Flowers and beauty products around a bath

Feeling stressed? Get serious about down time with these simple yet powerful wellbeing habits, inspired by countries around the globe. 

 Life loves a curveball, which is why – despite our best intentions – we often churn through it with our batteries flat. We want to feel brisk and efficient, but end up tired and wired; yearning for a break (preferably with chocolate involved).

In such moments, however, pressing pause often isn’t enough. Instead, we need more – a ritual of some sort to cut through the stress, and build as a daily outlet. And, in cultivating this antidote, the wider world is a surprisingly rich source of inspiration.

All around the globe, different communities have found their own ways to address the angst of everyday living, with wellbeing habits that are pleasingly easy to follow. Below, we’ve picked up five of our favourites to try, for a more relaxed approach to the seesaw sway of life. 


  1. Shinrin yoku, Japan

    According to the Japanese tourist board, shinrin yoku, or forest bathing, is “the simple and therapeutic act of spending time in a forest”. An important part of preventative healthcare in Japan, the pastime sees people immerse themselves in the sensory solitude of trees, from the sight of sunlight streaming through the leaves to the feel of peaty moss, or the mesmerising sound of birdsong.

    Forest bathing may have evolved from Japan but there’s no reason why you can’t try it in your local woodland. Simply bookmark some time to meander through the trees and tune into the natural landscape, paying attention to all the little details that might usually pass you by. It’s a powerful cure to the rush of modern life – phones firmly NFI. 

  2. Hygge, Denmark

    Lighting a candle

    What’s not to love about hygge (pronounced hoo-guh), the beloved Danish art of warmth and cosiness? Part of the beauty of this concept is the sheer openness of its definition.“The warm glow of candlelight is hygge,” say our friends at Visit Denmark. “Cosying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there's nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life.”

    This serious pursuit of the good things in life is perhaps why Denmark, along with the whole of Scandinavia, ranks as one of the world’s happiest places. It helps that hygge can adapt to the seasons, too. In summer, hygge might look like sharing a twilight picnic with friends, or wild garlic foraging with family. In winter, this timeless ritual could be about curling up in front of the fire with candlelight, a good book and a warming cup of cocoa.  

  3. fam futebol and festa brazil

    Brazil is a country with a huge heart and soul: the minute you touch down in this land of sunshine, you’ll be swept along by its irrepressible spirit. Aptly enough, three values that matter a lot in this diverse nation are família, futebol and festa. “No matter how rich or poor, how black or white or how northern or southern: THE Brazilian is very fond of his family, football and partying,” says the website About Brasil

    What takeaway does this have for your own wellbeing? Well, if you’re living life the Brazilian way, you’ll always put loved ones first: either your family, or your friends who *are* your family. If you’re feeling down or stressed, be more intentional about your time with them, and make sure you add the “futebol and festa” element, too. For our purposes, that doesn’t have to equal fireworks or an 11-a-side tournament. It could also be a quick game of rounders, some fairy lights and a thermos full of mulled cider. Whatever it takes to spread the love.


  4. Pura Vida, Costa Rica

    Plants and beauty products surrounding a bath


    If you’re in the glorious Central American enclave of Costa Rica for any amount of time, you’ll likely hear the phrase “pura vida”. Less a ritual and more a way of life, the motto – which roughly translates as the pure, or simple life – sums up the laid-back mindset of most people in this tropical rainforest nation. “For Costa Ricans, Pura Vida is about enjoying life no matter what your circumstances; it’s a simple appreciation of life and the realisation that life is what you make of it,” says the travel website My Costa Rica.

    If you want to conjure up your own sense of pura vida, try taking a more relaxed, easygoing attitude to life’s ups and downs. Someone running late? No worries, pura vida. That’s life. You might also want to channel a whole lot of warmth towards other people, and revel in the simpler side of life: go slow and easy, and spend more time in nature. That’s pura vida defined. 


  5. Niksen, the Netherlands

    Sometimes in life, you just want to do nothing. And that’s exactly where the joy of niksen, a Dutch stress-relief ritual, comes in. According to Time magazine, niksen means “to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use”. The whole point is, there *is* no point; you’re simply hanging loose, and taking time out from the demands and deadlines of the 9-5. 

    Niksen is still a ritual, though, so you don’t actually spend it asleep or doing something passive, like watching TV. Instead, you give yourself permission to *be* and spend time in the moment without worrying about what you’re doing (or not doing, in fact). Niksen, like many of the wellbeing rituals we’ve discussed above, is quite broad. It could involve gazing out of a window, for example, or engaging in a habitual “flow” activity that is second-nature to you, like knitting. Most of all, it is a rare chance for your mind to rest and wander, amid the relentless grind.

March 31, 2022 — Anna Brech
Tags: Body & soul