9 lessons for a long happy and healthy life

Ever wonder how the world’s healthiest people eat and live?

They’ve habits and practices at work that support their wellbeing.

Dan Buettner and his team studied the world’s longest-lived people in five places calling them Blue Zones. And after a decade-long study, they found 9 lessons these people had in common.

1. Move Naturally.

In the Blue Zones people live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving. Think more of walking to a grocery shop, gardening, playing with your pet, and less of iron-pumping activities.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against doing strength training. I do it myself. However, there is very little information available linking it to a long and happy life.

Try finding ways how to stay active throughout the day. Maybe taking your dog for a walk in the morning, using stairs instead of a lift, and meeting a friend for a stroll in a park instead of a coffee shop. Aim for 30 minutes of walking or similar activity every day.

National Health Service recommendation is to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week. Plus do at least 2 weekly sessions of strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

2. Purpose.

In all Blue Zones people had something to live for beyond just work. Research has shown that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

3. Downshift.

Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress that could lead to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. They’ve routines to shed that stress. A prayer, mediation, journaling, taking a nap. Any of these would fit the purpose of managing stress.

There is no one way that fits all. Pick one to try and keep trying to one hits home. Over time you might choose to create a different stress release routine. And that’s ok. Your interests and lifestyle will change and shift over the years anyways.

4. 80 Percent Rule.

Confucian mantra reminding you to stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full. The 20 percent gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it.

Your body is a complex and super intelligent “machine” sending you certain signals when you should drink and eat as well as when you should stop. Learning to listen and follow your thirst, hunger, and fullness cues might be the best way to always stay in great shape.

5. Plant Slant.

Beans and pulses are the cornerstones of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month, and the serving is about the size of a deck of cards.

You don’t have to go all-in and become vegan if that’s not for you. Maybe you could add some meals with beans and pulses a few times a week though? It could also save you some money on food shopping too 🙂

6. Wine @ 5.

People in all Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately. The trick is to drink a glass per day with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week just to have all drinks on Saturday. 

7. Right Tribe.

The world’s longest-lived people choose or were born into, social circles that support healthy behaviors. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. By contrast, the social networks of long-lived people favorably shape their health behaviors.

There are many ways how you can connect with like-minded people online and in person. How about joining local hiking, cycling, or a running group? Maybe a local art or pottery studio host social events or run classes?

You might resist going out of your comfort zone and it might feel awkward at first. It’s the same for all of us at first. You get better at socialising skills when practicing them.

8. Community.

Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4 – 14 years of life expectancy. And no, it doesn’t matter what group you choose to belong to.

9. Loved Ones First.

Centenarians put their families first. They keep parents and grandparents nearby or in the home. They commit to a life partner, and they invest in their children with time and love.

And now, tell me in the comments below which of the 9 lessons resonate with you the most and how you can take up this lesson for your own health and wellbeing?

This blog post came to life after reading the wonderful book The Blue Zones Solution by Dan Buettner

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