Photo by Shayna Douglas on Unsplash
One of the best things about traveling to faraway places is the perspective you gain from immersing yourself in other cultures and ways of life. In the United States, we often think we have everything figured out, but do we? In a culture driven by work and performance, it can be hard to balance our everyday lives and find time to de-stress or connect with our loved ones. This vicious cycle leaves us prone to burnout, mental fatigue, and an overall decline in general health that doesn't bode very well for a productive life.
This year, we are looking to our neighbors across the globe to uncover their habits and traditions for maintaining a healthy and meaningful life. Easy enough to incorporate into your daily schedule, these intuitive practices could help you get on your way to happier living.
Winter is the perfect time for sitting by the fire enjoying the company of family and friends, and the Danes are well known for their love of all things comforting. So much so that their concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) has come to be a signature of Danish culture. Hygge, when boiled down, roughly translates to “coziness,” but really, hygge is a concept that embodies so much more. It is the warm glow of candlelight, conversations with loved ones, snuggling up with a blanket, or enjoying a warm cup of coffee with friends. Winter is the time for hygge because, in Denmark, the season tends to be long, dark, and cold, leaving the Danes craving that warm and cozy feeling to escape from the chill.
Practicing hygge is something many of us do in our everyday lives without even realizing it, but creating these experiences for ourselves with intention can lead us to a happier existence. This winter, tap into the Danish practice of hygge and make some hot chocolate, cozy up by the fire, and engage in deep conversations with your loved ones; we promise it's good for the heart and soul.
The Japanese are well known for their health practices, and because of this, they enjoy a higher level of longevity than many other cultures. One practice from Japan that you can easily incorporate into your life is Shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) which is the simple and therapeutic act of spending time in the forest or outside in nature. This doesn't require any exercise or physical exertion but rather a mental willingness to detach from the outside world, immerse yourself in the natural environment and open your senses to the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Shrinrin-yoku is such common practice in Japan that the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries officially coined the term in 1982.
Even if you live in a concrete jungle, it is important to get outside; take a quick walk around your local park or just relax on the balcony and feel the breeze on your skin. Here on the Plateau, forest and woodland are abundant, so take a few minutes out of your day to sit outside and bathe in the world around you.
La Passeggiata (Italy)
As the sun begins to set in Italy, the streets come alive between 5-8 pm with hundreds of Italians engaging in their evening la passeggiata, a gentle and slow stroll, typically through the town's main streets. This popular tradition brings together family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to gather in the central plaza, enjoy each other's company and catch up on life at the end of the day.
La passeggiata is an excellent practice to incorporate, if not every day, at least a few times a week into your daily schedule. After dinner with your family, gather everyone for a leisurely walk rather than all retreating to different rooms, even if it's just down the street outside your home! Not only will this help you digest your dinner, but it will have you feeling relaxed and content for the rest of your evening.
Fika is a practice deeply ingrained in Swedish culture and daily life. While it is often translated as a “coffee and cake break,” it is much more of a ritual for social interaction among Swedes rather than a simple break for a snack. Fika is a time to get together and socialize with family, friends, and colleagues during the day. It is time to rest the brain, strengthen relationships, and recharge during work. Many businesses have also found that institutionalizing Fika leads to happier and more productive teams.
This doesn't require an hour out of every day, but even thirty minutes spent enjoying coffee and a pastry with a friend or close colleague could be all the improvement you need. Give yourself a break, strengthen your relationships, sip on some coffee, and you might find yourself with a more positive daily outlook.