If you could live to 100, would you?
Many, including myself, would respond, “Only if I’m healthy.”
‘Blue Zones’ refers to five locations where the highest percentage of centenarians live (those who are 100 years or older). In 2004, Dan Buettner and National Geographic came together to discover these five places and the nine key components to an extraordinary lifespan.
These places are scattered across the globe and seem to have little in common. So what do these people do that is so special?
The Power 9 – The Nine Aspects of Blue Zone Lifestyles
The environments of the Blue Zones encourage people to keep their bodies moving. They walk, do yard work, and tend to gardens.
Some of us live in accessible areas, with paths and sidewalks for walking and biking. Others may enjoy exploring the forests, lakes, or meadows around their homes.
“Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.” The Okinawans and Nicoyans stress the importance of embracing your why.
Knowing this answer is easier said than done, and many struggle with this at some point in our lives. Sometimes my why is my family, sometimes friends, sometimes myself. You, too, are deserving of a happy and healthy life.
The people in Blue Zones build routines into their daily lives that relieve stress, which decreases inflammation and disease. They take naps, drink wine, pray, and remember their ancestors.
Do something for yourself each day that you find stress-relieving. Put on your favorite song that relaxes you; take a soothing bath; meditate in a quiet place. Explore what works for you.
Okinawans often eat until they feel 80% full, not 100%. In Blue Zones, it is common to eat the last and smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening. This practice is thought to contribute to a healthy weight.
This is about listening to our bodies. 100% full can feel stuffed and uncomfortable. 80% tends to feel “just right.”
Centenarians eat plenty of beans, which are a staple in their diets. We can try incorporating beans, such as fava, black, soy, and lentils, into our diets more often.
Wine @ 5
The people of the blue zones have a healthy relationship with alcohol and drink 1-2 glasses of wine per day, particularly the Sardinian Cannonau wine.
This could be built into your downshifting routine. Have your glass of wine with friends or family, or with your dinner. Take time to destress and enjoy the moment.
Those who live the longest surround themselves with a close-knit social circle. The Blue Zones Project explains, “the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.”
Not only is this about finding a tribe that supports you, but it’s also about being a support to others. The weight of the world feels much more manageable when we have our tribes to lean on.
Loved Ones First
The centenarians prioritize their families. Children, parents, and grandparents often live together, helping each other throughout the stages of life. While this isn’t possible for all families, the lifestyle contributes to a longer life.
98% of the Blue Zone centenarians interviewed by researchers participated in a faith-based community. It’s not the denomination that matters most, but the community that they are part of. The Blue Zones Project reports that belonging to this kind of community could add 4-14 years to our lives.
When we take this deeper look, the Blue Zone lifestyle doesn’t seem so difficult after all. Largely centered around caring for one another, eating well, and moving gently, there are small steps we can take toward a healthier and longer life. Not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones.
So I ask again – If you could live to 100, would you?
March 10, 2022