Since moving to Costa Rica, I am finding it much easier to admit that I used to be a really negative person. Some might suggest that age has tempered my cynicism, but I have to give a lot of credit to Costa Rica. I never thought I’d feel so at home in a place that is so remote, in a sense. But it is the remoteness from all of that extra stuff — the ‘in your face’ politics, wild up-and-down weather, persistent gossip, and cumbersome consumer culture — that makes living in Costa Rica incredible for mental health.

Every morning in the Costa Ballena begins with the sun peeking up over the mountains, fluffy clouds in the sky, and a cacophony of bird song. There is also the occasional morning where you wake up to raindrops on the forest canopy. It’s like being at the cottage on a perfect summer day… but every day! You might take a few laps in the pool, or walk down to the river with your troupe of canine companions. And many people make it a habit to get out to the beach early in the mornings to watch scarlet macaws and capuchin monkeys eating their breakfast of beach almonds. Could this be what it takes to find positivity in our lives?

In today’s article, I’d like to continue on the topic of health and how a change in lifestyle that comes with moving to Costa Rica might be just what the doctor ordered. Find your freedom to escape the hamster wheel, even if just for a while. Take a deep breath of fresh air and sink in for the peaceful ride: today, we are learning about how Costa Rica can help change your attitude and outlook on life.

Eating Right in Costa Rica

How are we meant to find it easy to eat healthy when we don’t have time to shop for and prepare healthy meals? Or when healthy options cost twice as much as unhealthy options. Costa Rica is a developing country with many first-world amenities like Tony Roma’s, Victoria’s Secret, Walmart, and most of the world’s favorite fast-food chains. But we also have farmer’s markets happening locally most days of the week. And many of our dining establishments have fresh, healthy options that feature on their menus… with the less healthy options taking a back seat. Salads, grilled fish, fresh herbs and locally grown produce, coupled with the incredible tropical climate and environment make meals in Costa Rica a culinary delight!

Eating the freshest, healthiest foods available can have a significant impact on our mental health. Studies are beginning to show that dietary changes can be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. Consuming far less processed foods and switching to more whole foods could be just the ticket you need for the high-speed train to more healthy living.

Spending Less to Stay Healthy

National health care in Costa Rica is an achievement that brings pride to the hearts of Costa Ricans. And they have the right to feel proud, especially when there are many around the world without access to affordable health care, even in the first world. Not only does every citizen and resident of Costa Rica have access to very affordable universal health care. Many health-conscious expats are also finding that they can afford to pay extra for private insurance that gives them access to world-class doctors and treatments in private clinics. This back-up health care buffer means that those with more urgent health worries can by-pass traditional wait times within a universal health care system.

Dental work is also far less expensive in Costa Rica than in many other places around the world. And for those who pay into the universal health care system (like any expat residents of Costa Rica), most dental care that is non-cosmetic is covered by the CCSS Caja health care system. Medical tourists coming to Costa Rica for dental treatments are happy to be paying one-fifth of the cost for a great dentist in a high-quality clinic. And your $20,000 USD dental implants might cost under $4000 in Costa Rica.

Within both the public and the private systems, expats often remark that they find more doctors and nurses who care in Costa Rica. You won’t find drug advertisements at the doctor’s office here, nor will you be subject to a constant stream of drug ads on TV or the radio.

Shared Experiences Among Expats

Connecting with others in your community becomes far more simple when you are encountering many shared experiences. Just going out to the bank in Costa Rica becomes a social occasion as friends and neighbors will greet and share their “battle stories” about things like trying to set-up a new account and missing a key item of paperwork. Having things in common helps us to relate to one another and things like not being conversational in Spanish are something that most expats in Costa Rica can relate to. Conversations are easy to start when everyone is excited about seeing warm rain rather than cold snow.

Having an easy time making friends and maintaining friendships is a key part of keeping a healthy frame of mind when going through any type of transition. Expats who choose our region of Costa Rica are often remarking about how easy it is to meet great people, whether in the street, in the stores, or in the cantina. Countless lifelong friendships have been fomented in this nourishing part of the world that attracts many of the most adventurous and easy-going people.

Costa Rica’s Many Health-Promoting Options

Our local Costa Ballena community is highly supportive of the health journey. People are coming here from all over the world to experience the health benefits of living in a warm and moist tropical climate. Practitioners from a plethora of modalities have found their ways to our region, too, and those of us who live here are reaping the health benefits. There are plenty of classes and group gatherings that teach and reinforce healthful ideas. And in the majority of cases, you will have access to healing experiences for a far lower cost than you would likely pay elsewhere, and in a more intimate, beautiful setting.

There are also a number of cutting-edge treatments — both from eastern and western modalities —- that you will be surprised to find so readily in Costa Rica. It is estimated than an average of 40,000 North Americans are annually seeking health services in Costa Rica. Potential clients contact us regularly to ask if a certain treatment or type of therapy is available locally in Costa Rica. We are pleased to report that in the majority of the cases, our clients have felt satisfied with not only the number of options presented but also their quality and costs. (See OTP agent Marcia Oro’s Fountain of Youth YouTube series for some examples of cutting-edge health and beauty treatments available in Costa Rica.)

Nature is Key to Health

Shift your lifestyle to a warm and welcoming climate where there is a strong focus on environmental health and the great benefits that this has on our mental health. Spending time outside is good for our minds and bodies. Just stepping outside of our doors can lift stress and boredom from our minds. A growing body of research is building the case for the health benefits of being in natural landscapes. There is evidence that even being able to look out on a green landscape has improved recovery after surgery, lessens anxiety and depression, and helps to manage stress, among other positive effects. Having a lot of quiet time helps to tune into your own, personal journey. Spending time listening to birds or the sound of rain falling has a centering effect and creates a sense of ease.

Regular physical exercise helps to boost our mood and lower anxiety. Gardening is one of the favorite outdoor activities in Costa Rica’s consistently warm climate. It gives people a productive reason to stop what they are doing inside and to spend some time outside. Witnessing active growth happening and reaping the benefits of diligent work are excellent motivators to continue spending time in the garden every day. Gardening also helps us feel connected to the world. Tending to a garden builds our connection to that plot of land. It is knowing how much rain and sunlight an area gets, and the cycle of the seasons. 

Living through new experiences in Costa Rica, we learn to accept the things we cannot change and work to change the things that we can. Our goal becomes to prepare the best possible environment for lives and to allow circumstances to happen as they might with a bit more acceptance. We can practice a growth mindset in which we are constantly learning and evolving. This helps us look at the challenges in life as opportunities rather than failures. Can there be a better way?

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