The Art of Living: 5 Spanish Secrets to Well-Being

Grace Lower is a student at The Ohio State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

Given its temperate climate and low-stress lifestyle, it’s no surprise that Spain boasts one of the highest life expectancies in the world. While there are plenty of things that I miss about the U.S. (16 oz coffees to-go, anyone?), I’ve come to admire the numerous ways that Spanish culture promotes mental and physical health.

1. La prisa mata

Generally speaking, Spaniards don’t enjoy being stressed. Rather than conceptualizing busyness as a sign of success, many Spaniards believe that la prisa mata: rushing kills you. Instead of fixating on deadlines and obligations, most Spaniards choose to draw a strict line between their work lives and their private lives, thereby creating a noticeably laid-back culture. As a result, locals tend to walk a little slower, chat a little longer, and take time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

2. Treat yourself (and your friends, too!)

When I first arrived in Granada, I was startled to discover that restaurants and cafes seldom split checks.  Instead, it’s common for one person to treat the whole table with the understanding that one of their companions will pay next time. In a world where cash is king, this practice is a great way to foster trust, generosity, and camaraderie among a group of friends.

Teteria, Granada, Spain-Lower-Photo 1
Enjoying good tea and great conversation at one of Granada’s tea houses

 3. Adventure is out there!

Beautiful weather and pedestrian-friendly streets make it easy for Spaniards to get outside and enjoy nature. From weekend hikes to outdoor cafes, there’s never a shortage of fresh air and vitamin D—something I’ll definitely miss when I move back to cloudy Ohio!

Sierra Nevadas, Granada, Spain-Lower-Photo 2
Hikes in the Sierra Nevadas beat a gym membership any day!

4. Eat fresh, eat local

Regardless of whether you’re eating at home or enjoying a meal out, most Spanish dishes are made with local ingredients. This abundance of fresh food is a win-win: it promotes a healthier, more environmentally-friendly diet, while giving the local economy an extra boost.

Market, Spain-Lower-Photo 3
With ingredients like these, shopping local is a no-brainer

5. Time to unwind

Leisure time is sacred in Spain, especially in southern cities like Granada. In addition to the traditional midday siesta, it’s common to enjoy a practice referred to as sobremesa, literally meaning “over the table.” Rather than rushing back to work at the end of a meal, many Spaniards prefer to relax at the table to enjoy a bit of conversation and good company. If the discussions are particularly lively, a sobremesa can last for hours! Aside from being a great way to bond with friends and family, these periods of relaxation are said to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and boost long-term productivity.

Having lived in Granada for a few months, it’ll certainly be interesting to transition back to the U.S.’s fast-paced culture. My hope is that I can maintain a Spanish state of mind wherever I go: working hard and studying hard without forgetting to enjoy myself along the way.

Want to read more about Granada? Check out “Why Granada is ‘Tapa’ the Food Chain”