Lessons from Spain

As many of you know (gah I won’t shut up about it–I know), I recently returned from a sweet couple of weeks in Spain. 

When people ask me how the trip was and how coming back has been, my consistent response has been, “honestly I feel like I have whiplash.” 
Sure, I was on vacation and there’s an element of vacation speed vs. home/working speed, but I couldn’t help but notice some cultural differences while abroad that have had me looking at how we so often do things here. 

In my reflection, I’ve decided to try to make some changes and I suspect many of us could benefit from these as well.

Here are things Spain Taught Me…

Move Slowly

In our culture we are constantly on the go, rushing from one place to another. 

Taking the next step for our next task before finishing the one we’re on.  Answering emails while we’re on the phone while trying to get our steps in.  Multitasking is constant and we are seldom focused on just one thing at a time, leaving us all feeling scattered, exhausted, and depleted.  What would it be like if we just did one thing at a time?  How would our systems respond? 

Would we feel a drop from the frenetic energy we’re caught up in? Would we be able to actually sleep at night?

Let Meals Be Events

To build off my last point, how often are you eating on the go? Shoveling meals in as you speed to work? Prepping and packing snacks so you can make it through your workday without a meal? My guess is you do at least one of these several days a week.

What about skipping meals? How often do you find yourself doing that just because of your busy schedule? I wonder what it would be like if we all sat down for all of our meals and just enjoyed the food and our company (even if that company is just you).

How might our digestive system improve? What about our anxiety levels? Food for thought (pun intended).

Move More

While in Spain, I noticed that most folks utilize public transportation: trains, metros, buses, etc. and beyond that just walk everywhere. Now I realize part of that is because the cities are designed to be walkable and that’s not necessarily the case for many American cities, but I will tell you that while I was there, I was averaging about 12,000 steps a day and I felt amazing.

Research shows that increasing your daily steps by 1,000 steps can reduce your risk of illness by 15% and being sedentary only increases health risks. Many of us spend so much sitting–driving, sitting at work, sitting in front of the TV at night, etc.

How can we make small changes to incorporate more movement into our daily lives? What if while you were working you set a timer on your phone so that every 30-45 minutes you stood up and spent 30-45 seconds moving? When you stop by the store, what about parking just a little further away to get a few more steps?

Prioritize Rest

We’ve all heard about siesta time, but y’all they take it seriously. I’m telling you everything closes down and people just chill. What a concept?! I remember nap time when I was younger, but honestly that quit happening by the time I hit 1st grade. We don’t outgrow the need for rest. We just stop prioritizing it (and our culture forces us to stop prioritizing it too). We’ve conflated resting with laying in front of the TV or scrolling on our phones, but is that actually resting?

I wonder what it would look like if we scheduled rest breaks for ourselves. How could that look for you? Could you find 2-5 minutes in your afternoon to take some slow intentional breaths with your eyes closed?

Live in Community

Here in the US, we have this inherent attitude of independence and, “I can do everything by myself,” but y’all…we need each other. We are not meant to live in isolation away from each other. For centuries before present day people have been living in communities where they help take care of each other, and we have completely lost that here.

One of the places that I stayed in was almost like an apartment building. It only had about six ‘apartments’ in it, but each one belonged to a different family member. They all had their own spaces separate from each other, but were all close by to help each other out. Kids would often be seen in other apartments. Doors would be open between them.

Now I’m not saying we all need to live with our whole families, trust me, but I do think there’s something beautiful about this concept. What if we were just more present with our people, whoever that might be? What if we took turns helping each other out?

“But Amberly, I’m so busy and have to work.”

I hear you, I promise. I’m not saying it’s realistic to just flip everything on its head and start living in a completely different way, but what are the small changes we can make? Could you experiment with focusing on one task at a time? Like doing the dishes for example. Rather than multitasking while you do them, can you notice the sensation of your feet on the floor and the dishes in your hands? Can you notice your breath and any smells around you? With our meals, what would it look like to sit down and eat three meals a day? Just spending 15-30 minutes with each meal to sit down, eat slowly, actually smell and taste what you’re eating and notice how your body responds. Can you prioritize movement in your day? What about rest? How? What could community care look like for you?

I definitely don’t have the answers and I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out. What I do know is that the hustle culture we function in isn’t sustainable and many people are suffering because of it. I sincerely have conversations with my clients every single day about how they are struggling to keep up with all the things going on around them and the health issues (both physical and mental) that they have developed because of this. We have got to learn how to slow down and actually live our lives, practically. I know you all hear me say this a lot, but sustainable change happens over time with small and practical steps. I’d love to hear from you. How can you live more intentionally?

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