Have you ever been to a place that just seemed really special? Where the vibrations of everyday living seem higher and the people are healthier and happier? There are five places on planet earth that are known for having a higher concentration of people who live measurably longer lives, often to 100 years or more. These people are known as centenarians and the places they live are known as the Blue Zones.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California
These areas have been studied through both empirical data and first-hand observation to determine what they have in common and what the rest of the world can learn from them. Here are the top nine common characteristics of people living in the Blue Zones.
1- They move naturally. Blue Zone residents don't tend to work out in gyms or train for endurance events. Instead, they make exercise a natural part of their day to day lives. They live in places where they can walk to town or to a friend's house and they work in their yards and gardens.
2- They have a sense of purpose. It is thought that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. These people rely on their values and passions to infuse a strong sense of meaning into their lives and the lives of others.
3- They manage their stress. Chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation and often disease. It's not realistic to avoid stress altogether, but these people have developed routines to help them deal with it. Adventists pray, the Greek nap, and the Italians celebrate happy hour.
4- They stop eating at 80%. They respect the gap between not being hungry and feeling full. They also often eat their smallest meal in the early evening and then don't eat any more for the rest of the day.
5- They eat plants. People in the Blue Zones eat diets composed of a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils packed with disease-fighting nutrients.
Some consume small amounts of meat or fish, but the majority of their food comes from plant sources.
6- They drink wine. With healthy plant compounds and antioxidants, one glass of wine for women and one to two glasses for men daily has been consistently shown to promote health and longevity. The full benefit comes with sharing this time with family and friends, think happy hour. But they don't overindulge.
7- They socialize. The world's longest-living people have strong support networks and people of all ages socialize frequently. Research shows that healthy behaviors are contagious. Surrounding yourself with people who support your health will add happy and healthy years to your life, perhaps more than any other factor.
8- They practice faith. Almost all the centenarians belonged to a faith-based community. The choice of faith or religious practice was not important so much as was attending faith-based services where people shared common beliefs and the sense of belonging to a larger community.
9- They put family first. Blue Zone residents often live in multi-generational households, in communities with or near extended family and foster healthy committed relationships. They invest time and love in their children and those children are more likely to turn around and care for their parents.
There is a lot of advice floating around out there for living a long and healthy life. Some of it makes sense and sometimes we need to question our sources. Learning from the examples set by happy and healthy centenarians makes a whole lot of sense to me.