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Foreign lifestyles that could benefit your mental health

ubuntu foreign lifestyles
Photo credit: RapidEye/Getty Images

We all do it, right? We’re stressed, we’re tired, we’re overwhelmed by the constant barrage of negative headlines — for whatever reason, we look around at our lives and think, There’s gotta be a better way to do this.

It’s that little nagging thought in the back of your brain that maybe you’re missing out on some big secret. Do other people have their lives together? Do they feel the same anxiety you do? We can’t speak for everyone, but it seems safe to assume that many people would answer no to the first question and yes to the second. Life’s tricky. Especially right now in our country, while we’re dealing with a seemingly unprecedented amount of stress.

So is there some hack to help make life feel a little less anxiety-inducing and more filled with the good stuff, like intention and purpose? Well, sort of. But you’ll have to travel to find it. Don’t worry — you don’t have to pack your bags. Come with us, right now, as we visit a few foreign lifestyle philosophies that might just change your world.

Foreign Lifestyle #1: Hygge

Pronunciation: “hoo-gah”
Origin: Danish

If you’ve heard of any foreign lifestyle concepts, it’s probably this one. So, what is it? “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with people,” explains VisitDenmark.com. “The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. 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.”

Considering Denmark ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world consistently, there’s surely something to this idea of hygge. To practice hygge in your home, it’s all about creating a warm and inviting environment. Think snuggly blankets, soft lighting, serene colors and decor with sentimental significance. Outside the home, you can practice hygge by embracing activities that connect you with other people. Host happy backyard barbecues. Invite your besties over for a game night. Togetherness is key.

MORE: Why experts say you need to do more of nothing

Foreign Lifestyle #2: Niksen

Pronunciation: “nik-sen”
Origin: Dutch

Be honest — does the thought of actively adopting a new foreign lifestyle exhaust you? Well, you’re going to love niksen. Why? It’s the Dutch concept of doing nothing. Yes, you read that right. So, how exactly does doing nothing work? Kinda exactly what is sounds like. You simply do nothing. You don’t have to have a purpose. You don’t give yourself any deadlines. You just do. This could be as simple as sitting down and writing your thoughts to see where they take you, or carving out an hour to stare at the ocean.

Per The Dutch Review, life coach Caroline Hamming cites niksen as being a great life philosophy for people who are suffering from burnout. It takes you outside of your stress and allows you to re-center.

Foreign Lifestyle #3: Ubuntu

Pronunciation: “oo-boon-too”
Origin: African

We don’t want to play favorites, but this might be the foreign lifestyle philosophy we love the most out of the whole lot. Often translated as “I am because we are” or “humanity towards others,” ubuntu is a traditional African concept based on the belief that connection and community are essential to a harmonized existence. It is the essence of being human — the idea that we’re all in this together, and that our actions can have a butterfly effect on those around us.

According to the New World Encyclopedia, the defining virtues of ubuntu are helpfulness, sharing, kindness, respect, trust and selflessness. So, then, to practice ubuntu means jumping in to help other people whenever you can. Complimenting people. Being generous with your praise. Acting empathetically. And definitely getting involved in your community.

Foreign Lifestyle #4: Lagom

Pronunciation: “la-gum”
Origin: Swedish

Roughly translated, lagom means “just the right amount.” And it isn’t necessarily a nod to consumerist minimalism (although it can be). The central premise here is that people need to find spaces, moments, things and passions that provide balance. Not too much, not too little — i.e. “just the right amount.” If we were going to equate it to an American idiom, it might be something along the lines of “less is more.” However, and pardon our wordplay, it’s more than that. It’s about living a life of moderation, where you aren’t trying to have it all. You’re striving toward contentedness.

This means unplugging from social media schmoozing. It means leaving your work at work. Admittedly, this lifestyle philosophy might not suit thrill junkies and ladder-climbers. Lagom is not about not wanting to aim too high but, rather, being content with a moderate and joy-filled existence.

Foreign Lifestyle #5: Ikigai

Pronunciation: “ick-ee-guy”
Origin: Japanese

Need some incentive to embrace ikigai? How about this? According to Medium, the Japanese island of Okinawa has the largest population of centenarians in the world. Why are people living so long? Well, maybe it’s because it’s where the lifestyle philosophy of ikigai was born. “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing,” Hector Garcia, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, told Medium.

To embrace ikigai, you need to find a way to merge your passion (what you love), your mission (what the world needs), your profession (what you can get paid for) and your vocation (what you are good at). According to Garcia, you’re more likely to strike this balance if you slow down and enjoy a more leisurely pace in life, give thanks for anything that brightens your day, follow your curiosity and live in the moment.

MORE: How much time you should ACTUALLY spend on social media each day

Foreign Lifestyle #6: Meraki

Pronunciation: “may-rah-kee”
Origin: Greek

Aside from making a killer name for a baby girl, the word meraki encapsulates a beautiful idea about being fully present in your life. It’s a word modern Greeks use to describe doing something and loving it so much — whether it be art, work, a relationship, whatever — that you leave a piece of yourself in it. It is, at its core, to throw your heart, soul and creativity into something.

Not surprisingly, meraki is often used to describe cooking. However, you can adopt it in your everyday life for virtually anything. Whatever you do, do it with all your being. Decorating? Put thought into every piece you bring into your home. Making a gift for a friend? Take your time to make it right. And when interacting with others, leave no doubt that you’re there with them in the moment and nowhere else.

Foreign Lifestyle #7: Friluftsliv

Pronunciation: “free-loofts-liv”
Origin: Scandinavian

If “the mountains are calling and I must go” is your personal mantra, you may be a proponent of the Scandinavian philosophy of friluftsliv and not even realize it. Per the BBC, the expression literally translates as “open-air living.” So, you can probably do the math — friluftsliv is the idea that spending time in the great outdoors, and particularly remote locations, is good for a person’s spiritual and physical wellbeing.

Granted, we can’t all just take a hike whenever it pleases us (not all bosses are keen on their employees calling out to answer the call of the mountains). But you can find little ways to honor friluftsliv in your life. Have a half-hour lunch break? Head to the local park. You’ve got vacation days, right? Take that ski trip you’ve been dreaming of. Just get outside!

Foreign Lifestyle #8: Kalsarikännit

Pronunciation: “call-sah-ree-can-it”
Origin: Finnish

When the rough translation of a lifestyle philosophy is “pantsdrunk,” you know it’s gonna be a good time. You’re probably thinking, Hmm, pantsdrunk? That can’t mean what it sounds like. But, friends, it is. Kalsarikännit effectively means “drinking at home and alone in your underwear.” The gist of the concept is similar to hygge in that it encourages coziness and comfort. However, it’s a bit more indulgent and, let’s be real, less wholesome than hygge. Ultimately, it’s all about finding what relaxes you and not feeling guilty for giving into those needs/desires.

As for practicing this foreign lifestyle concept at home, well, something tells us you may already have a good handle on it.

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