The secrets of a longer and more fulfilling life

Photo by Jixiao Huang - Accessed on Unsplash

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a proven way to help you become healthier and happier and live a longer life?

Well, there just might be.

Enter the Blue Zones. The Blue Zones is a term trademarked by Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, 9 Lessons for Living Longer.

In his book, Buettner studied five areas of the world where people were living longer, happier and healthier lives in relation to other areas of the world.

The Blue Zone areas include Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. These areas have the highest incidence of centenarians — those that live to be 100 years of age and up.

Buettner found that the longevity and health of people in these areas were influenced by similar factors. Some of the factors that stood out were: keeping active, eating healthy, having a social network, and having a purposeful life.

For instance, on the island of Ikaria in Greece, people move an average every 20 minutes. This is primarily out of necessity. People walk everywhere – to the store, to friend’s homes and work. The island is walkable, meaning there are walking paths easily available and places to rest if one needs to.

Ikarians grow traditional gardens of fresh vegetables and maintain their gardens for their daily meals. Older people continue to do manual labour and work their land far longer than the rest of the world. The people of Ikaria and other Blue Zones use their bodies for work, chores and leisure activities.

Another observance was the similarities of healthy eating. The diets of those in the Blue Zones are largely plant-based. Small amounts of meat are also consumed.

In Ikaria and other Blue Zone areas, all food groups are represented. Some components of each day may include greens and vegetables, 1/2 cup – 1 cup of beans, berries, a small handful of nuts, and pure virgin olive oil. In, Okinawa, it was observed that people generally eat until they are 80 per cent full, avoiding overeating.

Socializing with family and friends is a daily occurrence. Enjoying time together with people with common interests is an important part of the Blue Zone lifestyle. On top of that, there is a reverence for older people. Older people are valued and looked upon as wise leaders with life experience to share.

At the same time, older people are around to help and influence the younger generation in positive ways. This helps to create a community where everyone feels like they belong.

One of the most important attributes that people in the Blue Zones have in common is having a purpose. A reason to wake up in the morning can add years to your life.

Having something to look forward to and enjoy is important at any age. Being a part of something larger than yourself and feeling purposeful staves off loneliness and depression. In Okinawa, Japan, there is a name for this purpose, it’s called ikigai.

The study of the centenarians that live in The Blue Zones provides us with a reminder that a long and fulfilling life is made up of small steps. It can be as easy as getting together with a friend to play crib or take a walk; to know that meals can be as simple as lentil soup and a loaf of bread shared around a table of family and friends; and most importantly, having a purpose in life can go a long way to contributing to your overall happiness.