125 miles off the coast of Italy, on the island of Sardinia, a 102-year-old is chopping wood and riding his bike to work everyday. There are 20 times more centenarians here than in the United States. In Okinawa, Japan, citizens enjoy the longest disability free life expectancy in the world.
Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and NYT best-selling author, has spent years studying these magical places, now called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are particular demographics or geographical areas where people live measurably longer lives. So, this pegs a very simple question: how do they do it? Here are the results of Dan Buettner’s studies:
1) Move naturally– Technology has made our lives much easier, but also limited the frequency with which we move. Forgetting the gym or morning jogs, simple daily activities like walking, taking the stairs, riding a bike, or even raking leaves or shoveling the driveway, all provide immense health benefits in the long run. So be sure to get active every day, no matter what.
2) Cut calories by 20 percent- Okinawans say “Hara Hachi Bi” before they eat to remind themselves to stop eating once their stomach is 80% full. Some tricks to avoid overeating include using a smaller plate, put away leftovers before sitting down to eat, implementing small snacks throughout the day instead of large, infrequent meals.
3) Plant-based diet- No, this doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian. Simply increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in each meal. Tofu and beans are the staples of many Blue Zone territories.
4) Drink red wine (in moderation)- French scientists discovered that resveratrol, an ingredient found in red wine, can increase lifespan (WebMD). Be sure to keep the daily intake to two servings or less.
5) Determine your life’s purpose- Okinawa has a saying “Ikigai”, which translates to “the reason for which you wake up.” In mentally clarifying the most important factors in your life, you can drastically improve your overall wellbeing and health.
6) Downshift- Holding on to stress for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health. Be sure to implement relaxation periods into each day, where you put the phone away, and refocus your mental energy on positive thought.
7) Family bonding- Establishing family rituals is great for mental and physical health. Whether its game night, family walks, sunday dinners or annual family trips, be sure to include these precious times into your life.
8) Belong- Many Blue Zones show the benefits of finding a group or social setting in which you share a strong bond or interest.
9) Pick the right tribe- Our attitude and health are strongly influenced by those we spend our time with. Stick around those who are positive, supporting and loving.
Creating new habits takes time, but these 9 steps are a great place to start. Try implementing 1-3 of these tips in the beginning, and then work outwards from there. Research shows that if you can sustain a behavioral change for about 6 weeks, you should be able to sustain it for the rest of your life. So take charge of your longevity, and get on track to a happier, healthier life!
Which of these habits do you already have in your life? Which ones do you think will be difficult to fit into your schedule or lifestyle? How do you think you can accomplish this positive change? Share your thoughts!