FORGET oversized Toblerones and dodgy sarongs, here’s our round-up of what you should really bring back from your summer trip.
Wherever you’re jetting off to this year, holidays are a time to kick back, tank up on Aperol Spritz and post smug Insta Stories. But it turns out we could be missing a trick.
Visiting a different culture is also a chance to steal the secret health and wellbeing tricks that other nationalities swear by.
From clever ways to boost happiness to weight-loss tips, we delve into the healthy habits to nab from your next vacay
1 — Embrace the outdoors like the Norwegians
Pronounced “free-loofts-liv”, the term friluftsliv was coined by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in the 1850s.
It means enjoying open-air living, and has been embraced by all Scandi countries.
It’s about raising your physical and emotional wellbeing by immersing yourself in the outdoors, whether that’s wild swimming or a forest hike.
A recent study by the University of Derby showed that a connection with nature makes us healthier and happier.
Dr Miles Richardson, who led the study, says: “Exposure to nature can reduce high blood pressure, cardiovascular illness, improve mood and restore mental fatigue.
Feeling a part of nature has also been shown to correlate with life satisfaction, happiness and lower anxiety.”
2 — Get hot and bothered like the Finns
Finland has been named the happiest country in the world* and saunas are a huge part of Finns’ lives – there are more saunas in Finland than cars.
Not only is exposure to heat relaxing, but there are many health benefits to taking a sauna, from releasing endorphins to improving blood circulation and helping eliminate toxins.
Deep sweating also cleanses the skin and activates the scalp’s sebaceous glands, leaving you with shiny hair. So book in a day at the spa or find a gym with a sauna.
3 — Get on your bike like the Dutch
Fun fact: there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people (23 million bikes to 17 million residents).
Nick Moore, author of Mindful Thoughts For Cyclists, says hopping on your bike in your spare time is a chance to slow down and enjoy the scenery, and it’s much better for you than being stuck bumper to bumper in a jam.
“Cycling represents freedom: an escape from work and your phone. It’s about reconnecting with feelings, physical sensations and the world around us,” he says.
There are physical health benefits, too, with the NHS recommending regular cycling to reduce the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke.
4 — Say yo to yoghurt like the Greeks
Whether it’s served with fresh fruit in the morning or dolloped on to a chicken kebab, the Greeks love their yoghurt.
While you may think all yoghurts are created equal, Greek yoghurt is strained of liquid whey, so it is suitable for people with lactose intolerance and has around half the sugar and double the protein of other yoghurt.
People who eat more protein also have a lower risk of osteoporosis, which is especially important for pre-menopausal women who are at risk of the condition.
Protein also helps if you’re trying to shed a few pounds as it promotes fullness, so you’re less likely to reach for high-fat, high-sugar snacks.
5 — Get your fika on like the Swedes
One of our fave Scandi customs is fika. It means a coffee break, but it’s more than just grabbing a Starbucks.
It’s about taking time out of your day to relax, get away from work and socialise. Offices in Sweden break at 3pm for fika and most have a morning break, too.
Anna Brones, author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break, says: “In Sweden, it’s a time to step away from work and chat. It helps improve the workplace, as it allows people to check out mentally from tasks for a few minutes.”
Research from Sweden’s Lund University into fika showed that short, consistent recovery periods lead to increased wellbeing and happiness.
So start taking a cuppa and some Hobnobs down to the other end of the office for a chat with a colleague.
6 — Get spicy like the Indians
India is a major foodie destination, but with many supermarkets here now stocking ingredients from around the world, adding more spices to your diet is easy.
Turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of health issues from toothache to arthritis.
Studies have found that high doses may act as an anti-inflammatory, so for joint pain try Bioglan Active Curcumin (£24.99, Amazon.co.uk).
Cardamom is not only delicious in coffee but may also help lower blood pressure, while cayenne pepper may help increase metabolic rate, which could help you burn more calories.
A study by Purdue University found that people who had half a teaspoon of cayenne a day had fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
7 — Go hara hachi bu like the Japanese
The Japanese diet – high in soy, veg and fish – is super-healthy. But we could also learn from the concept of hara hachi bu – a practice that advises you to stop eating when you’re 80% full.
It’s applied on the islands of Okinawa, an area with the longest life expectancy in the world.
Being attuned to your body means you’ll be more aware of when to stop eating, as the “I’m full” signal can take 20 minutes to get from stomach to brain.
Nutritionist Kavita Devgan says: “Okinawans eat exactly what they need and no more. When you’re 80% full your stomach has space to digest quickly.
"Overeating means your organs have to work harder, which can contribute to higher stress levels in the body.”
- Source: World Happiness Report 2019.
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