HEALTHY LIVING

What 7 Countries Can Teach The World About Living Well

Exhibit A: France's "right to disconnect" law.

27/05/2016 9:00 PM AEST | Updated 02/06/2016 1:14 AM AEST
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When it comes to managing wellbeing, some countries clearly just do it better.

Take, for example, France's new "right to disconnect" policy. The French government announced new legislation which bans companies of a certain size -- with 50 or more employees, according to the law -- from sending emails on the weekends or holidays. Under the law, employees are granted the civil right to step away from their inboxes during their time off.

It's a habit Americans should consider borrowing at home: Workplace burnout is arguably one of the biggest issues employers face and employee stress levels are at substantially high rates. Research shows that a break from our email is an effective solution -- but it's something we rarely ever do. Simply put, Americans don't prioritize our own welfare the way we should.

France isn't the only country that can teach us a lesson about how countries can take care of their citizens. Below are six other wellbeing practices Americans should adopt from other locations around the world:

1. Allowing longer parental leave like in Sweden.

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Sweden gives its citizens 480 days of paid parental leave. 

Europe puts America to shame in terms of new families. Sweden provides 480 shared days of paid leave per child, while the U.S. provides zero paid days. (Yep, you read that right. However, by law, Americans are guaranteed to keep their jobs while taking up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for a new baby.)

2. Adopting a healthy (high-carb!) diet like in Japan.

Permission to eat carbs? Granted. Some of the healthiest eaters in the world are in Japan -- and their diets are hardly restrictive. Individuals are encouraged to consume a nutritional high-grain, high-carb diet, according to a recent study. It's also recommended for them to eat lots of fish and soybean products, as long as it's low in fat. And it apparently pays off: The Japanese have the second-highest life expectancy rate of any other country.

3. Cultivating a sense of adventure like in New Zealand.

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New Zealand residents don't just enjoy the great outdoors, they prioritize them. Queenstown has been dubbed "the adventure capital of the world" -- and it's good for their mental health. Research shows extreme adventurers who overcame physical terror feel a greater sense of fulfillment and wellbeing.

A Kiwi's sense of travel and experience is something us Americans can really stand to use ourselves. Approximately 42 percent of us took zero (yes, zero) vacation days in 2014. It's time Americans learn a lesson from down under and go off the beaten path.

4. Taking tech addiction seriously like in South Korea.

As one of the most plugged-in cultures in the world, South Korea is making a real effort to tackle dependency on devices -- and that can do wonders for wellbeing. The South Korean government sponsors many counseling centers with programs on internet addiction. And, best of all, the treatment seems to be working.

5. Cherishing regular naps like in Spain.

PhotoAlto/Antoine Arraou via Getty Images

No one knows naps like Spain, even if the prime minister recently called for the end of the siesta in order to encourage more normal work hours (which isn't a totally horrible idea for work-life balance -- another important aspect of wellbeing, as Harvard Business Review points out.)

But residents of Spain don't need a mandated nap time to appreciate the art of a midday rest. The time-honored tradition has been in place for centuries for a reason -- and those ideals will hardly disappear with the loss of a designated siesta. And for that, Spain is certainly on the right side of science: Research shows short snoozes and mid-afternoon work breaks can boost productivity and alertness.

6. Prioritizing happiness like in Denmark.

Denmark is often crowned the most joyful country in the world -- and it's no wonder why. The country consistently scores well in categories like high rates of healthy life expectancy, a lack of corrupt politics and a strong sense of social support. Not to mention they also have excellent parental leave policies and prioritize volunteerism. In a global society where an emphasis is placed on the pursuit of happiness, Danes are clearly the ones on the right path.

Of course, it takes more than just observing another country's programs and mindsets and magically hoping they come to fruition here at home. That being said, lobbying congress for better leave policies, speaking out about mental health and normalizing self-care in the workplace are all good places to start. It's time for us to step up our wellness game, America. 

CORRECTION: previous version of this article misidentified Queenstown, New Zealand, as "Queensland," which is a region of Australia.

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