304: Self Care: 6 Lessons Americans Can Learn from Ticos
Hosted by Rima Danielle Jomaa
Good mental health, successful relationships & positive life experience all depend on adopting & maintaining self-care practices. The Nicoyan Peninsula is a Blue Zone - a place in the world that is home to one the longest-living cultures. Spending time in Costa Rica these last 5 years or so, I’ve learned a lot about daily priorities, gratitude, and how to live life to the fullest. Where I put my focus has changed dramatically and what I define as success has transformed in many ways. I measure success now based on my overall life experience, not simply on what I’m achieving career-wise. There is a huge difference that I’ve observed in self-care and perspectives between Americans and Tico, or people from Costa Rica. Listen to 6 lessons Americans can learn from Ticos about self-care.
What you'll hear on this episode...
Spending time in Costa Rica these last 5 years or so, I’ve learned a lot about daily priorities, gratitude, and how to live life to the fullest. Where I put my focus has changed dramatically and what I define as success has transformed in many ways. I measure success now based on my overall life experience, not simply on what I’m achieving career-wise.
While I can’t speak for everyone that lives in Costa Rica, I live here on the Nicoyan Peninsula, which is a Blue Zone. Blue Zones are places in the world that are home to the longest-living cultures. Costa Rica isn’t that far from the U.S., but Ticos are way ahead of us in longevity. There’s relative economic security and top-notch health care, which I can personally vouch for. Life is expensive here but somehow Ticos manage to live comfortably while maintaining balance in the various areas of their lives. Nicoya receives special notariety for being the place where people often live to be over 100 years old, and are getting to that age while living life to the fullest everyday.
Listen to the podcast to hear I offer 6 Lessons Americans can learn from Ticos about self-care and general life outlook.
Work Should be Last on the Priority List
Work should be seen as a means to an end and here on the beach, that’s how we live our lives. Work should not be what defines you and fills your time.
As Americans, we tend to prioritize career and productivity over all else. Whether consciously or unconsciously, it’s so common for me to hear from my clients that they simply don’t have time for their relationships or for incorporating various practices or activities into their life. Yet they work 40-60 hours a week. How sad is that! What’s more is that Americans only take about 2 weeks off per year on average. When I tell foreigners this, they are shocked! Typical for many countries is anywhere from 1 - 2 months paid vacation per year. Let’s not even get started on healthcare and maternity leave standards!
While we may not be able to control the corporate structure or the amount of time we have to work to afford the insane cost of living that just continues to balloon worldwide, we can change our attitudes about work. We can work on not letting work be the defining activity in our lives but seek to have distinct communities and activities that we engage with regularly outside of work! For me, it’s surfing, yoga or pilates classes with the women in town, going go for sunset cocktails, dinners with friends, and on and on.
Structure your Day Around What Brings You Joy
On that note, it’s important to make time in your schedule for exercise, spiritual practices like meditation or journaling, and community activities. Oftentimes, Americans will add the things they love to do IF there’s room for it in their calendar versus adding it first. If they have time for it, they often feel overworked and lack the energy to do those activities in the end. Many of the clients that I treat that have anxiety and depression share a common thread in that they are typically not out and about, or involved or engaging with those around them. This leads us to feel purposeless, which lets to isolation and depletion of energy. It’s a vicious cycle. The more depressed and anxious we feel, the less we have the motivation to start engaging in those things, and it makes our mental health suffer tremendously.
When we instead focus on incorporating all of the things that fill us up on our calendar and then add work projects and hours in, then we can make sure our lives are continuously meaningful. It’s a sad but true reality that most Americans put their leisure time last and I think it’s time to change that. Life is about loving, dancing, playing, singing, storytelling, love-making, eating delicious foods… not spreadsheets and stuffy offices that suck the life force out of us.
And last it’s learning to say ‘No’ to what doesn’t serve you. Obligations that we don’t want to genuinely go to are not fun for anyone. I’ve made a practice of never committing to something unless I’m 100% certain that my heart is in it and I can show up fully present and engaged. That includes not taking on more than I can handle.
Connect with Nature
Cotton candy sunsets. Exhilarating views everywhere you look. Homes built with spaciousness in mind. Tico life is built on connection and fluidity with nature. I remember back to living in America, in housing complexes, where we sterilize the surroundings with bug sprays and traps and we consider any type of wild animal a “pest” that needs to be exterminated or rehomed. This is such a sad way to live life as we are the intruders on the land and we should learn to develop in a way that is eco-sustainable and integrative versus destructive.
Homes in Costa Rica are built in an open-air way that invites the jungle in and we all cohabitate peacefully. We create methods to protect the things we need to protect versus insisting that the natural biodiversity that surrounds us be kept out or exterminated. It’s brought me much closer to my connection to nature and my ability to tune in to what’s happening around me. I can understand the way certain systems work now because of sitting in nature and observing various cycles through time.
Getting lots of healthy sunlight is so important for our wellbeing! Spending a majority of my time outside is important for me and is why I set my home offices up on my patio. I’m currently staring at the ocean as the sunsets. You might even be able to hear the hum of the waves in the background. The thunder is rumbling and the trees and insects are humming. I am connected.
Find as many opportunities as possible to get outside and into nature, so we can start to reconnect to planet earth, Pachamama, and truly understand all of the many messages she is sending us and the many blessings that surround us.
Community is a Resource
Ask for help. Reach out. Engage. Connect. Form close bonds.
Visit your neighbors. Call people on the phone (remember doing that?). Find out how to get involved with the issues that matter to you. If nothing is being done about them, consider starting a committee or finding out ways to bring attention to certain matters. Having a strong sense of purpose is a good way to live a long and healthy life and being part of a strong community is a good way to give anyone lots of purpose in life.
In Costa Rica, people ban together, especially when things get tough. Find ways to get together with the people in your neighborhood, especially if you find you don’t know most of your neighbors’ names!
Hydrate and Nourish Your Body - Meal Times are Sacred
You are what you consume and the best way to take care of yourself and live a long and healthy life is to choose nutrient-dense plants and superfoods. In Costa Rica, we eat plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and lots of light meals. Dinner, especially, is a lighter meal with the focus being on lunch. We eat lots of coconuts and get fresh coconut water, or agua de pipa, and we get lots of hydration from pineapples, papayas, mangoes, and more. Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods that nourish you versus deplete you.
In this culture, you know no one is going to answer a work-related phone call at noon until 1 pm because this is lunchtime, and it’s sacred. Don’t mess with people’s mealtimes! It’s understood and expected that everyone is unavailable during these times. The focus is on the food and the people!
In the end, it’s all good. That’s what Pura Vida means to me. It doesn’t mean that everything is going to go exactly as you think it will. Even better… it means that you don’t have to even have a plan or an expectation because it’s all going to work out perfectly in the end and just the way it was meant to. From this phrase and outlook on life, we can release the expectations for the future or perceptions of what we think should happen. Instead, we can relax into the moment, embracing all the life that’s happening around us and we can take it all in. All of the sights, the sounds, the tastes, textures, the laughs, the good vibes… everyday we have 1000s of opportunities to create the life we want to live by making choices that fill us up energetically. And we have the choice to let go of worries and resentments and to be present with all the blessings that we have.
New on the #Podcast: #SelfCare: 6 Lessons #Americans Can Learn from #Ticos - Good #mentalhealth, successful #relationships & positive life experience all depend on adopting & maintaining self-care practices. #Nicoya is a #BlueZone. https://t.co/BfhTNj79HD #costarica #puravida— Rima Danielle Jomaa (@rima_danielle) September 3, 2018