What do you think of when you hear the word “wellness?” In the U.S., words like smoothies, yoga, and jogging usually come to mind. Most people know that wellness activities like these can make us feel better, and even happier, so it isn’t a surprise that the wellness industry has grown to become a $4.2 trillion industry globally. But this price tag is pretty ironic when you consider a lot of cultures have wellness habits that cost little to nothing.
A lot of the affordability of wellness in other cultures comes from just changing certain habits instead of paying to add new wellness habits to your routine. Experts suggest things like cutting down on meat and dairy consumption, drinking more water and less sugar, and moving more and sitting less to stay healthy. And these healthy choices aren’t just helping you feel stronger and happier day-to-day, they’re also helping you live longer. A new study published in the Lancet from the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh found that regular physical activity saves about 3.9 million lives globally each year. The crazy thing is that this number was based on people who exercised just 11 to 22 minutes per day.
Unfortunately, nowadays with our busy lifestyles, it can seem like finding just 11 minutes is impossible. So today we’re sharing a few healthy habits that different cultures participate in around the world. And don’t worry, these habits won’t cost you an arm and a leg like some gym memberships, plus they’re built to fit in easily with your busy schedule.
1. Maté (South America)
Maté is a tea-like drink made from the leaves of a tree called a yerba mate, which is found in South America. The drink is probably most popular in Argentina where it is the country’s national drink. In fact, a study by the National Institute of Yerba Maté found that 98% of Argentinian households have maté in their home. Though maté boasts numerous health benefits as a natural antioxidant, diuretic, and laxative, probably the most important part of maté is the ritual in which it is consumed. Usually, maté is shared among friends, coworkers, and family, and by shared I mean literally shared because during this relaxing ritual everyone shares the same cup and bombilla, the type of drinking straw used to drink maté. The cup is passed around the circle of friends until everyone has had at least one cupful or more. While sharing germs might not seem relaxing to most people, it’s more about the importance of being in good company and sharing something together.
You can replicate some aspects of the social maté ritual by taking time to sit down and drink a cup of calming tea with your friends or family, though this one is probably better when social distancing lightens up!
2. Fika (Swedish)
Fika is a Swedish concept that is often translated as a cake and coffee break, but fika is much more than the cake and coffee itself. Fika is more of a concept or a state of mind, which is so important to Swedish culture that they try to make it a part of their everyday routine (even sometimes twice per day). The concept of fika is more based on the importance of pausing and socializing. In fact, fika must always be had in company because the social aspect of fika is just as important as the idea of taking a break from your busy day. According to the Swedes, their fika is important because it strengthens relationships, and refreshes the mind. And this isn’t just woo-hoo talk because many studies show that taking a 15-minute break twice daily can help refresh your mind, stay focused, and avoid burnout.
You can try incorporating fika into your life by inviting your coworkers to take a coffee, and snack break with you every afternoon. And don’t just consider a walk to your favorite coffee shop as your fika. You should try to sit down, and relax for at least a few minutes.
3. Siesta (Spanish)
In the United States, naps are widely regarded as something children (or very exhausted adults) do, but in some countries, like Spain, the siesta, or afternoon nap, is considered a daily ritual. The siesta usually happens between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. and is considered the time to relax after eating your biggest meal of the day. This nap is common in a lot of warmer cultures because people who worked outside needed to hide from the brutal afternoon heat. But as cultures modernized, and more people began working inside, the siesta stayed around as a much-needed moment of rest during the day. The siesta is also needed because, according to the Washington Post, the Spanish sleep one hour less per night than they should.
While leaving work to go take a nap most likely won’t please your boss, maybe you can give afternoon naps a try on the weekend (or try getting to sleep a little earlier on weeknights).
4. Hygge (Norway)
Hygge is a Danish word that is pronounced hue-guh, and is used to acknowledge a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, as cosy, charming or special. But, hygge is more a lifestyle than anything, and it’s about going through your day-to-day with a certain consciousness and slowness. The Danes created hygge because, in order to survive the cold, dark winter months, they needed to create moments to celebrate the mundane. Hygge can be had by always keeping fresh flowers on your dining room table, or taking the time to drink a calming tea with your family before you go to bed. It’s all about creating peaceful, and happy little moments in between the business or boredom present in the rest of your day.
You can create hygge in a million little different ways, so think of little moments you cherish throughout your day and try to make them a regular part of your routine.
5. Kefi (Greek)
Like hygge, kefi is more of a feeling or attitude than an act. If you’ve watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ve most likely seen kefi in action when people are breaking plates and shouting “opa.” My yiayia describes kefi as the high from being together and having a good meal, but it roughly translates to the spirit of joy, passion, euphoria, enthusiasm, exuberance, or frenzy. Creating this joy is really important to the Greeks, because they know that being happy and surrounded by loved ones is key to a good life. You can read all about another Rosetta Stone writer’s crazy first experience with kefi here.
You can create kefi by simply creating a long meal with family and friends. Focus on good food, good company, and a few bottles of good wine, and you’re bound to feel kefi at some point throughout the night.
6. Passeggiata (Italian)
According to some, the passeggiata isn’t a word, it’s an art form. Literally passeggiata means a walk or stroll, but when Italians talk about passeggiata they’re talking about a specific tradition of walking around on Sunday nights, holidays, or even any other night of the week. The walk is used to digest a really big Sunday lunch or work up an appetite for dinner, but it is also the chance to run into friends—and show off a little bit. Most Italians dress up for their passeggiata, whether it’s to show off their new shoes, or even their new boyfriend. This feel-good tradition focuses on pleasure and ease, and it’s all about taking your time.
You can try adding a walk in with your family or friends before dinner, and if you’re feeling extra Italian you can wear your Sunday best instead of your Sunday sweats.
7. Apéro (French)
The apéro is usually how the French relax after a long day, or before a meal with friends or family, and is a light meal served with drinks served before dinner. Like fika, the apéro is not something you can do alone. The saucisson, camembert, and baguette are meant to be shared among loved ones. Besides charcuterie, cheese, and bread, you’ll most likely see some spreads/dips, fruits/veggies, or salty snacks at an apéro. But, don’t get too held up on the food, drinks, or decor because the apéro is considered a casual affair that is more heavily focused on some good conversation and good company. I’ve had an apéro that is as simple as peanuts, chips, and beer, and as elaborate as cheese platters, hummus, and nice red wine, but what really makes the difference is the time spent relaxing with friends.
You can learn all about hosting a French apéro here, or try to make your next dinner party or night out a little more relaxing by offering some light snacks and drinks before the main event.
I hope you all are feeling as relaxed reading this as I was writing it. And after waking up early to finish this article, I think the first ritual I’m going to try out today is the Spanish siesta.