Secrets from the People of the Blue Zones
When it comes to living healthily and happily, who better to learn from than the longest living people in the world? The people living in the Blue Zones are the longest living people in the world, and researchers have found 8 common traits among these group of people. These traits include dietary habits, natural movement, belonging, and community, all of which can be applied into our daily lives to help keep our body and mind healthy!
Do you feel a sense of purpose when you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose and life meaning can increase your life expectancy, while also increasing happiness and fulfilment. Journaling and expressing gratitude often may help you feel a sense of purpose.
Chronic stress can wreak havoc on you. Our minds and bodies are inextricably connected, and so if our mind is in a constant state of stress, it can negatively impact our cardiovascular system, gut health, immune system, sexual wellbeing, and mental health among many other physical functions. The people of the Blue Zones take time to manage stress within their daily routines, whether it’s praying, napping, or remembering ancestors. How can you manage your stress? Exercise, mindfulness, improving your sleep, and spending time with loved ones can all help.
Another habit of the people who live the longest is that they incorporate movement into their lives without thinking about it. Their environments are conductive to movement, with daily tasks and habits requiring physical effort such as growing gardens. Now, for many of us, it may not be realistic for us to do physically demanding tasks throughout the day because we have sedentary jobs. However, we can still incorporate natural movement when possible, to get those feel-good endorphins.
Loved Ones First
Some ways in which people of the Blue Zones put their loved ones first are by taking care of their parents and grandparents, committing to a life partner, and investing in their children. Putting others first can help enhance the quality of your relationships, maintain a strong and supportive network, and provide you with a sense of purpose. Have you made time for loved ones recently? While it’s easy to get caught up in the business of everyday life, we encourage you to carve out some quality time with your loved ones.
Most of the people who live the longest belong to a faith-based community. Finding any community that brings you a sense of belonging can help you develop social ties, cope with stress, and improve other areas of your life too, which may increase life expectancy.
The social circles from people of the Blue Zones support healthy behaviours. In fact, the Okinawans have groups of five friends with life-long commitments to one another. Surround yourself with people that reflect the person you want to be, as they can shape your mood, behaviours, and overall health. Do the people around you inspire you? Motivate you? Lift you up? Do you feel good when you are around them? Do you have mates who support you? Having a tribe that has a positive life outlook and engages in healthy behaviours can help you do and feel the same. As the old saying goes, energies are contagious!
The 80% rule
People from these regions of the world tend to stop eating when they are 80% full! They also tend to eat earlier in the day and have their smallest meal in the late afternoon or evening, which coincidentally aligns with the concept of circadian eating, eating according to our sleep-wake cycle. On the contrary, In Western society, it’s common for people to do the opposite and eat past fullness while eating the most in the evening!
The people of the Blue Zones follow diets that emphasise plant foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds, “slanting” towards plant foods. They also only have a small portion of meat which is usually pork on average 5 times a month. In Australia, we do not eat nearly enough plant foods, with over 90% of us not reaching our daily 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit. We also tend to eat much larger serving sizes of meat and much more frequently. Plant foods are rich in nutrients that may support your brain health as well, so including more may benefit your overall health and mental health!
Wine at 5
Yes, you heard that right! Most of the healthiest people in the world drink alcohol moderately and regularly. The key word here being moderately. People in the Blue Zones are not drinking 10 gin and tonics in a single night, but rather they are enjoying a glass or two of red wine with dinner. So, if you don't drink alcohol, this doesn't mean you have to start, but if you do drink alcohol, it can still be part of a healthy diet to enjoy alcohol moderately.*
Learning about common traits of the healthiest people in the world can teach us a lot about how to adopt a healthy way of living. Incorporating the above-mentioned habits into your own life may help improve your health, both physically and mentally.
* Australian Alcohol Guidelines now recommend no more than 10 standard drinks per week with no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
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