There are plenty of cultural differences between the way people around the world eat, work, and live.
While we might sometimes think foreign practices are unusual, have you ever stopped to think about whether they might be good for you?
If you're looking for new ways to boost your wellbeing, here are five habits from other countries and cultures that you could embrace for a healthier and happier life.
1. Canadians enjoy National Park passes
Since January 2022, doctors in Canada have been able to prescribe annual passes to nearby national parks to their patients.
Designed to encourage people to spend more time outdoors and among nature, it is hoped that the initiative will help people heal without relying entirely on prescription drugs.
Studies have shown that spending time in nature can help:
· Counter depression
· Decrease stress levels
· Improve blood pressure
· Boost creative and cognitive abilities.
Experts recommend spending two hours a week in nature. So, to improve your mental and physical health, take a leaf out of Canada’s book and add a 20-minute walk into your daily routine or plan a weekend cycle ride or picnic in the great outdoors.
2. Singapore embraces cleanliness
In 2021, Singapore was voted the greenest and cleanest city in the world.
The Keep Singapore Clean campaign has been running for over50 years. Their strict standards include a ban on importing chewing gum and fines for forgetting to flush a public toilet.
These exceptionally high living standards have led to their average life expectancy rising from 66 to 83 – the third highest in the world.
Keeping your home clean can help you and your family:
· Reduce stress and fatigue
· Suffer fewer allergy and asthma symptoms
· Lessen the spread of germs
· Keep pests away.
A clean home can also improve your diet and waistline – and not only because of the calories you burn while vacuuming your house…
One study examined the difference between an organised kitchen, and a messy, disorganised kitchen. Those working in the chaotic kitchen consumed nearly twice as many calories in sweets as those who worked in the organised kitchen!
3. Sweden encourages time out with “fika” breaks
If you enjoy a coffee break, take things up a notch and do it “fika” style.
Fika is a Swedish tradition that involves taking time out of your day to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and a cake, often with friends or family.
At many companies, fika is not only encouraged, but also mandatory.
Fika breaks allow employees to spend time catching up with each other and helps to boost team morale. These quality breaks from work are beneficial to employees’ mental health, and also help to increase productivity. In fact, Sweden is the 11th most productive country in the world.
Try splitting your day up with a 15-minute fika.
Chat to your family, friends, or colleagues over a drink and a sweet treat before continuing with your day and watch how much your productivity improves.
4. Many European countries benefit from a Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on the types of food eaten by those living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Italy, and Greece.
While there aren't strict rules for the diet, it typically encourages fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats. Meanwhile, processed foods, added sugar, and refined grains are restricted.
Numerous studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can promote weight loss, help to prevent heart attacks, and reduce the likelihood of stroke, type 2 diabetes, and premature death.
It’s also been found to lower the risk of dementia, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Japanese watch how much they eat with portion control
A common saying in Japan, “hara hachi bu” translates to “eat until you are 80% full”.
Rather than eating until you’re stuffed, eat until you’re almost full. This method will encourage you to stop eating before it becomes uncomfortable. This gives your body the nutrition it needs to do its job, without overdoing it.
Eating in this more mindful way reduces calorie intake. In fact, the average person in Japan is thought to consume approximately 200 fewer calories than an average American person daily.
As you might imagine, this leads to many health benefits, including delaying the appearance of aging and increased life expectancy.
When you sit down to eat a meal, keep this saying in mind. Check in with your levels of hunger as you eat and ask yourself whether you are still enjoying the meal. Forming a habit of eating more mindfully in this way should help you to adapt your portions to the perfect size for you.