America the brave. Home to purple mountains majesty and amber waves of grain. It’s an amazing country, but let’s be honest — we didn’t get everything right. One thing Americans are notoriously bad at is slowing down and carving out time for ourselves. We work (too) hard. We glorify busyness — all at the expense of our health.
It’s time we look outside our borders and learn a thing or two about holistic wellness from around the world. Take a look at these five unique wellness practices and see if you can incorporate any into your daily life.
The Country of Cozy
2016 was unofficially dubbed “the year of hygge.” In case you missed it, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living became a New York Times best-selling title. The term, although foreign, suddenly reached mainstream vocabulary and people everywhere declared that “staying in and getting cozy” was their preferred Friday night entertainment. So what is hygge? According to the VisitDenmark site itself:
In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cozying up with a loved one for a movie — that’s hygge, too. And there's nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life.
And is there really any other better time to embrace hygge than during the change of seasons? So go ahead, light a candle, make some tea and enjoy slowing down in the presence of friends and family who make your heart smile. Trust us, it’s good for your soul — and your health.
Coffee Culture at Its Finest
Sure, we Americans love our caffeine. But do we really enjoy it? Or do we just grab a cup on the go and rely on its magical powers to get us through the day? Fika, imperfectly translated to “leisurely coffee break” more accurately stands for a Swedish way of life: Fika is a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It is an all-but-mandated nationwide practice of slowing down. During fika, you will always find three things: a cup of coffee (or tea), homemade pastries and lingering conversation. And while fika often occurs during the work day, it really does apply to any time set aside to gather with friends and family, to savor good food and take a break from the business of life.
Finding Healing in the Forest
In Japan, shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is a preventative health care method based upon the belief that there are health benefits that can come from living in the forest. This is based on the belief that spending time outside can reduce stress, boost your mood and help your immune system function at its peak. Now this is something we can get behind! You may have already noticed how much clearer your head feels after a hike. Or how your mood instantly improves with a quick walk around the block. We’re not saying you need to actually bathe in the forest, but get outside! Feel a breeze on your skin, the sun shining down and try telling us you don’t feel just a little bit healthier.
South Africa and Nigeria, Ubuntu
Recognizing Common Ground in All Humanity
Ubuntu is another term that doesn’t have a direct English translation, but it’s a philosophy found in South African literature as early as the mid-1800s. It means "humanity," or "I am because we are," and also "humanity toward others.” Its deeper, philosophical meaning, however, is the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. In practice, that means South Africans are seeking ways to consciously put others above themselves. This sense of family and community comes from the knowledge that we depend on others to survive. It highlights the traits of sharing, fairness, hospitality, caring and truthfulness among other positive characteristics. In this tumultuous climate, we could all use a little more Ubuntu in our lives!
Heeding the Call of the Mountains
In Norway, the practice of friluftsliv simply means “free air life.” Originally coined by poet Henrik Ibsen in 1859, friluftsliv is the Nordic celebration of nature. As described in the trailer for a documentary, Finding Friluftsliv, it does not mean abandoning modern life and technology, "it is simply embodied by spending more time in nature.” It also suggests that exploration and appreciation of nature will lead to greater happiness. Being curious and respectful of your surroundings will lead you to success in friluftsliv. This winter, if you’re ready to take friluftsliv out for a spin in true Nordic fashion, try going hiking, skiing or snowshoeing. Whatever you decide, make time in nature a regular part of your wellness practice.
These five practices are just the tip of the iceberg! If you’re looking for more ways to expand your wellness repertoire, try these resources for additional ideas:
Are you going to try anything from this list? If you do, let us know how it goes! We’d love to hear about your experiences and experiments.