There are 3 Greek lifestyle habits that you need to incorporate in your life right now. Here’s why you need to learn them, and how to implement them.
Greek lifestyle habits
When I was younger, I lived in Greece. There, I learned so many things, including a new way of living. Here are 3 Greek lifestyle habits that have me served well. Put them to work for you, too!
Greek Lifestyle Habit #1: Know the source of your food
While living in Greece, one of the habits that I learned is to question where my food comes from. There, in 1996, I read about the first publicized case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease. Mad Cow Disease is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle. A variant of the disease occurs in humans. It was all over the Greek news and everyone was talking about it. I also witnessed a drastic drop in the price of beef (almost 80 %!) in 1 day.
The occurrence of Mad Cow Disease prompted significant worldwide changes in the regulation of feedlot cattle production and distribution. For example, rendering (the practice of feeding dead animal flesh to living animals) is now banned in the U.S. While there have been recent cases of Mad Cow Disease, they’ve been linked to meat sourced outside of the country.
How did this experience eventually spill over to become a habit of inquiry, not only for me but for those around me as well? Because when you know where your food comes from, how it’s produced, and eventually distributed, you can’t help but gravitate toward selecting healthier choices.
For example, today, it’s well-known that grass-fed, free-range meat is nutritionally superior to conventional factory raised meat. Not to mention, that the chances of free-range cattle having Mad Cow Disease are extremely slim since they only eat grass.
Know the source of all your food
Meat is just ONE example of how knowing the source and associated health benefits benefit your diet. All whole foods have been shown, in one way or another, to be healthier than there conventional counterparts. Albeit, many of us don’t have the same access to local farmers markets (or vast gardens) like the Greeks do (making it easier to identify the source), the use of technology compensates for that. Keep this in mind next time you’re shopping for dinner at your local super-sized mart.
NOTE: when it comes to purchasing grass fed beef, reading the label is NOT enough. Unfortunately, it does NOT guarantee that the animal was actually grass-fed. In 2016 the US Department of Agriculture, announced that it was dropping its official definition of “grass-fed.” This means that grass-fed can now be used as more of a “feel good” marketing ploy rather than a regulated label that it once was. Try and find a local, reputable, 2nd party verified source, instead.
Greek Lifestyle Habit #2: Go on vacation every year
August 15 (dekapentaugousto) is a national and religious holiday, and for most in Greece, the start of their yearly summer vacation. The country is virtually shut down. Depending on your job, the amount of vacation days vary — ranging from a long weekend to 3 weeks. I recall Athens being a ghost town on this specific weekend, because, literally, everyone would leave to go on vacation.
The majority of Americans, on the other hand, take years to go on a single vacation. They work through several summers — even several years. While the numbers are mixed, a study conducted a few years ago revealed 62% of the adult U.S. internet population hadn’t traveled anywhere in the last year. Another recent study cited that more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused for that year. Sobering statistics considering that vacations are good for your health!
Here’s why you should go on vacation every year
- Vacations help you live longer. The frequency of annual vacations by middle-aged men at high risk for cardiovascular heart disease is associated with a reduced risk of death attributed to the disease. This study showed that it reduced these men’s risk of dying from all causes.
- Vacations make women happy. Women who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired, and are more satisfied with their marriage.
- It makes you better at your job. These personal psychological benefits that lead to increased quality of life from vacationing frequently may also lead to improved work performance.
- Eases stress and keeps you well. Know the benefits of meditating but not into it? Go on vacation instead! Vacations have been clinically found to offer benefits similar to meditation such as improved stress response and improved immune function.
This list should not only motivate you to take a vacation this summer but maybe even plan a vacation to Greece!
Greek Lifestyle Habit #3: Naps are good
I’ll be honest, when I first moved to Greece, the national “community quiet time”, between 3-5pm, took some adjustment. Most stores, offices, and public buildings shut down, either for the day or re-open later. Why? So workers may go home and take a nap. While “siestas” are common worldwide, as a non-napping American, the break in the day felt awkward to me. Eventually I conformed and started napping, and it became a habit. I still nap daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Here’s why you should take a nap
Napping, mid-day, has been found to lead to considerable benefits in terms of mood, alertness, and cognitive performance. Overall reaction times improve, psychomotor speed increases and overall accuracy gets better. Reported subjective states of sleepiness have also been found to be reduced. A short nap seems to have more effective and longer lasting benefits then drinking a cup of coffee.
Timing of your nap also matters. It seems that the Greeks have their work schedules in sync with their natural circadian rhythms. All of the above-mentioned benefits seem to be greater when the nap is taken closer to your “natural circadian dip” which is from 3pm-5pm.
It’s been reported that currently, only about 34% percent of Americans take a nap on a typical day. Considering the benefits in overall cognitive and mood enhancement, scheduling a daily nap may be just as important as scheduling your meals for the day.
NOTE: All of the above benefits were found in habitual nappers. Individuals who don’t regularly nap may actually notice a decrease in their cognitive functioning and overall well-being, particularly after first waking up. It seems that the habit of napping is more beneficial than the nap itself initially.
Adopt these Greek Lifestyle Habits now
These Greek lifestyle habits have helped me be healthier, and less stressed. You too, can benefit from these activities, by initiating attempts to instill these habits, wherever you are. They’re just a few examples of modern-day Greek wisdom at its finest — proven and supported by science.
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