Do you know your lykke from your lagom? The international lifestyle trends you need to know about
You do. Then how about ikigai, sisu and Swedish death cleaning? Just as we've gotten to grips with the global lifestyle trends hailed as the key to happiness, another wave has emerged for 2018. And it's not just the Scandinavians dishing out advice - even our Scottish neighbours are in on the act. Here, Caroline Finnerty guides you through the cultural wisdom promising to show you how to live a joyful life this year
We've cosied up with hygge; we've embraced hand-knit mittens, burnt too many tealights and cocooned ourselves in throws that we've lovingly crocheted with our own fair hands. We've used origami to fold our clothes using the KonMari method. We've picked up random objects, held them close and waited for joy to spark. So what's next?
The flurry of wellness guides hailing from foreign parts seems set to be more popular than ever in 2018. Unsurprisingly, many of them come from Scandinavia, where low light levels and bad weather haven't stopped people from finding contentment. Indeed, Norway topped the poll in last year's World Happiness Report, with Denmark, Finland and Sweden also making the top 10.
So is there anything we can Irish can learn to elevate us from 16th spot on the happiness list? Here, from lykke to ikigai, and lagom to susi, we guide you through the international lifestyle trends that you'll be hearing a lot more about this year.
The man who brought us The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking, is back with a new concept for us; now it's The Little Book of Lykke. Lykke is the Danish word for happiness. Meik, who is CEO of the International Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is a leading expert on happiness - let's face it, if this man can't tell us how to be happy, then who can?
This time he takes us around the world searching for the world's happiest people and tells us what we can learn from them. The book explains why the happiest parents can be found in Portugal because in that country grandparents play a key role in the day-to-day life of families and help with the routine of looking after their grandchildren. It provides the parents with more freedom - and, as it turns out, greater levels of happiness. I wonder if the grandparents are as happy…
Wiking has happily gone around the globe gathering evidence such as the celebration of National Neighbours Day in The Netherlands, which brings neighbours together and gives people a sense of community. Or the Turkish company that has invented a vending machine that dispenses dog food to stray dogs in exchange for recycled bottles (awwww). The smart recycling boxes operate at no charge to the city and the recycled bottles cover the cost of the food.
The book has collated stories and tips from the very happiest corners of the planet and put them all together in the ultimate guide to how we can all find a little more lykke in our lives.
Lagom is the Swedes' attempt to steal the limelight from the Danes and it roughly translates to 'living with enough, or just right'. It is the philosophy of living with moderation by letting go of our materialistic lifestyles. As appealing as it is to curl up in your pyjamas with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in the name of hygge, lagom encourages frugality and a healthy balance. Hmmm, where's the fun in that?
First outlined in this magazine last April, lagom has been slowly gaining traction since and looks set to influence everything from food choices to homewares in 2018.
According to Linnea Dunne, author of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living, the lifestyle sums up the Swedish psyche and is the reason why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world, with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living. Dunne, a Swedish author living in Dublin, says that lagom is a way of living that celebrates fairness, respect for our planet and being satisfied with what you've got.
You can find lagom by keeping track of your spending, upcycling furniture, consciously reducing your environmental impact on the world - re-use, reduce and recycle rather than engage in a throwaway culture. Do you really need 50 pairs of shoes? (Well, yes, actually…) Rather than burning yourself out with a 60-hour working week and then getting sick, lagom encourages balance and living somewhere in the middle. Think of it like the best - though some would argue the worst - things about Ikea and apply them to your whole life.
Ikigai was one of the influential lifestyle trends to hit our shores in 2017 and is set to be even bigger this year. Like everything from Japan, this one has serious hipster potential. So, what exactly is it?
According to Héctor García, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, the reason Japanese people have one of the longest life expectancies in the world is not because of all the seaweed and sushi they're eating, but rather down to ikigai.
Japanese people believe that everyone has an ikigai - a reason to jump out of bed each morning. It could be something as simple as walking the dog or the first sip of your morning coffee. And according to the residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa - the world's longest-living people - finding it is the key to a longer and more fulfilled life.
Studies have long shown the importance of having a sense of purpose in our lives is for our overall wellbeing and this is cited as one of the reasons why the incidence of depression spikes among newly retired people.
Finding your ikigai involves drawing Venn diagrams representing:
• What you love doing
• What you're good at
• What you can get paid for
• What the world needs
Your ikigai is defined as the overlap between all these areas. If, like me, you haven't seen a Venn diagram since primary school, the method might make you nervous but, fear not. According to devotees of the lifestyle, once you discover your ikigai, then you are on the road to a long and happy life.
This time it's the turn of the Norwegians, who are determined not to be outdone by their Viking brethren. Friluftsliv translates as 'free air living' and is all about embracing the great outdoors - think sleeping under the stars and being at one with nature. Personally, I think I preferred hygge.
Scandinavia is always being touted to us lesser Europeans as the gold standard of parenting, and a nature-centric philosophy has always been at the heart of that: there is a big emphasis on teaching children to ditch the gadgets and get outside and play. In these countries, children play outside all year round, regardless of the weather, and letting young babies nap outside in freezing temperatures is not only common - it is a practice recommended by doctors.
Now with books such as There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient and Confident Kids by Linda Åkeson McGurk set to take the world by storm, we could see these lifestyle trends merge into parenting styles.
Còsagach is a relative newcomer to the lifestyle trend scene and this time it's from our Celtic neighbours the Scots, who have cleverly piggybacked on the success of hygge.
Còsagach is based on an old Gaelic word for feeling snug, sheltered and warm, and VisitScotland have declared that còsagach is the new hygge. If Scottish tourism bosses have anything to do with it, it will be one of the biggest lifestyle trends of 2018. Think tartan throws and sheltering from the wild Scottish elements by a roaring pub fire with a cheeky dram of whisky in your hand. I'm sure Bord Fáilte is already planning our own version with Aran sweaters and Guinness.
Otherwise known as Swedish death cleaning - yes, this is a thing. According to Margareta Magnusson, author of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, published by Canongate, the Scandinavian art of death cleaning is a phenomenon by which elderly people kindly set their affairs in order before they pop their clogs so that their relatives don't have to. Or decluttering before you're dispatched, to put it another way.
Whether it's sorting through the family heirlooms, downsizing to a smaller home or setting up a system to help you stop misplacing your keys, death cleaning supposedly gives us the chance to make the later years of our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible. According to Magnusson, no matter what age you are, Swedish death cleaning can be used to help you simplify your life and make it as joyful and easy as possible.
Magnusson, who lists her age as somewhere between 80 and 100, is tipped to be 2018's version of Marie Kondo. Frankly, given the Irish obsession with death, I'm surprised that we didn't nab this one first.
Yes, it's the Scandis again, and this time it's the turn of Finland, which brings us sisu. Sisu is an ancient Finnish word to describe an attitude of courage, resilience, grit, tenacity and perseverance in times of adversity.
According to Joanna Nylund, author of Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage, to be published next month, Finnish people have a unique resilience as a nation, due to their history of frequent invasions by neighbouring countries. This book promises to help you cultivate your inner sisu so you have strength of character when times get tough. Perfect for the snowflake generation.