We’re taught to believe (and we see it manifest everywhere) that the older we get, the less vibrant life becomes. If you’d rather not live out that belief, you’ll likely appreciate the research findings that this post is based on. Science tells us that it’s possible to live a long and happy life—well into our 90’s—largely free from chronic dis-ease.
“When it comes to longevity, there is no short term fix in a pill or anything else.” – Dan Buettner
If we have the capacity to make it well into our 90’s (and perhaps beyond), why is life expectancy in the U.S. not up to par, but actually in decline for the first time in over two decades?
Many of us fear aging because we see our elders living in chronic pain and suffering from a cluster of health issues. If we were to travel to areas known as Blue Zones, however, this wouldn’t be the case.
The term “Blue Zones” refers to those characteristic lifestyles and the environments of the world’s longest-lived people; they’re places where it’s normal to live vibrant and full lives.
In these Blue Zone regions, the older you get, the more equity (and the longer disability-free life expectancy) you have. People get to hold their great-great-great-grandchildren. We can learn from these people, and live to see more.
Living a long and happy life sounds much better than the alternative. Believing it’s possible is the first step, I believe, in that direction.
I recommend watching this 20-minute video with Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author. In it, Dan debunks common myths about longevity, explains the lifestyle habits of people living in the Blue Zones, and shares the most significant things you can do to apply their principles in your life.
Here are nine lessons we can all try to live by if we truly want to embrace the possibility of living a long and happy life, largely free of dis-ease and brimming with good health.
9 Principles to Live by for a Long and Happy Life (Inspired by Blue Zones Research)
1. Move naturally. People in Blue Zones engage in moderate exercise throughout their day. They don’t schedule one-hour sessions at a gym, though; their lives are set up in such a way that they’re constantly moving—walking to a friend’s house, tending to a garden, mixing up cakes by hand, doing their own landscaping, etc.
2. Have a purpose. According to research, knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy. In Okinawa, for example, there is no word for retirement; this period is referred to as “ikigai” which translates as “why you wake up in the morning.”
3. Finds ways to slow down and deal with stress. Nobody is immune to stress, but people in Blue Zones have routine ways of dealing with it, including napping and getting together with friends.Happiness is a balance of how you deal with what you've been dealt, and what you choose to give. Click To Tweet
4. Eat less according to the 80% rule. Certain populations with a high numbers of centenarians have strategies in place to help them stop eating when they’re 80% full. The 20% gap accounts for the fullness that doesn’t kick in until about 20 minutes after eating; it’s a key proponent in maintaining a healthy body weight.
5. Eat a plant-based diet. It appears that living a long and happy life has a lot to do with the food one consumes. People living in Blue Zones eat a diet mainly derived from plants. Colorful vegetables and what we call “whole foods” abound, and beans are a cornerstone in their diet.
6. Drink in moderation or not at all. People in all Blue Zones, except Seventh-day Adventists in California (who generally abstain from alcohol altogether), drink 1 to 2 glasses of (antioxidant-rich) red wine per day, often with a meal and with friends.Friendship is a powerful way to add more years to your life, and more life to your years. Click To Tweet
7. Have faith. Almost all centenarians interviewed by researchers belonged to some faith-based community.
8. Put loved ones first. Families come first for many people, and this is certainly true for those living in Blue Zones. Keeping aging parents and grandparents close, and investing in your children with time and love, are hallmarks of a long and happy life.
9. Be social. 15 years ago, the average American had 3 good friends; we’re down to 1.5 now. Other societies have social constructs built into their lifestyle; they’re either born into a group of half a dozen friends they travel with through their entire life, or they proactively surround themselves with supportive people.
Please share your thoughts on this research, which principle(s) you’re living by now and which you’d like to apply in your life, and any inspiring stories/intentions of making a healthy change with me in the comments.
Share these principles with someone you wish a long and happy life.
Cheers to good health, friendship, nourishing rituals, and a full life.
Free digital paper by Free Pretty Things For You; lettering by Aim Happy.