Cultures all over the world have their own set of rituals, some religious, some celebratory, and some connected to wellness. To achieve long-term health and fitness goals, consistency is essential, which is why creating our own set of daily rituals can be so powerful. This can be as simple as lighting a candle when you wake up and prepare for your morning yoga or having a cup of herbal tea before bed to help you wind down. In this series, sponsored by Rancho La Puerta wellness resort, we explore ancient traditions from around the world that can enhance you modern wellness practice.

Wellness in Northern Europe

Nordic region of Europe refers to both an area that includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. The area shares historic and cultural commonalities, and are known to be some of the most progressive cultures in the world with some of the healthiest, happiest citizens.

There is no magic behind the smiles and longevity of nordic people, but rather a culture of creating happiness, peacefulness, and health through conscious choices rooted in simplicity.

The Tradition: A Seasonal Nordic Diet

Nordic food gained a great deal of attention when Noma in Copenhagen was named the best restaurant in the world for its innovative “new Nordic cuisine”. Traditional nordic cooking is simple farm fare, which is highly seasonal with an emphasis on seafood, berries, root vegetables, hearty rye, and high protein yoghurt. The resulting diet is one that celebrates in-season produce, complex carbohydrates from whole grains and root vegetables, and moderate amounts of lean, protein-rich seafood and dairy. The dishes are simple and let each ingredient shine.

Modern Ritual

You might not be ready to add pickled fish to your breakfast plate, but try swapping in Skyr (pronounced skeer) a Nordic yoghurt that’s packed full of probiotics and protein with an even thicker, creamier texture than Greek yoghurt. To eat Nordic-style the rest of the day, choose seasonal vegetables and make them the star of your plate. Supplement with lean seafood a few times a week and small servings of hearty whole-grains.

The Tradition: Fika (Connections over Coffee)

In Sweden, a coffee break is something that happens frequently throughout the day, with some office workers taking a short, ten to fifteen minute break every couple hours.

Studies have shown that this practice actually helps to boost productivity at work, keeping minds fresh and motivation high. It also is seen as one of the reasons people in Sweden feel more socially connected and satisfied with their personal lives.

At the heart of the tradition is the idea of work-life balance and prioritizing relationships.

Modern Ritual

Our office culture might not be quite so conducive to this many coffee breaks, but try setting an alarm to remind yourself to take a break ever one to two hours.

During your re-charge time, simply get up and stretch, refill your water bottle, or send a text to a friend you’ve been meaning to reach out to, scheduling a time to chat later in the day. Make it a habit to meet a friend or colleague for coffee at least once a week.

The Tradition: Minimalism at Home

Scandinavian design is known for its simple, streamlined look, and great functionality. Ikea built an empire on these principles. The designs are about more than aesthetics and are based on the cultural belief that a simple life is a happy life and a clutter-free space is key to relaxation and a clear mind.

Modern Ritual

Even if the modern or minimalist aesthetic isn’t your style, you can incorporate these Scandinavian principles by reducing clutter and removing unwanted or unnecessary items from your home until you are surrounded only by things you love or that serve a purpose.

Read about how to properly donate, recycle or dispose of your excess.

The Tradition: Daily Movement

Biking to work and talking long walks as a way to relax are essential to the Nordic lifestyle. Walking is something almost anyone of any age or fitness level can participate in, so you’ll see families, friends, and individuals of all ages out strolling the city and countryside.

“Nordic walking” was developed in Finland to amp-up the cardiovascular and upper-body toning with the addition of ski-pole-like walking sticks that promote upper-body movement.  

Modern Ritual

Add a walk to your daily routine. After dinner, instead of dropping anchor in front of the TV, take a walk around the block. Use the time to call a friend or family member or bring along your spouse or roommate and catch-up on the events of your day.

Start with a short, five to ten-minute stroll every day for a week and you might find yourself looking forward to your new ritual and spending more time moving each day.

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