From the Mayan hammock to the forest baths of Japan: The world atlas of how to live better


Each nation has different ways of being well: the Pachamama in Peru, the concept of Pura Vida in Costa Rica, or the refuge of the thermal pools in Iceland are some of those included in the new Guide to living better, from Lonely Planet, an atlas of the knowledge of cultures that encompasses both the mundane and the spiritual.

Many of the proposals on how to live well, from social habits to gastronomic customs or initiation rites, have long since spread throughout the world and are immensely known, such as the practice of yoga and meditation, for example.

Others have become popular in more recent times. Nordic concepts such as hygge, that cozy or comfortable feeling, or the Japanese practice of shinkrin-yoku , now better known as forest baths, are relatively new.

The new Guide to Living Better, from the Lonely Planet travel publisher, searches for little-known ideas that are little or no adopted outside of their culture of origin. In addition to providing inspiration for improving personal well-being, the guide offers a fresh perspective on the countries in which it originates.

This is a selection of more or less popular ideas that the guide includes:

Brazil: it's my beach

With more than 7,000 km of coastline (about 4,400 miles), Brazil has some of the most beautiful praias (beaches) on the planet. “The beach is more than a place to play with the waves or sunbathe; it is a community patio, a place to relax, hang out with friends and family, watch the sunrise, eat, drink, play music, in short, celebrate what the world has to offer in good company ”, point out the authors of the guide. The beach plays a crucial role in the national psyche. "E minha praia" (It's my beach) is used with the meaning of "I like this", something that produces joy to the one who pronounces it. And in places like Rio de Janeiro, the locals are likely to wish each other a good day with “Tenha uma boa praia” (Have a good beach).

Peru: Pachamama

"In a time of climate crisis and ecological upheaval, what sacred ritual could be more relevant than the offering to the Pachamama?" The indigenous people of the Peruvian Andes have venerated this fertility goddess since the times of the Inca Empire. During this ritual, led by a shaman, symbolic offerings are tucked into a piece of paper and then folded, blessed, and burned with a prayer. It began as a way for poor peasants to recognize their debt to Pachamama and to try to compensate for the relationship between man and nature. Modern participants take the opportunity to convey their hopes and dreams for the future.

New Zealand: the Tiaki promise

Visitors to New Zealand must embrace the "Tiaki Promise", a commitment to care for the country for present and future generations. Travelers promise to respect the land, sea, and nature (that is, walk carefully and leave no trace); travel safely and show care and consideration for all; and respect the unique culture of the country by traveling with an open heart and mind.

Japan: from forest baths to Ikigai

The stereotype refers to a country where work is the only relevant thing. However, the reality is much more subtle, and perhaps due to the centrality of work, the Japanese highly value communion with nature, stillness, silence, and the calming energy that comes from within and without. Shinrin-yoku or forest bathing is a practice that involves connecting with nature to experience the sensation of rejuvenation, just as one might emerge refreshed and relaxed from a hot shower or bath. Science is beginning to confirm what intuition already suggests: numerous studies show a positive link between a walk in the woods and an improved immune system. The ikigai also comes from Japan, which can be translated as "the reason why one gets up every morning", or the sense of personal worth; in other words, why does one do what he does. And although this can vary greatly from one person to another, there is something universal in the need to know the reason for the acts.

This idea of ​​purpose permeates almost everything in Japanese life; hence any task, important or banal, is done well, with attention and care. Many Japanese put off retirement because they feel valuable doing what they do, even if it's office work. Also from Japan comes the art of kintsugi, which consists of repairing cracks - often those of broken porcelain - not with something to hide the damage, but with gold. The idea that a container can be even more precious, even more valuable, after breaking is a wonderful way to look at not just objects, but the challenges of life itself. The way we repair fractures makes us stronger and our past more beautiful.

Ireland: meitheal or cooperative work

The meitheal, a form of cooperative work, has existed in Ireland for centuries: it was both a social institution and a necessity for survival. Neighbors helped each other cut hay or gather crops, knowing the favor would one day be returned. The penalties, by the way, are also shared. The Irish wake brings together family, friends, and community members in front of an open casket at the deceased's home. It is a tradition that allows mourners to share the burden of pain and say goodbye in a family environment, and it is a lesson around pain, which must be recognized rather than hidden and, over time, this private but public form of mourning can help to overcome the fear of death itself.

Iceland: soak

"In Iceland the heat does not come from the sky, but from the abundant geothermal waters rich in minerals. The favorite place of the Icelanders is the 'swimming pool', the equivalent of our town square", point out the authors of the guide.

Costa Rica: nature first

Central America's most stable democracy is also one of the world's most popular destinations for ecotourism, with beaches for surfers, a towering rainforest, waters heated by volcanoes, and wellness retreats. And, of course, talking about Costa Rica is talking about "pura vida": it is used with the meanings of "hello," bye, "thank you" and "I'm doing well", or to express approval. Although it appears on many T-shirts and souvenirs throughout Costa Rica, it is not native to this country, the authors of the guide recall. The concept comes from a 1956 Mexican film of the same name. Costa Rica has managed to reinvent itself as a bastion of peace and tranquility. The army was abolished in 1948; defense spending was redirected to education, health, and social security.

Mexico: swinging

The Mayans are considered the inventors of the hammock: it provides comfort to crying children, protection against ant stings and when the heat hits in the afternoon, it is the perfect place to take a nap.

Netherlands: Uitwaaien or the act of going for a walk in windy weather

Uitwaaien 'is the act of going for a walk in windy weather, breathing fresh air, and collecting thoughts. They claim that it controls stress and tension and lifts your spirits in five minutes.

Finland: the power of the sauna and silence

Few customs have been so deeply integrated into the Finnish national psyche as the sauna. Most Finns sweat at least once a week, and they do so by applying a certain etiquette: undressing (no exceptions); get a shower; relax in the heat for as long as you hang on repeat as many times as desired. Water is poured over hot stones to produce löyly (fragrant steam) and a vihta (bundle of birch branches) is often used to stimulate circulation. Studies suggest that saunas improve cardiovascular health, as well as conditions such as psoriasis and asthma. It also provides the opportunity to relax and is even more exhilarating when combined with a dip in a frozen lake or pool. Silence is better: many cultures have a version of the phrase "silence is gold." In Finland the rule is followed that “speech is silver, silence is gold.” Rather than unnecessarily exchanging trivia, Finns tend to be silent, and it is not hostile, but rather encourages learning to be at peace with the company and the environment, without feeling the need to interrupt the tranquility. Is this one of the secrets to becoming the happiest country in the world?

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