Take Away Health Tips from Greek Culture

It's been a bit since my last post and that's mostly because school got out and we have been traveling! While I wasn't doing any concrete work, I am always searching for inspiration and mulling things over. Part of this includes observing how other people, and cultures, promote healthy lifestyles.

Our first destination was Mykonos, Greece. Mykonos (Mikonos in Greek) is one of the Cycladian islands located in the Aegean Sea. It is known for it's lively atmosphere and world-renowned parties. However, Mykonos is also family friendly- with many families returning year after year to soak in the posh, yet relaxing vibe.

View of Little Venice

Despite the reputation for heavy partying Mykonos was rampant with healthy habits and take- away tips for health-conscious tourists.

Here are the health habits that stuck with me from Grecian culture:

Soaking up "Vitamin Sea"

Mykonos has over 20 beautiful beaches around the island that are accessible by car (even more if you're up for a swim!) The beautiful, clear blue waters and gentle waves made it easy to enjoy the vitamin sea. Whether you're partial to simply listening to the lulling sounds of the waves, want to get in your physical activity with swimming (or water-resistance training), or (like me) feel instantly calm by the sight of large bodies of water-

Mykonos offers a beach for all types of beach-goers. While it can get quite crowded during busy season (May-September), we found that making a bit extra effort to go farther away from the cruise ship ports brought us quiet beach time.

While this is hard to replicate if you're not at a body of water, sound apps/machines with water sounds can also be relaxing or having a picture of your favorite beach on your background can help transport you there, even if just for a moment!

Catching up on Vitamin D

One thing that I have really taken to heart my first year living in London is the importance of Vitamin D and the detriments of being low or deficient. The NHS estimates that 1 in 5 people are low in Vitamin D. For me, by the time March rolled around- I felt desperate for sunlight!

Getting sufficient Vitamin D helps: maintain a strong immune system, build/maintain strong bones, fight fatigue, decrease depressive symptoms, help with muscle pain, and preventing hair loss

Additionally, most people did not stay out in the sun all day! The biggest critiques of sunbathing will say that you can get Vitamin D from food sources and very limited sun exposure and that sitting in the sun is a bad idea. I am no doctor, but I do love sitting in the sun and feel the positive affects on my physical and mental well-being when I do so.

Much happier with Vitamin D straight from the source!

Locals in Mykonos did a fantastic job of modeling healthy sun-bathing habits: enjoying reading or socializing while sitting on the beach or frolicking in the water for short periods of time before heading back inside or to the shade. A quick 1-2 hour sun date will do!

At home, we can dedicate ourselves to getting some outside time even if it's just 30 minutes and even on cloudy days!

Mesimeri: The Greek Siesta/Nap time

So what does one do if not lay in the sun all day?! Mesimeri describes the time of day between 2-5pm. It is understood as the quiet time of the day, when one may take a nap, rest, or simply not disturb others with loud music or other noise. In fact, there are often laws stating that no loud or disruptive activity may take place between 3-5pm.

Remember when we had "quiet time" as young children? Children usually despise this time but, as adults, wouldn't it be nice if we legally had to be quiet and take a rest for a few hours each day??

This is one routine I am hoping to incorporate more in my life- even if that just means turning off the radio and taking a break from electronics for a bit in the afternoon.

Mediterranean Diet

Of course you have heard of all the benefits of a Mediterranean-based diet. We certainly found fresh, light food to be rampant in Mykonos which complemented long beach days and hot weather well. House wine, olives, olive oil, sesame seeds, fresh juice, seafood, full-fat yogurt and local honey were all staples of market and restaurant offerings in Mykonos. Talk about getting in your antioxidants and healthy fats!

A crisp salad filled with fresh, local cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, figs, and olive oil was my go-to for many meals. Furthermore, Greece followed the European standard of slow, relaxed meals (much to the shagrin of many rushing around American tourists!). Slow service forces one to be more mindful when eating- allowing you to enjoy your food, company, and atmosphere more!

Follow this habit by: buying local, buying in-season produce, setting time for a meal (not always on the go!), and incorporating health fats often.

Having Spiritual Space

Mykonos had these lovely little churches scattered just about everywhere on the island (I even saw on in the middle of a huge field with seemingly nothing else around). They are cute little (like tiny!) buildings, almost unnoticeable if you're not paying attention, that can literally be found every few blocks. The doors are often open during the days and they make a perfect space to have a moment of peace for prayer, meditation, grounding, or whatever your spirit might need in the moment. I absolutely loved their abundant presence on the island and the welcoming nature of the small spiritual spaces. Perfect to check-in with your spiritual health, even on holiday!

While we may not have these spaces in our everyday atmospheres, we can certainly take from this idea and create our own quiet spaces to check-in periodically throughout the day. Think: park bench, corner of a coffee shop, car (before/after driving), even a bathroom!

Extending Compassion towards other Beings

So if you don't know this already, I LOVE animals. My partner often jokingly calls me Eliza Thornberry (anyone remember The Thornberry's cartoon?). Mykonos had an abundance of sweet kitties everywhere. Like cats were the squirrels of Mykonos. Many places we go treat stray dogs and cats as vermin- to be hidden and preferably gotten rid of. However, Mykonos takes a very different approach- treating the cats as an integral part of the island. Residents put food and water out for their local cats, giving the cats affection, even using it as a part of the tourism (lots of "Cats of Mykonos" souvenirs- and yes I was able to restrain myself). As a result, the majority of the cats were healthy, friendly, and mostly stayed out of the way.

Mykonos also has a resident Pelican. The Story of Petros the Pelican goes like this: In 1958 a local fisherman found a wounded Pelican on the island. He took him in, nursed him back to health, and named him Petros (meaning stone, or "old & grump" in Greek). Soon Petros became a staple of the island, adored and cared for by many. Unfortunately, the original Petros was hit and killed by a car. However, the legend of Petros continued and there is now a Petros/Peter the Pelican at all times! We happened upon Peter the Pelican accidentally as he was harassing a waitress for, presumably, food. The restaurant staff were good-natured about it and you could see that Peter the Pelican is like a beloved, yet hornery resident of the island.

It was so inspiring to see the love and care for which Mykonians coexisted with these animals. They offered affection and protection, and in return the animals contributed to the spirit of the island!

Sharing compassion with other beings-humans and animals alike- significantly contributes to our own mental and physical health!

Can't make it to Greece? That's okay- incorporate some (or all) of these Grecian healthy habits to get a little taste of the Greek Island life. Let me know how it goes!

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