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Around the World in 15 Health and Wellness Tips

Someone holds a rod on a decorated bowl, someone meditates, and people are conversing at a party
Silent Mind/LEEWADEE/Hygge Games

Most of us would like to be healthier, right? While Americans are guzzling green smoothies, doing Crossfit workouts, or taking collagen supplements, other countries are doing … well … other stuff. These 15 health and wellness tips from around the world are so intriguing, you might want to incorporate some of them into your routine.

Many wellness practices from other countries have already made their way to the United States. For example, have you feng shui’ed your home or office or enjoyed a hot matcha latte with breakfast? These practices from China and Japan, respectively, were so popular in their home countries that others began to adopt them.

That’s why we went on the hunt for some other health and wellness practices from around the world that might be worth a shot.

Italy: Passeggiata

A man walking his dog near a beach in Italy.
Dionisio iemma/Shutterstock.com

Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, full of ancient structures, cobblestone streets, and vine-covered buildings. Cities like Rome, Naples, and Florence beg to be strolled through. Fortunately for anyone wanting to enjoy the beauty of the country as much as possible, one of Italy’s oldest traditions lets you do just that.

Passegiata is a simple stroll taken in the evenings. It happens in every town in the country and serves as a way for people to interact with their community, show off their nicest clothes, and get some fresh air. If you’re looking to participate, head to the main promenades or plazas in town. People tend to gravitate toward those areas.

There are more reasons than just fresh air and a friendly chat with a family member to starting participating in your own passegiata. Walking is an excellent form of exercise and we could all use a few more steps in our day. It’s particularly helpful after a larger meal because it can help you digest your food more efficiently than if you sit on the couch for the rest of the evening.

If you’re interested in taking more steps during passegiata and throughout the day, wear a fitness tracker with a pedometer feature. You’ll be surprised at how much higher the number gets when you start walking more.

Denmark: Hygge

Four people playing a game together at a table.
Hygge Games

Hygge is the Danish concept of coziness. Of course, there’s much more to it than fuzzy socks and a warm cup of coffee. According to Merriam-Webster, hygge refers to “cozy and comfortable surroundings that invoke an inner sense of contentment or well-being.” The tradition probably comes from ancient Nordic history as a way to get through long, dark winters.

You can bring hygge into your own life by intentionally seeking out experiences that make you feel cozy, comfortable, and content. That might be cuddling with a loved one while watching a movie, having a picnic with friends, or reading a book alone with a nice cup of tea.

If you aren’t sure how to create a hygge moment, this game is a great way to bring people together with fun, low-stakes questions.

Japan: Hara Hachi Bu

A Japanese woman eating rice with chopsticks.

A traditional Japanese diet includes plenty of seafood and vegetables, but it’s also packed with rice, noodles, and fried food. So, why does Japan have the second-longest life expectancy in the world? One of the reasons may be hara hachi bu, which is a Japanese term that roughly translates to “eat until you’re 80% full” in English.

Learning how to recognize fullness is key to developing a healthy relationship with food. You can practice hara hachi bu in your own life by eating more slowly. It can take up to 20 minutes between eating something for your body to recognize that it is full. Many of us don’t stop eating until we’re past the point of fullness, which we regret soon after.

The next time you sit down for a meal, try to stop eating when you’re almost full. If you’re still hungry 30 minutes later, you can always get some more food. The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner goes into more detail about wellness practices in Japan, and specifically in Okinawa. A “Blue Zone” is an area in the world where people live the longest.

Sweden: Fika

People at a cafe in Sweden.
Thomas Dekiere/Shutterstock.com

As one of the happiest countries in the world, we could all learn a thing or two from Sweden. One of their most cherished rituals is fika, which is a coffee and cake break taken with friends. It’s so ingrained in Swedish culture that the phrase “Let’s fika” is thrown around as much as “hello” and “goodbye.”

Exactly what you eat and drink while you fika isn’t important. What really matters is companionship and the intentional decision to carve out time for each other. It’s slowing down and savoring something during a busy day.

Bring fika into your life by trying to spend more time with friends and family, even if it’s a quick coffee break at lunch or after work. Interested in learning more? Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break dives into this Swedish tradition and includes recipes for pastries, breads, and other treats you can enjoy with loved ones.

Nigeria: Ubuntu

Women cutting vegetablles in Nigeria.

