Why Are There No Mental Health Issues in Costa Rica??

Here’s a picture I took while visiting Costa Rica.

Here’s a picture I took while visiting Costa Rica.

I’ve traveled to multiple beach towns in South America and the Caribbean.  As a therapist, one thought continues to stand out:

There are no mental health services in these places.

Why?  It’s a question I ponder a lot!  In America, we seem to be stressed by work, life, family, friends, and all other obligations.  We take pills to feel better, and mask the problems through modern medicine.  Psychotropic medications such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills are considered an easy solution to life’s stresses.  Unfortunately, all it seems to do is create a dependence on medication to feel better.  When you go to Costa Rica, it’s simply “Pura Vida”!  You don’t see stressed out people (even though they have far less “things” then the typical American).  You don’t hear people complaining about the boss, or what someone said on Facebook, or about anything.  It’s simple, calm, and people appear to feel content.

Why do we force such stress on ourselves and then escape to islands to only feel good for a week?  Sadly, some people don’t even take a week of vacation because they have “too much to do”, or “can’t afford it”, of fear being fired. If you don't believe me, check out this article to see how many people don't even take all their paid vacation each year!

Do you live to work, or work to live?  When I talk with people from other cultures, I find that life isn’t centered around THINGS and WORK.  They’re not concerned about driving a fancy car, having a big house, or “keeping up with the Jones”.  They are at peace with being free from the constraints of THINGS.  A good wave on their surfboard.  A slow walk on the beach.  A moonlight dinner while eating fresh ceviche.  These are the experiences (rather than things) that hold value. 

Why is there no need for mental healh services in Costa Rica?  Because there is no self-induced stress. 

How do we reduce this self-induced stress? 

For starters, take a good, long look in the mirror.  What do you see?  If it’s a tired face that is stressed due to bills and debt, it might be time for a change.  If it’s a person concerned with how people will perceive the car they drive, how they’re dressed, and house they own, it might be time for a change.  If it’s a person that feels overworked and undervalued, it might be time for a change. 

The first step to reducing stress is to be honest about your current lifestyle.  The most precious commodity we have is TIME.  To make best use of our limited time here, try an exercise that might help keep you focused: 

I call it a Vision Map, but you can call it whatever you want.  It’s simple: cut and paste pictures that depict the ultimate lifestyle onto a blank sheet of paper.  Take that collage and tape it to your mirror so you see it daily.  The goal is to think and visualize the life you want, and focus on obtaining that lifestyle in an effort to live a healthier lifestyle (rather than continuing to build stress).  You might be tempted to put a bunch of “things” on the collage (like a fancy car, big house, etc.), but that is not the goal.  Yes, we all have our certain things we want, and you can absolutely put those into your vision map.  In addition, think about the lifestyle you want, not the things you want. 

Give it a try.  If you do, and would like to share yours, send me a picture of your vision map and I will post it to the blog.