I did not know how much I would miss Florida’s wide open sky, and the easy beach access I had from my house. While living and traveling around major cities in the last four years has filled my days with adventures I could only dream of, there is no denying that pollution is a big downside to a cosmopolitan life. More than ever, I look forward to visiting home, relaxing by the sea, and going on vacations away from the hustle and bustle. While cities are not usually known for their eco-friendliness, living in Mexico City and Madrid has given me some healthy habits I plan on fostering throughout my life. Whether you are looking for a way to counteract the city grime, or you just want to boost wellness in 2019, here are 3 major health patterns instilled in me after years roaming the big cities of the world…
1. Choose snacks your body will thank you for.
One of the first things I noticed in Madrid is how much people snack on fruits. Bowls filled with fruit were always readily available in the teachers break room at the elementary school I worked at. Not to mention the countless fruit shops along the streets. When I moved to Mexico City, I was also surprised to find fruits are so readily available. In my neighborhood (Coyoacan) there are fruit vendors every few blocks with mango, coconut, watermelon, papaya, lychee, and jicama (a typical Mexican fruit that is high on fiber). While fruits might be in sight every few corners, so are chips and other unhealthy snack choices. I have simply taught myself to choose the thing my body will thank me for later. While every now and then I may give in to junk food’s temptation, I set myself a limit on how often I can do this. Having more fruits available at home has also been a way to easily solve sugar cravings and sudden hunger.
2. Work those legs up and down hills, stairs, or flat streets.
When I first moved to Madrid in 2015 my legs and feet suffered for a month. I was profoundly sore after my first 3 days walking around, apartment hunting. Europe is not as keen on elevators as North America. When I moved to Mexico City in 2017, I was overcome by the subway’s stairs and heat. Mexico City may have more elevators, but the city is so large, getting anywhere will take at least one hour, no matter how you try to get there (bus, subway, bike, uber, walking). While sometimes I miss being able to hop in my car and drive to my destination in 15 to 20 minutes, I have gotten used to walking longer and my legs seem unphased by long stairs. Even when going back to the air-conditioned and often flat U.S. cities, I make a point to walk around the block a few times to maintain that level of physical activity in my life no matter where I am.
3. Visit green spaces multiple times a week.
I am lucky both Madrid and Mexico City have amazing places to escape the concrete jungle and breathe in fresher air, all within a few steps from a subway stop. Madrid has the famous Retiro Park, and the spacious Casa de Campo (to name a couple). Mexico City has Chapultepec Park (more than twice the size of Central Park), among multiple smaller parks perfect for a workout. I am currently a member of an outdoor gym in Viveros park, only 1 mile from my home. Both cities have amazing hiking trails in their surrounding mountains, most within a one hour car or train ride. It is easy to see why I have become accustomed to visiting green spaces multiple times a week. While I lived a 20 minute drive away from the beach in Florida, living in the city forces me into spaces with fresher air. When I lived in Florida I made a point to go to the beach once a month. But now that I live in the biggest city in Latin America (Mexico City houses 21 million inhabitants), my jogs in the park are necessary to my mental and physical wellbeing. While I love living in cities full of life and culture, every time I go to a green area, I come out of there with new ideas and inspiration for my business. Not to mention any signs of stress, anxiety and city blues melt away within 20 minutes of looking at nothing but big trees.
While I visualize my older self settling in a beautiful lake house surrounded by big mountains, and hosting Friday night vegan dinners for friends and family…I have to say living in big cities has helped me become a healthier version of myself. Whenever I lived near nature, I could not be bothered with yoga, reducing plastic usage, or eating plant-based meals. But these marvelous cities I have had the pleasure of calling home for some time have guided me into living patterns that are surely making me a happier, healthier, more Earth-friendly and more fulfilled version of myself.
What healthy habits will you be picking up in the New Year?
Also by Vanessa: 4 Strategies To Create A Goal-Setting Mindset To Achieve Your Dreams
5 Quirky New Year’s Rituals To Embrace For Luck, Prosperity & Travel
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Photo: Vanessa Lynn Uzcategui; Florian Wehde on Unsplash; Sarah Kelly; Sara Stohler