We’ve all heard about the Mediterranean diet, and all of it’s heart-healthy benefits, but the truth is, the Mediterranean diet wasn’t created by any one health expert.
It emerged from a way of life, typical of those countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, such as Italy, Greece and Turkey. And while their diet offers Westerners a healthier way to eat, their lifestyle teaches us a lot about life, too.
The slower way of life in the Mediterranean region
The United States, along with Canada, are very recent countries compared to those surrounding the Mediterranean sea. In fact, these countries have a long history, which boasts of ancient civilizations and great philosophers, going back thousands of years. They moved through time more slower than any of us could ever imagine.
Without modern technology, cars and cellphones, these societies flourished for millennia, and they still enjoy a slower way of life. This can be a breath of fresh air for people living the United States, where life moves quickly This may be because their way of life developed right alongside modern technology.
Being with your family is very important in the Mediterranean region
A tight, close-knit family is the standard when it comes to this old part of the world. Children are welcome to live with their parents well into adulthood. And grandparents are often the primary caretakers of their grandchildren while parents go to work.
Meal time with family is something sacred, and your family is a group of people you can always rely on, through thick and thin. In other parts of the world, people may have a more independent streak and not see themselves as deeply connected with their immediate and extended family members.
But the importance of family in the Mediterranean region reminds us that family is our first social group – our first real community, and having a strong foundation can help us thrive throughout life.
Walking is a common activity for Mediterraneans
Although there aren’t many gyms and gym memberships in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, people are still slim and healthy. The secret? They move naturally. Walking and biking are common ways to get around, whether to the market, running errands, going to church, or visiting family and friends.
And while many modern cities and suburbs require a car, and aren’t designed for walking, their lifestyle is something we can all imitate.
For example, if you have to drive to the store, try to take the farthest parking spot so you can sneak in a couple extra steps. You can trade the elevator for the stairs. And you can just make a point to add more steps to your daily life.
Less is more when it comes to consumerism
Now, Mediterraneans have stuff just like you and I. However, their lifestyle doesn’t make a lot of room for excessive amounts of stuff. For one thing, many people live in smaller homes. And for another thing, consumerism just isn’t as prevalent.
This allows them to enjoy what they have and to seek fulfillment in experiences rather than in material goods.
Recycling and minimizing waste is important in the Mediterranean lifestyle
One thing that stands out in Mediterranean countries is how they dutifully recycle – and not just paper and plastic. In most cities and towns, it’s not unusual to see recycling stations for different types of materials. And if you visit a store, restaurant or cafe, they differentiate, too, keeping waste to a minimum.
This is something to imitate in your own home, even if your town or city doesn’t provide opportunities to recycle. Set up crates or boxes for metals, papers, plastics and glass so that you can also reduce waste in your own little way.
Eating seasonally is a must
It’s uncommon to see enormous refrigerators in kitchens, or big bulk items in the supermarkets. Instead, people purchase a lot more fresh produce because they eat with the seasons. This means that for a month or two, some vegetables will rule the shelves, only to be replaced with new seasonal produce in the coming months.
If your local store tends to stock the same items year round, try to seek out what’s in season so you can eat like a Mediterranean.
Learn to appreciate and enjoy the little things in life
Since consumerism isn’t what brings fulfillment to the Mediterranean region, what does? The truth is, it’s the little things that make up the biggest moments for these individuals. An evening playing cards with friends. A weekend exploring their local region.
Walking through the historical center of your local town or city. Passing the time at a local cafe or bar, with no rush and no real agenda. This is how many people enjoy their free time, young and old alike.
Friendships are a priority and long-lasting
Friendships are very strong and intimate for many individuals of the Mediterranean region. They express themselves openly and there’s little to no pretense. They share the good and bad, and also hold each other accountable.
It’s not always easy to keep friendships alive as we get older because we’re busier and have less free time. But in this area of the world, friendships are not an option. They make up an important and irreplaceable part of life.
It’s not uncommon to see old women chatting amiably outside their windows with one another. Or, to see retired men sitting together outside of a local cafe, whatever the weather. Are they doing anything incredible or extraordinary?
Definitely not. But they’re sharing their everyday lives in a way that offers invaluable human connection. That’s something we can all use more of, and unfortunately, the modern Western lifestyle usually keeps people isolated rather than connected.
But why not make your friendships more of a priority – even if it’s just with a quick text message, or a warm cup of coffee on the weekend? It’s easy to say you don’t have time, but for people in the Mediterranean region, time is set aside for their companions.
Living in the Mediterranean region teaches us many inspiring lessons about life: the value of gratitude, appreciation, friendship, and a more natural way of life. Are there ways you can incorporate these things into your lifestyle, no matter where you call home?