5 Tips on How to De-Stress in the New Year... Jamaican-Style

A woman wades in the surf at Frenchman's Cove.
A woman wades in the surf at Frenchman's Cove.

Who gets stressed out in Jamaica? That's what the laid-back Jamaicans want to know. So it was a challenge when they met me last week and realized that, in addition to my family, I'd managed to bring along my stressed-out Type-A New York self on vacation.

For the first two days I was there, I said things like, "When are we getting our menus?" after waiting a whole five minutes, followed by, "When are we getting our food?" a few minutes after we'd put in our order.

"Honey, we're on Jamaican time," my husband said.

"Chill, Mom," my teenage son added.

And then there was the matter of my hair. My Type-A New York perfectly blown-out straight hair was no match for the humidity of Jamaica. Much to my dismay, no matter how much I tried, my natural curly, frizzy, Barbra-Streisand-in-the-70s-hair reared its ugly head on top of mine.

But on day three, something magical happened.

My hair and my hunger adapted. I no longer cared that I looked like a hippie version of Einstein. In fact, it was a relief to not have to spend an hour yanking my natural curls into an unnatural state of straight. I found that I could actually make conversation during lunch without even realizing that the menus hadn't appeared. I smiled more. I savored my food. I splashed around in the ocean rather than swimming my requisite laps. My requisite speed walks were replaced with slow ones that involved rock-skipping and ocean-gazing.

Yep. Those Jamaicans really do now how to live. And while I still never managed to say, "Yeah, Mon" with the right Jamaican accent, I did manage to adopt that "Yeah, Mon" attitude.

Here are 5 Tips on How to De-Stress -- Jamaican-Style

1. Touch Someone.
Jamaicans love to shake hands. Unlike Americans, who generally reserve handshakes for business deals and cocktail party introductions, Jamaicans shake your hand when you walk into a restaurant, when you ask for directions, and when you meet them on the beach.

Fun fact: When you touch someone, the feel-good hormone oxytocin releases in your brain, which can help relieve social anxiety and create bonding relationships.

2. Walk This Way
The overall pace in Jamaica is slower, and as a result, Jamaicans walk at a slower pace than most Americans (or at least New Yorkers!). We Americans seem to get caught up in more purposeful walking as we race to work or walk ourselves into a sweat on the treadmill.

Fun fact: Walking can help release endorphins, or happy hormones, especially when done in a fun, non-stressful, mindful way. Check out Jon Kabat-Zinn's book "Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment -- and Your Life" or his YouTube video, "Guided Meditation Walking Meditation."

3. Say, "No Problem!"
One of the most popular responses in Jamaica is, "No problem." Whether you're asking for directions to Rick's Café in Negril or to the nude beach, Jamaicans are more than happy to help out. They even still play that song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Fun fact: Adopting a "no problem" attitude can lead to fewer problems in life and a happier outlook in general. Check out Gretchen Rubin's book, "The Happiness Project."

4. Go Ganja Style
You're probably wondering if I've misspelled "Gangnam Style" (I didn't), or if I really mean Ganja as in marijuana (I do). Even though Jamaica has quite a reputation for its stellar crop of marijuana, it seems that most Jamaicans are not actually high on marijuana -- they're high on life. By adopting this "high," you find that you slow down and appreciate life more.

Fun fact: To get a non-drug fueled high, choose meditation. When you meditate, your brain enters into a relaxed alpha state, which is similar to being high on marijuana.

5. Smile.
Jamaicans smile a lot. They are actually happy to see you. Their smiles are contagious.

Fun fact: Smiling is a natural feel-good drug that can release endorphins and serotonin. It can actually trick the body into helping you change your mood. Smiling can also lower blood pressure and boost your immune system.

Natural Ways To Reduce Anxiety And Get Better Sleep