Hygge, Lagom and Other Global Wellness Practices That Will Make You Feel Good
From Danish hygge and French facial fitness to Japanese ikigai and Swedish death cleansing, wellness practices from around the globe are bypassing borders and spreading new ideas around the globe.
Wellness is big business in the United States. In fact, a 2016 report found that Americans spend an estimated $30.2 billion a year on complementary health approaches, including $2.9 billion on self-care. In our quest to the find the latest and greatest, it’s no wonder that we’ve started to look outside the U.S. for the most effective health and wellness practices.
From Danish hygge and French facial fitness to Japanese ikigai and Swedish death cleansing, wellness practices from around the globe are bypassing borders and spreading new ideas like wildfire. Here are some of our favorite health and wellness practices you might want to adopt.
1. Denmark: Hygge
We’re still hot for hygge (pronounced HUE-guh), the Danish philosophy that roughly translates to “coziness.” And the Danes definitely know a thing or two about how self-care can boost your attitude. In fact, out of 155 countries surveyed, Denmark was named one of the top three happiest in the 2018 World Happiness Report for seven years in a row!
And the concept of hygge is easy to incorporate into your life. Think about what brings you joy and makes you feel cozy and peaceful. A bonfire with friends? A big mug of coffee and a new book? A stroll through a beautiful garden with your best friend? It can be alone or with friends. Inside or outside. The only rule of hygge is that you create a sense of joy and well-being.
2. Sweden: Döstädning
In Sweden, there’s a certain kind of decluttering called döstädning, also known as a Swedish death cleaning. According to Margareta Magnusson, author of “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” it isn’t just a deep cleaning of your house. It involves removing unnecessary things and organizing your home "when you think the time is coming closer for you to leave the planet."
Though the practice was originally meant for those close to the end of their lives, you don't need to be dying to reap the benefits. A 2010 study found that women who described their homes as restful had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who described their homes as cluttered. And Knox College professor Tim Kasser writes in “The High Price of Materialism” that people who focus on material possessions “face a greater risk of unhappiness, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and problems with intimacy.”
3. Japan: Ikigai
Do you dread getting out of bed in the morning? If so, you might need a little ikigai (pronounced ee-key-guy) a Japanese principle (originating from Okinawa) that can be translated as "purpose in life" or "reason for being." According to Hector Garcia, the co-author of “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,” purpose is at the center of four elements: what you love (passion); what the world needs (mission); what you are good at (vocation); and what you can get paid for (profession).
In his book, Garcia also proposes 10 rules to help discover your own ikigai, including rules for the body (“only eat until you are 80 percent full”), mind (“leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life”), spirit (“give thanks to anything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive”) and community (“surround yourself with good friends”).
4. Denmark: Lykke
What makes you happy? One of the recent wellness trends to gain popularity is lykke (pronounced LOO-ka), the Danish word for happiness. In his book, “The Little Book of Lykke,” Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, looks into happiness trends from all over the world, condensing them down into six key lykke components: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust and kindness.
While studies looking into happiness are still relatively new in the research world, pursuing happiness has proven benefits. Studies have shown that happiness can positively impact your health, make you live longer and help prevent negative reactions to life events.
5. Japan: Jin Shin Jyutsu
Literally translated as “art of the Creator through man of knowing and compassion,” this Japanese physiophilosophy, which traces it roots back to the mid 500s BCE (and predates Buddha) is the art of harmonizing and balancing the energy of the body, mind and spirit through a type of reflexology/massage.
Jin shin jyutsu aims to release blocks in the body’s energy pathways through light touch on 26 specific “safety energy locks” (or SELs) on either side of the body. “These SELs are located primarily at the joints, shoulders, knees, hips, elbows, fingers, ankles and toes,” explains Teri Meissner, and New York-based integrative wellness practitioner and certified jin shin jyutsu practitioner. Utilizing the technique “induces the relaxation response, calms the nervous system, boosts the circulatory system and decreases symptoms of discomfort, anxiety, stress, nausea and fatigue.”
6. Ancient Egypt: Facial Fitness
From ancient Egyptians to the French, Japanese and now Americans, the idea of exercising your face to keep it firm and youthful is one of the latest beauty wellness trends making a comeback. It’s based on the idea that correctly exercising the more than 50 muscles in face can help prevent wrinkles and saggy facial skin.
Want to try it out on your own? United Kingdom-based facialist Nichola Joss tells Vogue Australia she suggests facial exercises like overpronouncing the vowels in front of a mirror and massaging the face with firm, outward-moving motions to relieve tension and help encourage lymphatic drainage. Or if this sounds too complicated, you can try FaceGym’s Yoga Face treatment or book an online training with Skin Fit Gym.
Read more: 4 Facial Yoga Exercises
7. Sweden: Lagom
From fitness to french fries, daily weigh-ins to wine, the Swedish concept of lagom is key. Pronounced LAH-gum, the word translates to “just the right amount.” Evidence of the lagom principle can be seen throughout Swedish society, from minimalist home design and capsule wardrobes to the average length of a workday. According to a BBC article, only 1 percent of Swedes work more than 50 hours a week.
To find your own lagom, ask yourself questions like “Do I really need this?” and “Is this enough?” directed at all areas of your life. “Lagom teaches us how to avoid both excess and extreme limitation, allowing us to better understand what makes us happy and what works for our own unique mental well-being,” says Niels Eék, co-founder and psychologist behind well-being app Remente, in a BBC article. Even virtues, in excess, can become a vice.
8. Japan: Shinrin-Yoku
Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese phrase that translates to “forest bathing.” But you won’t need a swimsuit for this practice nor even an official forest — any natural outdoor area will do. The goal is “to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment,” says certified forest therapy guide Melanie Choukas-Bradley in an NPR article.
Studies have found that walking through a forest provides benefits like lower blood pressure, decreased depression and anxiety, decreases in the stress-hormone cortisol and enhanced immune function. Can’t get away for a stroll through the woods? Head to your local park for lunch or add a plant to your daily workspace. Research from 2010 from New University of Technology Sydney found that adding a single potted plant to an office increased workers’ feelings of well-being and decreased stress and negative feelings.
Read more: What Is Forest Bathing and How Do You Do It?
What Do YOU Think?
Had you heard of any of these practice before? Have you tried any of them? What did you think? Are there any others you would add? Share your thoughts, experiences and questions in the comments below!