and relationships.
Stemming from the Japanese word ‘iki’ (to live) and ‘gai’ (reason), ikigai roughly translates as your purpose in life - your raison d’etre so to speak. However, it needn’t be confined to just one big thing. That’s the appealing aspect of ikigai - your ikigai can be as small as watching a morning sunrise and no one aim is more important than another. In a recent interview in The Times, Ken Mogi, Japanese neuroscientist and author of The Little Book of Ikigai commented, “In the West, when people state life’s purposes it’s often a career target such as becoming a chief executive or earning a certain figure. But an ikigai isn’t a grand target like that, it’s a spectrum of small things. The really big things might only happen once a decade, so life isn’t sustainable without small daily joys.” It’s all about pleasure as well as purpose.
With its roots in The Netherlands, the Dutch word gezellig (pronounced heh-SELL-ick) roughly translates as ‘Cosy’ in English. However, this doesn’t do its full meaning justice (there isn't really an English equivalent). It encompasses feelings of belonging and togetherness and environments, places, things and even people that are comforting, relaxing and warming for the soul. Examples of gezellig could be a night out with friends, watching a movie snuggled under a blanket on your sofa and according to this article , Oprah Winfrey, not Donald Trump. Makes sense to us.