We all remember the moment the British public discovered the notion of hyyge, the Danish and Norwegian word for feeling cosy, comfortable and happy. Overnight, it felt like we were all stocking up on snuggly home accessories, atmospheric candles and calming playlists.
We know you’re well and truly over the hyyge hype, having got to grips with the concept years ago, but it seems that once again our Scandinavian cousins have perfectly summed up what we’re feeling in a simple expression.
As lockdown loosens, many of us are feeling a transition between the lives we’re now used to and edging back towards the much busier lives we were living before the pandemic.
Ensam är stark is a Swedish expression which means ‘alone is strong’. Now, this phrase isn’t actually about living in solitude or cutting yourself off from others, it’s about celebrating the time you do spend with those you love and picking those people wisely.
For Swedish people, this saying reminds them to take care with who they spend their time and energy on. Like a form of mindfulness, it encourages them to enjoy socialising when it works for them and their mental health, not overcommitting or feeling the need to say “yes” to every invitation that comes their way.
Linguistic expert from the language learning app Babbel, Elin Asklöv, further explains what this saying means to the Swedes, “While actively choosing to take time for yourself is a typically Swedish trait, doing so, or living alone doesn’t mean that you’re totally constrained to not meeting friends or family. It’s more that the option to spend time alone it’s not frowned upon, which may be the case in different cultures.
“With various mental health benefits, being just with yourself can provide relief from social pressures, increase mental happiness and improve stress management. With social isolation on the rise in Sweden however, and four out of ten reporting involuntary loneliness, it’s perhaps best to live by the wise proverb, “Lagom är bäst (the middle ground is the best), to reap the full benefits of ‘Ensam är stark.’”
The fear of becoming over-busy is already instilled in some people’s minds, as they struggle with the idea of going back to a packed schedule that wasn’t all that good for them.
“It’s like I’m scared of going back to my ‘real life’ – but I don’t know why, when I’m the one who makes that choice? It’s almost as if I presume that choice will be taken away from me once my social demands kick back in. The thought of it is making me anxious and torn about coming out of lockdown,” says Lexi Barley, a 25-year-old from London.
While Alison Seymour shares the same sentiments, who tells stylist.co.uk: “I’m panicking about the financial impact that coming out of lockdown will have for me. I had managed to build up some savings over lockdown but as me and my friends arrange to go to the pub and out for brunches and dinners, I’m seeing that money disappear which is worrying me.”
Could this be the perfect moment to take on the spirit of Ensam är stark and only make time for the people and events you really care about attending and prioritising your alone time too?
By focusing on the importance of time alone, we’re better equipped to take some of what we learned from lockdown and create a new version of our lives that combines the best of both worlds.
So, next time you feel stressed about the impending busyness of a non-lockdown calendar, try considering Ensam är stark and be mindful in what you give your time to.