Everyone dreams of living a fulfilling life filled with happiness and meaningful connections. But what are the most important qualities to have to live a long and rewarding life? Dan Buettner who wrote “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” researched that exact question and found some common staples that long-lived people shared across the globe. In certain regions like Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece, it isn’t uncommon to find people that are living over 100 and are also thriving in mind and body (Laurence, 2019).
First and foremost, the people that live full lives are active and move in their day-to-day lives far into old age (Laurence, 2019). Especially rural places, movement is a way of life. People work in fields, travel by foot, and keep their bodies physically engaged every day. This doesn’t mean we have to go to the gym every day or work in super physical jobs to get these benefits though. It can be as simple as pledging to take the stairs and avoid elevators and escalators, taking a walk every evening, or avoiding using a car when possible. 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is the bare minimum needed to impact your health so find a way to get your body up and moving in your day-to-day life (Laurence, 2019).
Another shared trait that long-lived people had is that of their diet. Not so much what they ate – although that certainly plays a factor – but in how much they ate. While he found that plant-focused diets were predominant and most healthy, Buettner also found that people often ate only until they first began to feel full and not until their plate is completely empty or they’re absolutely stuffed (Laurence, 2019). So just because you’re eating something healthy doesn’t mean you should stuff yourself. Recognize when you are getting full and pack away the rest of your meal for another time. It's also helpful center your meals around vegetables and fresh ingredients and not around the protein on your plate.
While the physical activity and diet are important, people living into old age also have enriching family and social lives (Laurence, 2019). The soul needs nourishment too. Buettner saw that close networks and family and friends that helped care for each other, helped each other reach their goals, and had frequent social gatherings facilitated the growth and stability of the family as a whole and enriched those in old age (Laurence, 2019).
To cap things off, managing stress and finding purpose also helped people live longer and more fulfilling lives (Laurence, 2019). Having something that motivates and pushes you to get out of bed every morning can have a lasting impact on your happiness and sense of self-worth (Laurence, 2019). By managing stress through physical activity, social interaction, and healthy diet, periods of tough times were minimized and the negative impacts of stress were reduced (Laurence, 2019).
So in sum, get active, refocus your diet to include more plants, only eat until you’re about 80% full, nourish your soul with family and friend time, and work to find your purpose. While summed together it can seem like quite the daunting task but if you break down each piece to work on, it becomes much more manageable.
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Laurence, E. (2019, October 5). The longest-living people in the world have these 9 things in common. Retrieved from Well and Good: https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/blue-zone-power-9/amp/