Everybody has their favorite way to relax. Maybe you love a good trip to the spa or a healing cup of herbal tea or maybe even a hot bath. But wellness also looks different around the world. Some cultures thrive with daily coffee breaks like the Swedish fika, while others, like the English prefer a nice afternoon tea. If you’re looking for a little wellness inspiration, we’re excited to be able to share our favorite self-care rituals from around the world.
What is Self-Care?
If you don’t know what self-care really means, you’re not alone. The term “self-care” hasn’t been around for all that long. If you open up a dictionary you would see self-care defined as the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health. But in the real world, self-care looks different depending on your culture and personal needs.
Before the 1960s and 1970s, self-care was mostly prescribed by doctors to patients who were mentally ill or elderly. It was seen as something you do as a treatment for a certain ailment rather than a preventative measure. Eventually the idea of self-care was picked up by researchers looking for a way to help people with high-stress jobs take better care of themselves.
It was around the time of the civil rights movement and the Women’s movement that self-care became more of a question for the general public. Minorities and women were historically receiving worse care than their more privileged counterparts and began to take their health into their own hands with self-care. People started pushing towards being in a state of positive health rather than simply one without illness.
But, many cultures around the world already had what we deem as “self-care” built into their daily routines. Certain eastern cultures enjoyed healing fermented foods, whole flower teas, and other powerful herbs throughout their day. A lot of wellness practices we enjoy now in the US like acupuncture, cupping, meditation, and yoga had been practiced in other cultures for thousands of years before being practiced here.
In Sardinia, a famous Blue Zone, people live longer than they do in other parts of the world. It’s partly due to the fact that as shepherds, the Sardinians were walking an average of 5 miles throughout their day. They weren't fitting in a trip to the gym when they had time, but building time for movement into their day. But what do we do when we're all sitting here working desk jobs?
Well, as a society, we’re not so great at working self-care naturally into our day. It's partly due to our indoor desk jobs, but also due to the culture surrounding wellness. Wellness is usually seen as something extra that we can squeeze into our schedule if we have the time—a morning workout, a quick mid-afternoon meditation, or our favorite cup of tea before bed.
And don’t get us wrong, anytime you can fit in a little extra wellness into your schedule is a win for us. But wouldn't it be better if it was just culturally accepted to take a 2-hour lunch break or an afternoon siesta? Even though it might take time before these cultural norms shift, we hope that these international wellness routines will help inspire you to make your wellness ritual an integral part of your day.
Wellness Rituals From Around the World
Sweden - Fika
If you’ve already heard of the Swedish fika, you might think of it as an afternoon coffee break. But this almost daily wellness ritual is actually a time to pause and be grateful for all of the good things in your life. This Swedish tradition isn’t about walking to the nearest Starbucks, grabbing a paper cup of coffee, and walking back to the office. It’s about enjoying a warming drink, a sweet treat, and a moment away from your busy schedule.
Your typical fika break is enjoyed among friends or coworkers. Swedish offices have a fika break scheduled into their morning and afternoon and you’ll probably see a fika special on the dining car menu on most longer train rides.
The great thing about fika is it isn’t a coffee date that you have to go out of your way to schedule with your friends, it’s a daily (or twice daily) routine that you can depend on for a break every day. You can even enjoy it on your own and adapt it to your own unique tastes. And we won’t tell anyone if you switch out the daily coffee for one of our adaptogenic whole flower teas.
China - Gua Sha
There’s a good chance you’ve probably seen this dorsal fin-shaped, stone tool popping up all over the internet. Though you've probably heard the gua sha be praised for its skincare benefits, the tool was actually historically used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for something much different: heatstroke and seasonal colds and viruses. The tool along with other things like spoons, knuckles, and animal bones were used to press and pull on skin until a reddish mark appeared, which would release any of the bad energy.
It was actually by accident that the gua sha’s skin rejuvenating abilities were discovered. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners were focusing on acupressure points on the face when they noticed that the gua sha treatment was helping decrease the intensity of wrinkles, decrease puffiness, and create a pretty glow. The gua sha helps to activate sluggish lymph nodes which helps fight against inflammation.
If your morning routine consists of a quick face wash and a little bit of moisturizer adding in a little massage from a gua sha could turn your typical morning routine into a mini spa-like ritual. Plus your skin will probably thank you for the extra TLC.
India - Ayurvedic morning routine
At first glance the Ayurvedic morning routine might seem like a lot. Clocking in at about an hour or two long, these morning routines aren’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re someone who doesn’t have time for wellness throughout the day, this could be a great way to get it all done at once.
Ayurvedic routines vary depending on your dosha, the dominant energy in your body, but in general there are a few things you should be doing to ground yourself in the morning.
- The first thing you’ll want to do is wake before sunrise. This is considered one of the most healing times of the day because the silence helps you truly recharge.
- Next, you should say a prayer, list a few things you’re grateful for, or set an intention for the day. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, so this helps you get into the right mindset for the entire day.
- Splash your face with cold water, rinse out your mouth, and lightly massage your eyes. You should blink your eyes seven times and rotate them in all directions. Depending on your dosha, you can also do an eye wash. Pitta people should use rose water from organic dried roses (fresh works too) to rinse their eyes, while kapha people can use diluted cranberry juice. You can also add oil pulling into this step for added oral benefits!
- Next drink a room temperature or warm cup of water. You can include lemon or replace this with your favorite herbal tea.
- After you’re all hydrated, you’ll want to apply oil to your head and body and take a shower.
- Finally, you can finish things up with twelve rounds of a sun salutation, a breathing exercise or two, and your favorite meditation.
We know this seems like a lot to add into your morning, but these Ayurvedic practices have been used for thousands of years to help keep people healthy, balanced, and well. If you’re looking for a way to truly revamp your wellness routine, this could be the best option for you.
United Kingdom - Afternoon tea
While China is the largest consumer of tea in the world, things look a little different when you break things down by which countries drink the most tea per person. Turkey, Ireland, and England actually drink the most tea per person. Just like the Swedish fika, this afternoon tea is an almost mandatory part of the day. It is a chance to sit down and enjoy your favorite tea, a sandwich or a little dessert. In some parts of England, dinner is even referred to as “tea” because “high tea” was enjoyed with a heartier meal.
While black tea is the most commonly enjoyed tea in England, you are welcome to add even more health benefits to this wellness ritual by enjoying antioxidant-filled teas like green tea and rose tea, adaptogenic teas like tulsi and ginseng tea, and immune boosting teas like chrysanthemum tea.
Bali - Flower baths
Bali’s flower baths have roots in their Buddhist history. Bathing was traditionally used as a way to honor your body, cleanse yourself, and relax. While the floral baths make a great Instagram post, flowers hold many healing benefits so they create a really nourishing bath. Candula is great for soothing irritated skin, roses are anti-inflammatory, and lavender and chamomile are both great for relaxation.
Have fun with your bath and add in whatever you please. Epsom salt, nourishing oils, and even green tea bags, can add a little bit more to any relaxing bath. You can also light some candles and grab your favorite book for even more relaxation.
We hope you enjoyed reading about this wellness rituals from around the world and that at least one can find its way into your daily self-care routine!