Ubuntu is an African philosophy that comes from the Zulu phrase umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, which means “a person is a person through other people.” Ubuntu is sometimes explained as meaning “I am because you are.” It comes from the belief that community is the cornerstone of humanity.

In Nigeria and other African countries that practice ubuntu, it is believed that a strong community is more important than trivial arguments or disagreements. People try to see thing’s from someone else’s point of view and practice empathy when they hit a crossroads. Ultimately, this results in a tight-knit community full of love for each other.

You can practice ubuntu by getting involved in your community and doing what you can to bring people together. Volunteer at a food bank, invite your neighbors over for dinner, or visit a local art show and talk to the contributors. If you want to learn more about the history of this practice and its impact, Everything Ubuntu: Living Better, Together, the African Way is a good place to start.

China: Acupuncture

A woman receiving acupuncture.
Leonardo da/Shutterstock.com

Acupuncture is becoming more popular around the world as a treatment for everything from headaches to muscle spasms to anxiety. It consists of inserting tiny needles under the skin at specific points in the body to trigger a response to some bodily ailment.

While its efficacy is still being studied in the United States, there’s a significant amount of anecdotal evidence that shows promise.

Acupuncture is believed to have originated in China as early as 2500 B.C. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture was used to harness and balance qi, which is the energy from the universe believed to flow through everyone’s bodies.

If you’re interested in trying this treatment, seek out a licensed acupuncturist who has positive reviews from previous clients. Or, as a low-risk alternative that can provide muscle relief, you can use an acupuncture mat from the comfort of your own home.

Japan: Shinrin-yoku

A photograph in a book of light coming through the trees
Penguin Life

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that means “forest bathing.” It refers to the practice of wandering through a forest and taking in the ambiance with all of your senses. Shinrin-yoku is much more than a simple walk in the woods—it is a contemplative event that allows you to fully immerse yourself in nature and take your mind off the things that are stressful or worrisome.

Forest bathing has many health benefits. It can lower stress levels, boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and improve your mood.

You don’t need a dense forest area to participate in shinrin-yoku. Any quiet part of nature will work. Leave behind your phone and your worries while you wander aimlessly for a period of time. Do this anytime you feel like you need to clear your head or get away from the stress in your life.

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness features more than 100 photos from forests around the world and will teach you how to get the most out of forest bathing.

India: Meditation

Someone meditates on a floor pillow

Meditation is popular around the world, but the practice originated in India as early as1500 B.C. No one knows exactly who invented this mindfulness technique, but it is believed to have been used in Hinduism and Buddhism as ways to strengthen someone’s spirituality.

Meditation is the process of training your mind to focus. It has many benefits, including reducing stress, controlling anxiety, enhancing self-awareness, and improving sleep.

If you want to incorporate meditation into your life, grab a comfortable floor pillow and listen to a free online guided meditation from Mindful.

Norway: Friluftsliv

Parents and a baby sitting at a picnic table in the mountains in Norway.

If you’ve ever looked at pictures of Norway, it’s no secret why Norwegians like to be outside. With no shortage of lakes, mountains, and fjords, this country is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the locals developed the practice of friluftsliv, which means “open-air living.”

Friluftsliv is the act of getting outside as much as possible to enjoy nature. This can be as involved as a multiday camping trip or as simple as a walk outside with a friend. Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for your physical and mental health.

If you want to incorporate friluftsliv into your life, simply get outside more. Take an outdoor walk during your lunch break, have a picnic in the park for dinner, or enjoy your coffee in the backyard.

Spain: Siesta

A man taking a siesta on a beach in Spain next to a boat.
Kauka Jarvi/Shutterstock.com

A siesta is a short nap taken in the afternoon. They are usually associated with Spain, where they are a popular tradition, but occur in many countries that get overly hot in the middle of the day. In Spain, many retailers and businesses close down around 2 p.m. and reopen again around 5 p.m. Those who lose work hours because of a siesta tend to work later in the evening.

Taking a siesta in the middle of the day isn’t possible for everyone. Many bosses wouldn’t be too happy to see their employees napping at their desks in the middle of the afternoon. However, a midday nap can rejuvenate you for the rest of the day if you time it correctly. Naps have been shown to improve job performance, boost your mood, increase alertness, and reduce stress.

