Personal Growth

Lessons From Pura Vida

My brother Chad, my friend Scot and I had just touched down in Liberia, Costa Rica, after a long plane ride. But we still had one more flight to catch to our final destination: Santa Teresa.

My brother had made the travel reservations, and when I saw our plane, I almost balked. It had a single propeller, looked as if it could barely fit one person (let alone us) and even worse, it was pink. I was ready to turn around and head back to the U.S. There are beaches everywhere, right? I didn’t need to hop into a pink tin can hoping I might make it to this one.

Our plane ride over the mountains was anything but smooth. Little did I know that it would drop me into the start of a life-changing journey. Santa Teresa is located on the Pacific Coast at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It’s a little surf town with a hippie vibe set right in the middle of a blue zone. “Blue zones” are places around the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives, thanks to their lifestyle and environment.

So, what’s the secret? Based on my experience in Santa Teresa, it has a whole lot to do with something Costa Ricans call pura vida, which translates to “pure life,” but it means so much more than that. It’s a simpler way of living, with an emphasis on cherishing simple pleasures, spending time with loved ones, and enjoying a slow, relaxed pace of life. I absolutely fell in love with the pura vida mindset and had good intentions to carry that perspective back with me after our vacation.

Sadly, I didn’t succeed. To the contrary, I jumped right back on the treadmill at work.

On a Zoom call last week with Chad, Scot and our friend Steve, we went round-robin to share one big realization and change we intended to make coming out of the lockdown. No surprise, we have all been thinking about how we can live simpler, more fulfilling lives. I know that during this moment of pause, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on how I can build a life that is a bit healthier, both physically and mentally. I have no plans to come out of this pandemic and default back to normal. It’s my goal to simplify my life and create a next normal.

Here is what I loved about pura vida.

Simplify Your Life: Wake Up With The Sun

There are few things as magical as watching a beautiful sunrise and sunset. Waking up and going to sleep early is a large part of pura vida. Not only does it help you get into a rhythm, but it also provides you with the best opportunity to start the day with clarity, peace and confidence.

During our time in Santa Teresa we started each day with a private sunrise yoga session with the incredible Stefano Allegri. Those sessions were both transformational and informational. We’d hit the beach after yoga for a little surf session, and I simply cannot think of a better start to the morning.

Personally, I set the alarm for 5 a.m. When I don’t hit snooze, I am so much better for it. There is no rush into the inbox and no phone calls waiting. Instead, I am alone with my thoughts. I make a cup of coffee, sit on my balcony and enter my peak creative time. Mentally, I am much better prepared for my day, and I think this carries over to the evening as well. When I catch a sunset, I find that it’s a natural break in my day. A reset and a reminder that it is time to unwind — to be grateful for the day I just experienced and to give myself enough rest to prepare for the next.

Simplify Your Life: Simplify Your Diet

Simplifying your life can include simplifying your diet. Our adventure in Costa Rica included my first foray into deep sea fishing. There is something pretty epic about eating sashimi an hour after you pulled the tuna right out of the ocean.

Fast-forward to today: I’ve found a hobby: cooking.

When I was on the road, I wasn’t very intentional about what I put into my body. I lived off hotel room service and meals at the airport. Often, I found myself feeling tired and run-down. After all, there’s a reason we say, “You are what you eat.”

People in Blue Zones typically eat a 95% plant-based diet that’s rich in legumes, whole grains, vegetables and nuts, all of which can help reduce the risk of death. I know it’s time to ditch the processed food and sugar. To simplify your life, simplify your diet.

Now, I’m enjoying the process of cooking myself simple, healthy meals. I’m even sharing recipes with my family — something they never thought they’d see. No doubt, cooking can be a time consuming endeavor and right now, that is precisely what I love about it.

Beyond the physical health benefits, there are mental benefits as well. I’m learning a new skill, and I’m also able to unwind and decompress while I cook. It’s helped the world slow down for me, a critical part of the pura vida mindset, and even more important as we navigate the stresses of a pandemic. I’ve actually found myself lost in the flow state for hours, and I’ll tell you what — not only is the food better for me, but it tastes better, too. Got any recipe suggestions?

Simplify Your Life: Commune with Nature

Even before the pandemic, I was committed to exercise as part of my regular routine. But I spent much of that time in hotel gyms or workout classes. There’s nothing wrong with those — in fact, I am still working out regularly — but there are proven benefits to communing in nature, such as lower levels of stress and anxiety and, of course, increased physical health and longevity. A study featured in the New York Times states that human beings need two hours in nature per week in order to reap these benefits.

The natural setting in Costa Rica felt like a daily reset for the soul. While I can’t hang all day on the beach, I can commit to a little more time outside.

For those of us who live in cities, parks are a great resource as we simplify our lives. I’ve made it a daily habit during this pause to walk along the Mississippi River. There’s a beautiful trail here in Minneapolis that follows the river, and there are certain places that feel as if you’re in the countryside. Often, I’ll put on a podcast and stroll. And even though I maintain at least 6 feet of distance from everyone, I’ve noticed that time in nature isn’t just about my experience in it. It’s also communal. I see my neighbors, friends and strangers all together but apart, bonding in this shared experience.

I might not have the beautiful beach and surf sessions outside my front door, but I am still able to appreciate the world around us. Bottom line, that makes me feel better.

Simplify Your Life: Prioritize People

Finally, the most important: people.

During this pandemic, many of us have been in touch with our families and friends more often than we have previously. Isolated in our homes, separated from those we care about, we realize how important our relationships are.

Life is people. And the quality of our lives is dependent on your relationships with the people you love. My family has taken to weekly dinners over Zoom. I have regular virtual happy hours and dinners with my friends. I’m definitely in touch with some of them more frequently, and I think Zoom and Facetime are tools I will leverage a whole lot more.

Human beings are wired for connection. But when we are in our hustle and strive mode, we sometimes don’t prioritize the connections that truly matter. I haven’t and this pandemic has been a lonely time for me. I know that I am not alone in that feeling either. Loneliness is a modern epidemic and this time has pronounced those feelings for so many people. So, if you are feeling that way make sure to reach out, stay connected and if necessary, ask for help.

After all, that is the pura vida way. Pretty simple. And that’s the whole point.

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