I went to this Blue Zones event in Fort Worth yesterday for about an hour; if you’re unfamiliar with what “Blue Zones” is, well, here you go. The basic idea is that a National Geographic photographer had been all over the world and observed areas where people tend to live longer and be happier. He then organized what those communities are doing into a group of factors, and essentially created a blueprint for living longer and being happier. There’s some context here, of course, because life in Finland is always going to be different than life in the United States, so comparing “A” to “B” is sometimes generally impossible. That said, everyone should be chasing a longer, more fulfilling life. So how do we do that? Here are nine ideas.
First, let’s start with the five places around the world where people tend to be achieving these things:
- Barbagia region of Sardinia
- Ikaria, Greece
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, CA (and other places)
- Okinawa, Japan
The Barbagia region actually has the highest concentration of male 100 year-olds anywhere in the world.
If you look at these five places and the trends they follow, you come up with nine basic ideas:
- Move Naturally: Less about joining a gym or running a marathon and more about moving without thinking about it; consider growing a garden, for example. Or taking more walks.
- Purpose: According to the Blue Zones project, knowing your purpose — the “Why I Wake Up In The Morning” aspect — is worth seven years of life expectancy. Here’s a tip: don’t attempt to define it via work. That’s a boondoggle. Rather, attempt to define it through family and friends and how you use your time and your passions.
- Down Shift: Everyone will feel stress. You need a way around that — be it prayer, reflection, or a happy hour. America doesn’t have any reps on those five communities above, and largely the reason is that they set themselves up as a very go-go-go-now-now-now society, without time for down shifting.
- 80 Percent Rule: Basically, stop eating when you are 80 percent full. It’s the difference between losing and gaining weight, in essence.
- Plant Slant: Eat more beans, i.e. lentils (a superfood!), fava, black, soy, etc. Eat less meat. In these five communities, people eat meat about five times per month, and when they do, it’s about 3-4 oz portions.
- Wine At 5: This is a live-longer plan that tells you to drink. Cool. Here’s the catch: you can drink basically every day, but 1-2 glasses of wine, preferably with food and friends/loved ones. This provides structure and makes the alcohol an add-on as opposed to the focus. And no, you can’t save up the 1-2 and have 12 glasses on the weekend.
- Belong: If you are part of some faith-based process and attend four times per month, that can add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
- Loved Ones First: Care about your people, and even bring the elder generation into the home as they age (which can actually make your children healthier). Loved ones should always come ahead of work, other projects, etc. They should always be No. 1.
- Right Tribe: Find a social network that supports healthy behaviors. Things like obesity, loneliness, and smoking have been shown to potentially be contagious, based on the crew of people you most associate with. Weed out the bad seeds until they’re ready to be better seeds — and yes, obviously that can clash with the loved ones idea above.
Seems pretty basic — the 80 percent rule and the alcohol one are probably harder for Americans (and/or just me), but everything else seems pretty doable. This is no guarantee of anything, because to live to be 100, you probably need to hit some type of genetic lottery. But you can pretty reasonably live to be 85+ following these core tenets, I’d argue.