If you had the choice, would you want to live to be 100? If asked, it’s my assumption that most people would offer an enthusiastic yes.
Even though the average life expectancy for an American is 78.2 years of age, over 70’000 Americans reached their 100th birthday last year. My students and I were watching CNN 10 the other day, which we do frequently (fellow educators- it really is a GREAT resource) and when they aired a segment on Blue Zones, I was instantly infatuated by the concept. I started reading and researching, trying to figure out just what Dan Buettner believes he has discovered: a way to forget to die.
So, what are Blue Zones?
Blue Zones are regions of the world where, as Dan Buettner claims, people live longer than average. These Blue Zones initially included five locations:
Loma Linda, California
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Sardinia, Italy
- Icaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
Careful observation and research established evidence-based common denominators. Overall, nine factors (the Power 9) were discovered to have an effect on the long-living citizens. Their lives were described as active and vibrant, as they established healthy habits that kept them feeling young, while maybe not looking it. Dan Buettner stresses that “people in America are longing for health and connection” and I believe he’s right. I know that personally, these are things I’m searching for. I’m at a time in my life when establishing positive routines feels critical.
What are the Power 9?
The Power 9 may seem like basic concepts, but they are powerful nonetheless. Long-living citizens of Blue Zone areas were found to do nine specific things daily.
- Live with Purpose
- Down Shift
- Follow the 80% Rule
- Plant Based Diet
- Wine at 5
- Put Loved Ones First
- Find Your Right Tribe
Let’s examine the first- moving naturally. While, specific exercise (cardio, weight lifting) isn’t considered negatively, casual active behavior is advised. There is an emphasis on completing tasks like gardening, yard work, and biking or walking to work. It is the hope an active lifestyle includes these activities.
Next, living with purpose offers a consideration of living with a sense of worth. Completing tasks in your life that bring you joy while giving back to something greater than yourself.
Down shift is a concept that asks you to address the stressors that impede you. Routines that shed stress are imperative for a long life. The Blue Zone Project suggests napping, meditating, or yoga as accessible options for almost anyone.
The next three Power 9 factors work hand in hand. First, the 80% rule suggests eating until you are 80% full. People in the Blue Zone are known to eat a large breakfast and smaller meals later in the day. This 80%-20% balance supports healthy weight and diet. Furthermore, a plant based diet where large portions of beans, nuts, and fats are consumed is suggested. Now, this may seem contrary to other diets out there, but it’s important to remember that these long-living people are also constantly moving.
Wine at 5 (which is personally my favorite Power 9 factor) offers that a glass or two of wine daily, with friends or food, has significant positive effect. Now, it’s important to remember that a glass of wine is only 5 ounces, but all the same- drink up.
The concept of belonging is significant in Blue Zones. Strong faith based communities were common and influential in Blue Zone areas. Furthermore, keeping loved ones nearby in your community showed a drastic impact. Having parents and grandparents living in one area allows for more time and love and care.
Finally, finding your right tribe has an impact on how long you live. For example, the citizens of Okinawa have created “moais” – groups of five friends who are committed to each other for life. Surrounding yourself with positive people who also observe healthy habitats has a direct impact on your happiness and behaviors.
How can you apply this to your life?
I feel that, especially because the weather is finally nicer in New England, many of these long-living strategies can be applied to my daily life. The videos I’ve seen on Blue Zones have inspired me to try certain new habits and I hope this post inspires you to learn more and consider how this concept could positively impact your own life. It seems that even starting small might hold a great benefit.
Personally, I am going to dive right in. I’m considering making posts for each of the Power 9 and how I’m utilizing them in my life, so I don’t want to get too far into that right now. However, I can tell you that I’m setting a goal to bike to school, during the last three weeks of school, and to consider purposeful use of my time as summer begins. I’m also very much on board for drinking more wine.
So, what are your thoughts? Do Blue Zones make you as curious as they’ve made me?