9 Ways We Can Follow the Habits of Blue Zones for Healthier Lives
8 minute read
The first thing we need to do is define a blue zone. Blue zones are not political divisions in the United States. Blue zones are a term that’s used for communities where people statistically live longer than average, and they live a healthy, happy life up until the end.
This concept was created in conjunction with research by Michel Poulain and Giani Pes, and the book “The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People,” cemented the idea. While we aren’t all exactly going to move immediately to these places, understanding why blue zones are so good for their inhabitants can help us improve the places where we are already.
Where Are the Blue Zones?
There are five blue zones scattered around the globe. They don’t have a whole lot in common on the surface: they’re not close to each other, the people that live there don’t necessarily share a common lifestyle, and they’re not ethnically similar. The blue zones are:
♦ Sardinia, an Italian island
♦ Okinawa, Japan
♦ Loma Linda, California
♦ Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
♦ Ikaria, a Greek island
Common Attributes of Blue Zones
You can see, just from their locations, that the blue zones probably have a lot of differences, but there must be some commonalities that give the people that live there such full, long, and robust lives. And there are:
♦ Faith community
♦ Good relationships
♦ “Tribe” based
♦ Life purpose
♦ Earlier meals
♦ Plant-based meals
♦ Enjoy wine
♦ Natural movement
Each one of these nine similarities is believed to be part of the recipe that gives them a better life experience with less illness and quality longevity. So, what are the takeaways from these findings, and how can you incorporate then into your daily life to give you blue zone health?
1. Faith Community
When interviewing blue zone inhabitants who lived to be 100, they discovered that almost all of them were involved in a faith-based community. Further research into the connection between faith and longevity led them to discover that a wide variety of health benefits seemed to follow those who participated in some faith-based events at least four times a month.
These health benefits could lead to a life extension of between four to 14 years.
2. Good Relationships
Family is at the core of the blue zone lifestyle. Marriages last, children get quality time with family members, and aging parents live nearby and are part of the family dynamic.
Sardinia and longevity have long been tied together. While there are many parts to their longer lives, family keeps coming up as a key ingredient and an element that all of their lives center around.
3. “Tribe” Based
The communities that people live in, or their immediate neighborhoods, give them their tribe. Having a like-minded group that puts a focus on good lifestyle choices gives the tribe an identity and a healthier outlook.
Researchers have found that lifestyle choices, good and bad, are contagious. With this knowledge it’s clear that finding a tribe that supports a healthy lifestyle could greatly affect your outlook and approach to life.
4. Life Purpose
Knowing what you’re meant to do can add up to seven years to your life. Sense of purpose and longevity seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s that feeling of waking up in the morning and knowing what you have to do and getting great joy from doing those things.
Too often people interpret this to mean that you’ve found the perfect profession, but it doesn’t have to be related to your work. Having a life purpose could be about volunteer hours, a hobby, or being an important part of your community.
It’s about putting focus on the things that really mean something to you.
5. Earlier Meals
The structure and approach to food is very different in blue zones. Rather than a traditional American dinner, which features large portions shortly before bedtime, they eat smaller meals throughout the day, with the smallest being late in the afternoon and nothing after that.
Food is not something to overindulge in, but something to fuel the body or a social activity for family.
6. Plant-Based Meals
In addition to different times for meals, different meal sizes, and a different approach form their food foundation. Blue zones put a larger focus on plant-based foods, specifically beans.
Beans are packed with longevity power and are a staple in blue zones, providing tons of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. But don’t think that these people are vegetarians; they do eat meat, just very sparingly and in smaller serving sizes.
7. Drink Wine
If giving up a daily burger feels too difficult to you, maybe adding a daily glass of wine will soothe your sorrows. We get conflicting information on alcohol, with one study saying it’s healthy and another saying the downsides outweigh the benefits.
But both sides agree there are benefits, the key is not overindulging but sticking to one or two glasses a day.
Relaxation is key to living longer. Stress is a contributor to many chronic illnesses and finding ways to remove it from your life will make you healthier. The interesting thing to note is that the entire blue zone lifestyle seems geared around filling your life with people and activities that are meaningful and “stress-less” for you.
Following the other tenets should cause relaxation to fall right in line.
9. Natural Movement
Exercise is important for every person to be as healthy as they can be, but it doesn’t have to mean running a 10k or hitting the gym every day. Natural movement such as gardening, cleaning, and going for a walk is also exercise.
In fact, it might be a healthier form of exercise as it’s something the blue zone inhabitants incorporate into their lives every day, while standard exercise isn’t.
The Bottom Line
Blue zones offer quite a few lessons on how to live a better, longer life. The overall feel is one of a welcoming and inclusive society where the inhabitants feel like they belong and have a purpose.
Focus is not on rushing to check tasks off a list but enjoying the experience of day-to-day life. Imagine how much more relaxed you’d be if you didn’t have to check off chores, like going to the gym, and instead spent that hour of the day playing ball with your kids or going for a walk.
The benefits of exercise that relaxes you and gives you more family time and a deeper sense of belonging outweigh those of lifting weights. The best part is you don’t have to live in a blue zone to adopt a blue zone lifestyle and experience the benefits.