In his book Blue Zones, Dan Buettner profiles the lessons he learned from researching the four places around the world where the people lived the longest and the healthiest. From Okinawa to Sardinia to Costa Rica to even the California based Loma Linda, these places have people who live well into their 100’s. So the question for Dan was how come, and how can other people do the same? Lucky for us he distilled what he learned into nine lifestyle practices that can help us live much longer and healthier lives. The nine principles to living longer are profiled below.
Interestingly enough the first suggestion is to move (something we hold dear), but this didn’t mean that the centenarians went to the gym to run on a treadmill and look at themselves in the mirror as they did bicep curls. Instead they lived in environments that make moving easier, environments where they walk most of the time and often have jobs that have them naturally moving around. How can you move around more in addition to working out at the gym? Can you walk to the store next time, or can you take up a small hobby that has you moving around like gardening?
Okinawans call it “ikigai” or “Why I wake up in the morning.” A powerful concept we often strive for. Many people wake up in the morning dreading the commute to work because they feel there is a gap between their passions and what they do for a living. Having a mission or purpose is important in helping you live longer. Waking up in the morning and feeling compelled and energized by the work you do is important, having strong values and passions, gifts and talents that are put to good use all contribute significantly to your longevity. So what’s your mission?
Every blue zone had a way to deal with stress, whether it was praying, paying gratitude to others, or taking a nap, they routinely had a way to handle the stresses of their lives. In our 24//7 culture it’s hard sometimes to find time to de-stress we have bills to pay, deadlines to hit, but all this stress leads to shorter lives, but having specific ways to handle stress when it arises can add years to your life. Could you take a nap during the day? Play with your dog for a bit? or possibly call up a dear friend and have a great conversation?
4. 80% Rule
“Hara hachi bu” – the Okianawan mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomach is 80 percent full. I’ve also heard it as, “ Tie the sack before it’s full.” We often overeat not because we’re hungry but because our environment cues us too. Bigger plates and bigger servings all contribute to our overeating. Read Brain Wansink’s book Mindless Eating for more about why our environments matter in what and how much we eat.
5. Plant Slant
Meat is often a luxury in the blue zones so they usually saw it as a treat or flavor enhancer to their produce. As Michael Pollan says – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
6. Drink Wine
This one was a bit of a surprise to me but according to the research, moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. 1-2 drinks per day is the suggestion.
According to Buettner’s research attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy. I think this probably extends beyond faith based groups though. Belonging to some type of group whether it be a faith based, sport or a company based can help you live longer. What groups are you part of? Can you join a group with the same interest as you?
8. Loved Ones First
Put families first. We often start and end with family, so having a loving and caring relationship with your family is important. This also includes being in a committed relationship, and investing time and energy into raising your children.
9. Be Part of the Right Tribe
Being the only one in your social circle who eats healthy, exercises, and takes time to de-stress makes it very difficult to maintain your commitment. Your social environment is one of the most important aspect to staying committed to your healthy lifestyle. Research from the Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness is contagious. So how can you shape your social environment to promote healthy lifestyle practices?
What other lifestyle practices do you think contribute to longer, healthier and happier lives?
Photo by Ricymar Fine Art Photography