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Switzerland wellness habits we should steal: Nature, clean breathing

Switzerland was recently voted the best country in the world for physical and mental wellbeing, beating Canada, Singapore and, yes, Australia.

In the rankings, shared by The Spectator Index, Australia came in at number eight in the world, falling behind European countries such as Spain and France.

So, what does Switzerland, a nation smaller in size than Tasmania, have that makes them number one when it comes to wellness – and how can we give their secrets a go Down Under?

#1. Get outside more in nature

The Swiss city of Lausanne became the best small city in the world last year, after being awarded the title by Monocle in their inaugural ‘Small Cities Index’.

Lausanne, situated on the shores of Lake Geneva and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, is a prime example of why Switzerland is the best country in the world for physical and mental wellbeing – the abundance of nature and the great outdoors.

Outdoor recreation is a major part of the national identity in Switzerland, whether it’s hiking in the summer or snow sports in the winter like skiing.

As we all know by now, getting outdoors and being active isn’t just good for our physical health, but is proven to improve mental health too – so this is a major contributing factor to the excellent quality of life and wellness in Switzerland.

“Living in a town with a direct proximity of the Lake, the Alps, the vineyards and the forests helps the locals and visitors to escape and free their minds,” David Werlen, media relations manager at Lausanne Tourisme, told body+soul.

“In addition, Lausanne is the Olympic Capital and sports is an essential part of the life of this city, it’s in its DNA. The fact that the city was built on three hills also keeps its residents and visitors active. I really think the key for the physical and mental wellbeing is that combination of quality of life, proximity to nature, abundance of sport opportunities and fresh air.”

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#2. Get involved in the clean breathing trend

Talking of fresh air, another key to health and vitality in Switzerland is the quality of the air and the astounding number of fresh spring water sources across the country.

The low levels of pollution in Switzerland mean clean, fresh air is never far away for residents and this is a contributing factor to their health and wellness.

By global standards, Australian air is pretty clean* too, but it’s not just about having clean air – it’s about taking the time to breathe it in and pause.

‘Clean breathing’ or ‘breathwork’ is swiftly becoming a global wellness trend and studies conducted by the Indian Medical Association suggest that six weeks of practicing Pranayamic breathing (an ancient breathing technique that focuses on controlling breath movement) can have a positive effect on heart rate, stress levels and improving cognitive function and anxiety.

*Many areas of Australia are currently affected by bushfires and smoke. For information on the health effects of bushfire smoke, click here.

#3. Find some inner peace

The Swiss city of Geneva is known as the City of Peace because it is a global hub for diplomacy and home to the Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross.

While no one can always escape the trials and tribulations of daily life, living in a country where there is a focus on peace can only do good when it comes to avoiding triggers for conditions such as anxiety.

To channel some peaceable energy like the Swiss and find some inner peace to help combat anxiety, author of Why Walk When You Can Fly?, Isha Judd suggests looking for peace ‘within ourselves’ and practicing being present.

“When you find yourself in the midst of a worrying situation, stop. Go inwards, and ask yourself: ‘What is wrong in this moment?’ Usually nothing is wrong right now. It is when we stray off into past regrets and future concerns that anxiety kicks in.

“Don’t deny the problems you are facing, but don’t get lost in them either. Being present brings greater alertness and inner security, allowing you to face challenges calmly and objectively,” she said.

#4. Get your finances on track

Switzerland is a country with impressive economic stability. According to HSBC, higher levels of disposable income are reported by 71% of expats and the average salary is well above the global mean – a big contributing factor to the happiness and mental wellbeing of the country’s residents.

Although money isn’t everything, it certainly helps with mental wellbeing if you aren’t constantly stressed about making ends meets every month.

Plus, having access to disposable income allows for things in life that might make us happy or give us something to look forward to such as a nice meal out, doing fun activities with friends or even booking a holiday.

Now, we can’t all up sticks and move to Switzerland to find a job with a better salary, but getting your finances in order can be a good way of lifting a mental burden – even if it’s just finally cancelling that monthly subscription service that you hardly use or cutting back the amount of money you spend on buying drinks every month.

GP Dr Stephanie Ooi advises talking to someone about what is bothering you and chatting to your doctor, a trusted friend or a helpline if you’re stressed or struggling with your mental health.

“While I do have a few recommendations, everyone’s experiences and needs will be different,” Dr Ooi said.

“So if you are feeling a little low, or are concerned about your mental health, I would recommend that you see your GP to discuss this further.

“If you know you normally feel under financial pressure, is there anything you can do throughout the rest of this year to help take the pressure off? Planning or saving, setting a weekly budget which gets you through until payday can be helpful.

“If you are experiencing financial stress, it can be really difficult to talk about, but talking about it can really help.”

Financial advice services can be a helpful tool if you feel overwhelmed and need help with your finances. Financial counsellors can help with your money problems and their services are offered for free by community organisations, community legal centres and some government agencies.