Back in the Before Times, I left my home in New York City to take a trip around the world in search of wellness wisdom from other cultures. I was working at a big wellness magazine in Manhattan at the time, and I’d become a bit disillusioned with the commercialism of it all — my desk had become a mountain of fancy products! I knew, deep down, that wellness isn’t sold in a bottle, so I set out to interview people around the world whose genuine wellness philosophies aligned more closely with my own.
The result? My first book, Destination Wellness, which came out a few weeks ago. In it, I document the well-being lessons I learned on my around-the-world journey to Jamaica, Norway, Hawai’i, Japan, India, and Brazil. While all of them focus on different elements of health and happiness, the central theme is clear: True wellness is not something you can actually buy — it’s about the way you live your life every day. The timing of the book turned out to be especially cosmic, too, as I wrapped up my last research trip just weeks before the pandemic grounded the globe. That means I had more time than ever to apply the philosophies to my own life during lockdown, and it also turns out they’re helping me navigate this new re-entry world we’re living in now. I don’t want to give away all of the wellness secrets I picked up on the road — that’s what the book is for, and there are photos too! — but here are a few that feel especially relevant right now and will help you live your best and healthiest life this summer.
Spend as much time in nature as you possibly can — without all the fancy gear.
After the Very Indoor year we’ve had, it’s no surprise that we all want to spend more time in nature than ever before. But to make the most out of your time outdoors this summer, might I suggest keeping it simple and ditching all of the fancy outdoor gear? During my time in Norway, I learned about the cultural concept friluftsliv, which, loosely translated, means “the free air life.” The basic idea: Being outside is better than being inside in every way — because outside is where the natural healing happens. One woman I interviewed told me that, to her, friluftsliv is about seeking out those moments where you’re out in nature and you look around and you take a deep breath and it’s just ahh — and you can finally relax. You don’t need to go camping with a fancy rig, she said, or hike a 14er or do any of those things that those intense “outdoor people” do. You just need to find a place where you can breathe in the fresh air, and let Mother Earth do her thing. Simple as that.
Spend as much time as you can with your loved ones, too.
I know, I know…re-entry anxiety is real. It may be exciting to emerge from the cocoon that is the couch, but let’s be real: It’s also a bit overwhelming to have a jam-packed social calendar again! The next time you’re about to bail on a happy hour, though, try reframing it as a wellness practice, instead. During my time in Brazil, I learned that many Brazilians equate well-being with togetherness, so much so that they have an entire word — saudade — for missing the ones you love so much it hurts. One Brazilian I spoke with told me that, to him, wellness means spending time with your loved ones. Full stop. While we Americans tend to think of wellness as a solitary pursuit, many Brazilians think that wellness is a group effort — you cannot be well if your family is not well. To him and many other Brazilians I interviewed, hanging out with your people is the ultimate wellness practice — no fancy boutique fitness class or an overpriced green juice required.
Embrace the healing power of water.
In recent years, scientists have started studying the positive impact being near water has on your mental health, an emerging phenomenon known as the “blue mind.” As a lifelong beach bum who has always sprinted to the ocean the minute things get tough, I am (not surprisingly) obsessed with this theory — but I am also well aware that the healing power of water is not exactly a new concept. On my travels, I learned that the Japanese have been bathing in the mineral-rich waters of onsens (natural hot springs) for thousands of years to soothe their bodies, minds, and spirits. And similarly, in Hawaii, ancient Hawaiians practiced hi’uwais — healing and spiritual cleanses in the ocean — and many locals still practice their own versions to this day. To embrace the healing power of water yourself this summer, simply head to the beach after a bad day and let your “blue mind” take over. Or, if you don’t live near a body of water, you can even recreate a Japanese onsen in your bathroom! Just fill your tub with very hot water and a sprinkle of onsen salts, and chill.