How to Live a Happy, Balanced Life: Secrets from Around the World

Google “happiest places in the world” and you’ll find countries such as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway dominating the list year after year. What is it about these countries that cultivate a happy and satisfying environment for its residents? There’s a variety of factors at play, but these Scandinavian countries don’t hold a monopoly on the secrets to a happy, balanced life. In fact, you might already know these so-called secrets—you just need some reminding and a shift in perspective.

Lykke in Denmark

There are many factors that contribute to happiness or lykke in Danish (pronounced loo-ka). Togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness—these are the main factors discussed in The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

Wiking writes that while there is a correlation between wealth and happiness (as you might have experienced yourself after a shopping spree), money is not all that matters. While there is value in the stability and peace of mind that comes with having enough financial resources, there is also value in things that are harder to quantify. Getting home in time for dinner with the family. Spending a lazy afternoon streaming shows with your partner. Exchanging hellos with your neighbor, whose name you actually know. Going for a refreshing walk in the nearby park. Receiving help when you need it the most.

You may think that there’s nothing novel about these things on the surface, but if you think about it in practice for a whole community, a whole country, or even the whole world, then it becomes quite revolutionary.

Lagom in Sweden

Lagom is a Swedish word that is best translated as “not too little and not too much—just right.” It’s the Swedish philosophy of enjoying everything in moderation and in consideration of others. According to the book Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, it’s commonly thought to be rooted in the Viking tradition of passing around a bowl or horn of mead in a group. “It was important that everyone only sipped their fair share so there was enough to go around,” writes author Niki Brantmark. “Today, lagom is closely linked to the Swedish cultural and social ideology of fairness and equality.”

Lagom (pronounced “lah-gom”) applies to everything from work to leisure, from friendships to relationships, from running a household to raising children. You can start incorporating lagom into your life with something as simple as examining your eating habits. Swedes enjoy food in moderation, “neither denying themselves that cinnamon bun nor overdoing the salad.” They will feast and go all out on a special occasions, but “they won’t punish themselves with abstinence afterwards.”

What balances it out is their knack for walking or biking everywhere. Manila is not a particularly walkable city, especially during the rainy season, but you can try walking or biking home from work whenever possible. As an alternative, you can explore the city on foot or two wheels during weekends.

Ikigai in Japan

Why do you get up in the morning? What is your reason for being? The Japanese concept of ikigai is that sweet, elusive spot in the middle of what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs. Researchers found that ikigai is one of the keys to the long and fulfilled lives of the residents of Okinawa, Japan. On top of “a healthy diet, a simple life outdoors, green tea, and the subtropical climate,” ikigai is what drives them to stay active past the typical retirement age.

“Our ikigai is hidden deep inside each of us, and finding it requires a patient search,” according to Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, authors of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. They examined five places where people lived longer than anywhere else in the world, a list topped by Okinawa. “Three of these regions are islands, where resources can be scarce and communities have to help one another. For many, helping others might be an ikigai strong enough to keep them alive.”

The Value of Community

While these ways of living vary in origin and specifics, what they have in common is the high value on togetherness. Bonding with your family and forging a strong connection with your community is more important than ever. But in the midst of conflicting work schedules and confusing traffic schemes, it can be difficult to carve out time for them. The best thing you can do in this situation is to make smart choices.

For instance, living in the highly congested city means that a big chunk of the average person’s day is spent in traffic on the way to and from work. If you make the smart choice in terms of real estate investment, you can spend those hours at home instead. When you live in an accessible condo like Commonwealth by Century (within walking distance of the future MRT 7 Don Antonio Station), you can spend your weeknights preparing and enjoying a hearty dinner with your family, instead of spending hours bumper-to-bumper or even skin-to-skin with fellow commuters.

A hyper-amenitized condo for sale, Commonwealth by Century also offers a range of recreational amenities, which foster a sense of togetherness with your family and neighbors in the comfort of your own community.

If you’d like to get a taste of the Century Property lifestyle first, try booking a Siglo Suites staycation. The Milano Residences (Makati), Knightsbridge Residences (Makati), The Gramercy Residences (Makati), Azure Urban Resort Residences (Paranaque), and Acqua Private Residences (Mandaluyong) are prime Manila real estate properties that will surely help you make the smart choice.

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