Image: Meditating | By Sage Friedman
Lessons from the Blue Zones on How to Live Longer
The quest for ever lasting life is as old as humanity itself. Humans have a natural and understandable fear of death and it’s totally logical that we would want to put it off for as long as possible. But how do we achieve longer, healthier and happier lives?
It is fairly clear that there will always be anomalies, and that environment and genetics will always play a role in how long any one particular individual can live. However, there are specific pockets around the globe where individuals within these specific societies collectively and consistently exhibit a particularly high life expectancy.
Dan Buettner is a longevity expert who has travelled the world researching the underlying habits of these societies that live the longest. He calls these longevity hotspots the Blue Zones. He originally presented his findings in a National Geographic article, and followed up in detail findings in his excellent book, unsurprisingly entitled The Blue Zones. The specific regions in question are; Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece), and Loma Linda (United States of America).
Below are 9 lessons on the habits of people who live in these communities. Split between internal or physiological, and external or community, they often overlap. Science is now looking into these behaviours of these selected. Maybe we too can learn something.
Image: Yoga Pose | By Yannic Laderach
Put Family First
We tend to hide our elderly away in nursing homes, and loneliness is a silent killer. It is suggested that having a caring, supportive and positive family environment can give peace of mind, security, happiness, and companionship, all of which may contribute to living longer. Make time for your loved ones, it will benefit you and them.
Belong to a Positive Community
You might be surprised to know that positivity has the power to help us longer, even more so within the context of an overwhelmingly positive community containing strong bonds between community members. Connect with your neighbours, your colleagues. Make friends, be positive. It’s an enjoyable thing to do anyway and it may help you live a longer and happier life.
Have a Sense of Faith
There is a strong correlation between faith and spirituality and longevity. It links back to the point about positivity and community, and the following point around purpose. Seemingly, investing in your spiritual side gives you a reason to keep going. Find what works for you.
Images: Woman Meditating | By Jared Rice
On that note, we probably all know that one elderly relative was full of life and vitality until they retired, at which point they literally withered away and died. I saw it happen to my grandfather when he broke his leg and could no longer tend to his garden. Find and cling to your purpose as you grow older. Make sure you stay useful to yourself and society as a whole, as there is genuine evidence to suggest it will keep you young.
Image: Blue Zone Man | By Medium
For most of us the world is a stressful place, and it is killing us! Wether through meditation, breathwork or hanging out with friends and family, find a way to de-stress, relax, tap into your parasympathetic nervous system and allow your body and mind to rest and heal. This is also linked to getting good quality sleep, another facilitator of longevity.
Eat a Mainly Plant Based Diet
There are many benefits of a predominantly plant based diet, and this is seen throughout the Blue Zones. They tend to eat locally sourced, nutrient dense whole foods, predominantly plant based, with plenty of wild herbs and spices, and supported by high quality, natural sources of animal protein. Modern diet research and trends support this approach and most of us should be able to incorporate this approach into our own diets.
Image: Food | By Joanie Simon
It’s not just what we eat but how we eat. There are a few Blue Zone trends to note here. Firstly, there is no need to eat to excess. Caloric restriction is a key driver of longevity. Secondly, chew food slowly as this allows digestive enzymes in the mouth to get to work on breaking the food down before it hits your stomach. Eat mindfully and slowly until you are about eighty percent full, and then stop. It’s also worth looking into the potential benefits of intermittent fasting.
Image: People Eating | By Kelsey Chance
What we drink can help us too. What many would consider the “Mediterranean” approach to alcohol consumption has been shown to increase longevity, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and does not appear to influence the overall risk of cancer. Wine is rich in antioxidants and has multiple benefits if consumed in moderation, so go ahead and enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner.
Image: Wine Bottle | By Kym Ellis
Many of us are sat at a desk all day and then go hard for an hour at the gym. This is not how our ancestors operated and nor is it how the Blue Zone societies operate. Instead they tend to engage in a high volume of low level physical activity continuously throughout the day, which has been shown to contribute to longevity. If you do have a fairly sedentary lifestyle then try and take the stairs rather than lift, get a standing desk, or set aside a ten minutes each hour for a brief stroll. Be creative, and keep moving.
Image: Swimmer | By Todd Quackenbush
Piecing It Together & Putting It Into Practice
When you compare and contrast, it is quite clear that all of these categories are parts of an integrated whole, a way of living. It is also worth noting that other commonalities across the Blue Zones include other factors such as being out in nature, getting plenty of sunshine and refraining from smoking. And there you have it, nine secrets (and a few extras) from the Blue Zones that may indeed help us live longer too.