Experts recommend keeping your naps no longer than 20 minutes so you don’t feel too groggy after you wake up. This means you can even squeeze one in during your lunch break if you want! This eye mask will block out the light from outside without ruining your makeup or sitting too close to your eyes.

Hungary: Hot Baths

People in the St. Gellert Thermal Bath and Swimming Pool in Budapest.

Hot baths and thermal hot springs are found all over the world, but they’re most prominent in Hungary. Budapest is known as the “City of Baths” because of how many thermal baths can be found around the area. Spending time in the mineral-rich waters has been an important part of daily life for the people of Hungary for thousands of years.

Soaking in a thermal bath can reduce stress, relieve muscular pain, and calm the skin. You can re-create the feeling of a thermal bath from the comfort of your own home with a salt soak.

It contains several minerals, shea butter, olive oil, and fig extract to take you right to the Mediterranian. Simply pour the salts into a hot bath, turn on some soothing music, and feel your stress melt away.

Japan: Inemuri

A Japanese man asleep on a train.
Sarana Nakarat/Shutterstock.com

In Japan, inemuri translates to “doze” and refers to short power naps taken throughout the day. Similar to the Spanish siesta, the Japanese version is much shorter and doesn’t have a designated time of day.

Many people in Japan work and commute long hours that leave them little time for sleep at home. Because of this, they seek out short sleep sessions whenever they get the chance. And we mean whenever they get the chance—if you ever visit Japan, you’ll see people napping on trains, in malls, and even at work.

But there, sleeping isn’t a sign of laziness—it means you’re a hard worker who doesn’t have time to sleep at home.

While we don’t encourage becoming so busy that you literally can’t stay awake during the day, there are benefits to grabbing a quick nap during the day when you feel tired. As we mentioned in our section on siestas, napping can boost your mood and reduce stress.

The key to a good power nap? Noise-canceling headphones. This affordable pair will help you zone out and catch some Z’s whenever and wherever you need them.

Tibet: Tibetan Singing Bowls

Someone holds a rod to a decorated bowl and someone meditates
Silent Mind

Singing bowls have been used in Tibetan meditation practices since at least 500 B.C. These are special bowls that produce sounds that can invoke a deep sense and peace and relaxation. They are sometimes used today in meditation practices called “sound healing.”

The benefits of Tibetan singing bowls aren’t limited to meditation masters. You can buy your own singing bowl kit and learn to play at home. This kit comes with a user guide that will instruct you on how to properly play and an audio track you can take on the go.

Costa Rica: Pura Vida

A woman reading a book and wearing a Puira Vida bracelet.
Pura Vida

Pura vida is a saying that’s used all over the country of Costa Rica. It means “pure life” and refers to the locals’ appreciation of a simple life. Pura vida is much more than a phrase in Costa Rica. It means we should be grateful for what we have and appreciate all the little things that come our way.

It’s no surprise that Costa Rica is consistently considered one of the happiest countries in the world. You can instill the spirit of pura vida in your life by being more conscious of your thoughts, especially the negative ones.

Try to find gratitude throughout the day and don’t worry too much about what’s going on, especially if it’s something you can’t control.

This simple black bracelet by the company Pura Vida can be worn as a reminder to be grateful for a simple life.

Thailand: Massage Therapy

A woman giving another woman a Thai massage.

You’ve probably heard of Thai massage. This popular massage therapy technique originated in India, surprisingly enough, as early as 2,500 years ago. It was increasingly used in Thailand over time and has been an important part of their culture for thousands of years.

A Thai massage combines meditative rocking, acupressure, reflexology, and yogic stretching. Unlike typical massages in the United States, you remain fully clothed during this practice and lie on the floor instead of on a table or bed. You also participate in the massage by following your therapist’s instructions. Because of this, Thai massage is sometimes referred to as “assisted yoga.”

This type of massage has been shown to relieve headaches, reduce back pain, relieve joint stiffness, increase flexibility, and ease anxiety. If you want to experience these benefits, look for a licensed Thai massage therapist near you on Yelp. Or, pick up the Encyclopedia of Thai Massage to learn more about this ancient practice.

If you’re looking for new ways to improve your health and wellness, these practices from other countries are great ways to improve your life. Whether it’s taking power naps in the afternoon, eating healthier foods, or expressing gratitude, there are plenty of ways to treat your body and mind right.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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