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While we’re all stuck inside unable to travel, why not bring some of the world into your home while enhancing your well-being at the same time? For centuries, wellness rituals have been used to promote better physical and mental health. Give yourself a little self-love with everything from India’s laughter yoga to Italy’s fangotherapy.
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Singing Bowls - Tibet
The use of singing bowls dates back to a time when there were few written records, although there are stories of 2,000-year-old brass bowls in Tibet around the turn of the last century. While the bowls don’t actually “sing,” they provide a meditative hum, with the sonic vibrations said to help heal the mind and body, relieving pain, stress and symptoms of depression. They can be purchased online – to learn to use them, you’ll find instructional videos on YouTube like this one.
Laughter Yoga - India
Yoga takes many different forms these days in addition to standards like vinyasa. There’s beer yoga, hot yoga, goat yoga, and laughter yoga. It’s said to blend the science of breathing with the feel-good endorphins of a good belly laugh. Some of the benefits include reduced stress, a stronger immune system and increased happiness. Invented by Madan Kataria in 1995, the Indian doctor first began experimenting with its benefits by laughing with a small group of five in a Mumbai park – in just a few days his group grew to over 50 participants. Try it at home via this video, or any one of a long list on YouTube.
Shabbat - Israel
The weekly celebration of Shabat is rooted in the core tenets of Judaism, commonly practiced in Israel and by Jews around the world. This is a sanctioned time of rest that’s said to offer many emotional, mental and physical benefits by taking a break from the busy weekly grind. You don’t have to be Jewish, take the principle and use it to create your own version by unplugging from electronics, perhaps enjoying dinner at the table as a family together. If you’ve been stuck inside, consider a backyard “campout,” cooking on the campfire – don’t forget the roasted marshmallows. Studies have shown that after unplugging from electronics for even just one night, participants noted experiencing greater happiness and satisfaction with life.
Forest Bathing - Japan
Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a ritual that began in Japan during the 1980s as a way to prevent office burnout and relieve stress. A walk through the forest, it’s been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, relieve stress, lower blood pressure, boost energy and improve sleep. Of course, if you’re homebound, walking through the woods probably isn’t possible, but there are other ways to enjoy the benefits simply by getting outdoors – can you start a garden in your yard, or perhaps a container garden on your patio?
Sauna - Finland
While saunas are popular in other countries, Finland’s sauna culture has been around for thousands of years, providing a warm respite from the frigid winter weather. A Finnish sauna is typically a room with a wooden ceiling and walls, with a kiua, or stove, used to heat the space. Soaking in one can help relieve chronic fatigue and pain as well as irritated, itchy skin from psoriasis.
As now isn’t the time to go to a spa or gym with a sauna, you can create a sauna environment usuing a few items you already have right in your own bathroom. Temporarily increase the upper range of your hot water heater to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (don’t forget to turn it back down to 120-130 degrees when you’re done). Dim the lights and add lavender-scented candles to the smallest bathroom in your home. Close all windows and the door, covering cracks with towels, and then turn on the hot water on the highest setting possible, letting the steam heat up the room. Now, sit next to the tub and relax.
Hot Springs - Iceland
Iceland is famous for its hot springs like the legendary Blue Lagoon. Soaking in them is a part of Icelandic culture, thanks to the country’s extensive geothermal activity. It’s said to help boost blood circulation, clear the complexion, reduce pain, increase endorphins and provide anti-aging properties. While there’s nothing like experiencing one in Iceland – watch some of its spectacular scenery in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and then enjoy a hot bath with natural bath salts.
Jamu - Indonesia
Jamu has a long history that traces back to Java Island in Indonesia. A medicinal drink that’s said to help improve inflammatory conditions like arthritis while providing cancer-fighting properties, aiding weight loss and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Sold throughout the streets of Indonesia, it’s typically made from leaves, seeds, flowers, bark, roots, turmeric, ginger and a bit of honey. You can easily make your own at home using one of the many recipes available online.
Smudge Sticks - Canada
Smudging ceremonies are common among Canada’s indigenous cultures, used to purify a space, the body’s aura and bring clarity to the mind. It’s often performed to remove negative energy and promote healing. You can do it at home by using a smudge stick or sage bundle. Open up a door or window and light it until the smoke is thick. Then swirl it in every direction, asking for protection before fanning the smoke over yourself or the space for which you’d like to clear out negative energy.
Mate Tea, Argentina
Mate tea originated in South America, specifically in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. An herbal tea, it’s made from the leaves of the llex paraguariensis plant. It helps to increase energy levels, enhance physical performance and strengthen the immune system thanks to its powerful antioxidants. This one is easy to do at home as mate tea is available in many supermarkets and health food stores. Try swapping out your morning coffee for mate and see if you notice an energy boost without the jitters of caffeine.
Ubuntu - Nigeria
In Nigeria, ubuntu is a way of life. It literally translates to “I am because we are,” or “so much,” meaning an appreciation of others and the concept that we’re all part of the same family. It’s all about caring, compassion and kindness toward others, and there are lots of ways to practice it from home. Consider ordering your neighbor lunch or dinner, delivered to their home – it will help your local restaurant that’s probably struggling right now too. The options are endless, but some other ideas include sending a motivational text to a friend who is down, calling a lonely relative to check on them, or simply telling a family member how much you love and appreciate them.
Tai Chi, China
Tai Chi is a centuries-old tradition birthed in China. It’s a workout meets mindfulness practice that uses a series of standing poses with movement between them. It requires breathing control, muscle fluidity and balance, with no exercise equipment needed. To learn how, check out Tai Chi for Beginners 01 on YouTube or one of the many other videos available.
Fika is a Swedish coffee break, but it’s more than simply enjoying a cup of coffee. It means to slow down, appreciate the moment and the good things in life. While that might be a little more challenging now, there’s always something to be grateful for. Take time to sit, enjoying your coffee with a tasty baked good while thinking about what you have instead of what you don’t have for greater peace and happiness.
The word fango is Italian for mud, with mud baths becoming popular in Italy during the Roman times. They were often enjoyed throughout the Roman Empire and they’re still popular today, enjoyed in spas across Europe and beyond. It’s incredibly relaxing, reducing stress that can negatively affect the immune system, mental health and more. You can make your own at home, but you’ll need mud that contains lots of minerals and nutrients – it’s not just about mixing dirt and water. The easiest way is to combine potting soil with warm water and milk powder which replicates a traditional mud bath.
Hygge - Denmark
The Danish concept of hygge is about creating a level of coziness that sparks a feeling of well-being. At its core, it means enjoying every moment and appreciating everything around you – a bit like a hug, without the physical touch. To practice it, make sure you’re wearing comfy clothing like pajamas, cuddle up in a blanket, enjoy a good book and a cup of tea, or, maybe a movie and a bowl of popcorn.
Kon Mari - Japan
Konmari is based on Japanese aesthetic principles of Zen, a philosophy also known as the “art of decluttering.” It was pioneered by Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s all about “less is more,” getting rid of everything in your home that doesn’t “spark joy” followed by taking a tidier approach with what remains, making sure everything is assigned its own specific spot. This method is said to reduce stress, help you sleep better, have more mental energy and feel more in control.