We are each on a unique quest to live our best lives.
However, from figuring out what to eat, how much to exercise and how much sleep to get, navigating all the aspects of our ‘health’ can be overwhelming.
It may be time to step back from the ever-evolving fad diets, conflicting news headlines and old wives’ tales, and instead head the advice of some of the world’s healthiest and longest living communities.
Enter: ‘Blue Zones’.
The ‘Blue Zones’ are special hotspots around the world which are home to some of the world’s longest-lived people, many of whom have lived past their 100th birthday.
These communities include: Sardinia, Italy; the Greek island of Ikaria; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, a Seventh Day Adventist community in California, USA.
These communities share nine common lifestyle habits that are thought to contribute to their longevity, many of which we can all practice in our own lives.
Here are the best-kept secrets of the Blue Zones:
- MOVE NATURALLY
You don’t have to be a world champion weight lifter or run marathons to get yourself moving. Simple ways to move throughout your day could include: taking the stairs, getting off the bus a stop early, getting out in the garden or walking to the local shops instead of driving.
2. KNOW YOUR PURPOSE
Everyone’s purpose is different. Recognise and acknowledge the things that get you out of bed in the morning. Try to do a small action that will nourish and fulfil you each day to stay motivated and live a life you enjoy.
Whether it’s morning meditation, journaling or having an afternoon siesta, be sure to build some down-time into your daily routine. It’s not just the doctor’s order, its what centenarians do too.
4. FOLLOW THE 80% RULE
Over-eating can not only make us feel very uncomfortable, but also can lead to weight gain and poor health in the long-term. The Okinawan people abide by “hara hachi bu”, or ‘eating until you are 80% full’. Try to follow “hara hachi bu” by practicing more mindful eating and listening to your body’s signals.
5. GET MORE PLANTS ON YOUR PLATE
Blue Zone communities include a wide variety of plant-based foods such as beans and legumes as a staple in their diet. Try to increase the number and variety of plant-based foods on your plate, aiming for lots of colours, and try to limit the amount of red meat, aiming for two palm sized portions a week.
6. WINE AND DINE
Perhaps surprisingly, alcohol is not off-limits in the Blue Zones. In fact, 1-2 glasses good quality red wine, is often enjoyed among friends, family and good food. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly and in moderation.
7. ESTABLISH A SENSE OF BELONGING
Surround yourself with a community, or communities, you share interests with and with whom you feel a sense of belonging and connectedness. Whether it is faith-based, sports-based, arts-based or a social group, try to be an active member of your community.
8. PUT YOUR LOVED ONES FIRST
Look after your parents. Spend quality time with your children. Nurture your relationship with your life partner and make an effort to keep in regular contact with your friends and family. Nourishing these relationships can help to build a strong and loving support network.
9. SEEK OUT THE RIGHT TRIBE
Find a close circle of friends and/or family who support healthy behaviours and will join you in your journey to a healthy life.
Try to incorporate these nine lessons into your life and you will not only add years to your life, but life to your years.