There are lots of great habits from around the world you can adopt to boost your wellbeing. Even better, some of the most beneficial habits in the world are those that cost little and have been around the longest.
Read on to discover 10 tried-and-tested habits from cultures all over the globe that may help you improve your wellbeing.
1. Turkish hammam baths
A practice as old as civilisation itself, Turkish hammam baths have been found in ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman histories. Hammam baths are tall, marble chambers where people spend time relaxing.
The baths are characterised by their tall marble interiors and moist, steamy environment. They are unique in that hammam baths have almost 100% humidity compared to a dry 15% found in saunas.
This combination of moisture has many wellbeing benefits and has likely stayed around so long because of them. It is widely considered a spiritual activity by its Islamic founders, who claim that cleanliness brings a person closer to God.
Beyond the spiritual, hammam baths have the potential to benefit physical health as well. They are thought to open pores, remove bodily toxins through sweat, improve blood circulation, clear the respiratory tract, aid metabolism, and mentally rejuvenate the individual.
2. Japanese ikebana
“Ikebana” is a Japanese tradition of arranging flowers, blossoms, branches, leaves, and stems into decorative formations to be featured somewhere in the house.
The hobby offers a refreshing contrast to the way Western philosophy approaches indoor plants, as ikebana favours considerate arrangement of the flowers as opposed to dropping them in a vase.
Three rules govern ikebana’s practice – colour, line, and mass. Successful examples of ikebana will find a balance of these three elements in their arrangement.
While ikebana is also intended to improve a room’s atmosphere, cognitive benefits to your wellbeing include reduced stress, and mental rejuvenation, along with the recognition of natural imperfection, simplicity, and balance.
3. Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean is famous for more than just its sun and warm waters.
Countries along the Mediterranean are known for having uniquely healthy eating habits, including moderate amounts of oil, legumes, fruits, whole grains, wine, and fish.
The diet is based on the types of food eaten by those living along the Mediterranean basin, such as Italy, Spain and Greece.
Origins of this specific style of eating are lost to time, despite having vague roots in Ancient Greek and Roman cultures. By 1975, the Mediterranean diet was theorised and publicised by chemist Margaret Keys along with her husband, biologist Ancel Keys.
Eating a Mediterranean diet is widely thought to reduce risks of heart disease and stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and high cholesterol.
4. Fika in Sweden
Coffee breaks in Sweden are unlike anywhere else.
In Sweden, workplaces encourage their employees to “fika”. It involves taking a leisurely coffee break with friends or family at a café to unwind from work.
The word originated as a noun for a coffee break, but its popularity has seen it adopted as a verb for the act of taking coffee breaks. Now, to take a coffee break is to “fika”.
A fika is enjoyed outside as often as it is inside and can commonly be found accompanied by “fikabrod” – a sweet pastry to complement your coffee.
While this sounds like an employer’s nightmare, some workplaces in Sweden actually mandate fika since it is believed to boost productivity, reduce fatigue and improve memory.
5. Turmeric in India
India is known worldwide for its love of spices and exciting flavours in its cuisine. What many are unaware of, however, is the number of health benefits to be had from including spice in your food.
Many different aromatics and spices are native to India and grown in abundance, which would be impossible elsewhere. Popular examples of these are black pepper, cardamom and cumin. So, it’s no wonder the country has a love for flavour like no other.
Turmeric is the most notable of all spices in India and arguably has the most benefits. Almost all the global supply of turmeric grows in India – 80% of that is consumed within the country.
Giving the fragrant, yellow seasoning its healthy property is a bio-active compound named “curcumin”. It is known to moderate adipose tissue, which prevents the formation of blood vessels in fat deposits around the body.
Perhaps it’s worth sprinkling some turmeric into your next meal?
6. Intermittent fasting in Indonesia
Intermittent fasting is defined by restrictive eating habits, as participants often refrain from eating during the daytime. The breaking of fast is often done in the early morning and late evening to avoid the adverse effects of long-term fasting.
The approach to fasting among Indonesians is very casual and there is a plethora of types of fast to choose from. Many of these have philosophies attached to them that aid an individual’s outlook while performing the fast.
“Mutih”, for example, is a meal with strictly no flavour. Its most common form appears as a portion of white rice and water. Not even salt is permitted with the rice, showing the commitment people have towards fasting.
Restricting your eating habits, the way intermittent fasting does, can help to control blood sugar levels, improve the strength of the heart, and prevent cancer and aging. It can also aid the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
7. Cycling in the Netherlands
In a country with more bicycles than people, it should come as no surprise to see the habits of the Dutch on this list. Cycling has become somewhat of a national identity for the Netherlands.
With roads and paving frequently designed to accommodate the vast numbers of cyclists in the Netherlands, the habit has become a lifestyle in which small but frequent bike journeys offer significant health benefits.
Cycling can support cardiovascular health, weight loss, and joint mobility and it improves posture and strengthens bones. On top of this, it can further benefit wellbeing by providing cleaner inner-city air by taking cars off the road.
8. Friluftsliv in Norway
Translating to “open-air living”, friluftsliv is a Norwegian concept that encourages being out in a natural, open surrounding as much as possible.
The term was originated by Norwegian writer, Henrik Ibsen in the 1850s to represent the concept of spending time outdoors for physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Enthusiasm for this lifestyle is shared by many people among other Nordic countries. It is thought that their large land masses, relative to their small populations, instils a unique adoration for the natural surroundings.
Almost anything can fit within the parameters of friluftsliv and Scandinavians will cycle, picnic, walk, camp, or sit just to enjoy the outdoors.
Around half the population of Norway have access to a rural summerhouse of some kind, compounding their love of spending time in natural surroundings.
Becoming closer with nature isn’t the only benefit to friluftsliv as it has been found to improve eye health and happiness, strengthen the immune system, and decrease levels of stress.
9. Drinking tea in China
Drinking tea is viewed as a therapeutic practice in China. It’s highly popular among its population as over two tons is drunk every year – that’s over one-third of the world’s total.
Legend says that, almost 5,000 years ago, a Chinese emperor discovered tea when a tree’s leaf blew into a pot of boiling water, enticing him with its smell.
The activity is an important part of Chinese tradition and culture, also having roots in traditional Chinese medicine.
It is commonly drunk after large meals to aid digestion but is also believed to reduce risks of neurological diseases, strokes and numerous types of cancer, as well as lowering cholesterol.
10. Regular massages in Thailand
Thailand’s long history with massages begins around the time Buddha himself was alive – over 2,500 years ago.
The massage itself focuses on healing, rather than relaxation, and is defined by compressing, pulling and stretching the body with no oils or rubs.
Buddhist monks are widely credited as having developed the practice. A close friend to Buddha, Jivaka Komarabhacca is said to be the father of the Thai massage with his tremendous knowledge of healing and medicine.
Thai massages offer many wellbeing benefits. These include releasing muscle tension, improving blood circulation, and boosting the immune system, as well as lowering heart rate and blood pressure.