Lessons from the Blue Zones
WellBeing|Issue 188
Blue Zones are regions of the planet where a high proportion of people live to be over 100 years old. Here, we reveal the secrets for living a happy, healthy and long life and how you can integrate lessons from the Blue Zones into your own way of living.
JESSICA HUMPHRIES

Recently, I’ve found myself absolutely enamoured of communities that are renowned for longevity. In my mind, these broad-smiling Italians sit in humble courtyards on low-to-the-ground seats (glass of wine in hand and a cheese platter nearby), surrounded by family and friends. They take slow strolls around their neighbourhoods, while away the hours in the garden, enjoy daily siestas and never ever rush. They don’t count calories, write to-do lists or keep a journal of the things that they’re grateful for because gratitude is just a natural part of their existence. They’re not pushing or striving to live long, healthy lives by stocking up on the latest superfood powders and walking the perfect number of steps each day. They’re not striving for anything; they are simply being, in the most delightful sense of the word. These are the people that we, ironically, aspire to be.

This, of course, is a picture painted in my own mental landscape, but I’m not the only one charmed by the idea. In fact, people have been actively studying “Blue Zones” since 2005 when Dan Buettner coined (and trademarked) the term in his National Geographic article, “The secrets of long life”. Here, Buettner shared five regions in the world where populations live healthier and longer lives than others. These regions were: Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Ikaria (Greece), and the Seventh-Day Adventist community of Loma Linda (California). Since then, Buettner has integrated the ideas of these societies into other parts of the world, creating outstanding results. Others have also jumped on the bandwagon of longevity curiosity, and there’s now an abundance of research that delves into the secrets of long-lasting health and happiness.

So, what’s the secret?

Australian researcher Kale Brock explores the topic in-depth in his book, The Longevity Book and documentary The Longevity Film. During his research, Brock observed four main pillars of long-living cultures: nutrition, movement, community and mindset. He says, “People in these cultures are eating a seasonal, local, organic and whole foods diet with very little or no processed food. Most often they grow their own!” He goes on to explain that the individuals in these societies get most of their “exercise” from an incidental movement that’s constant throughout the day, as opposed to many of us who smash out a quick gym session before sitting at a computer for 10 hours.

“People [in Blue Zones] talk to each other and smile, they hug each other and dance or sit back in a rocking chair to watch the afternoon go by as they sip a glass of red wine or a coffee.”

Brock also noticed that people in Blue Zones are very community-focused. “With an open-door policy and a very socialistic mindset, humanistic engagement is rife throughout these places and smartphones are not. People talk to each other and smile, they hug each other and dance or sit back in a rocking chair to watch the afternoon go by as they sip a glass of red wine or a coffee,” he says. Finally, there’s a grace in ageing and an all-round attitude of gratitude. Brock muses, “I would say most of the people over 90 that we met had an affable cheekiness about them that was very attractive … These people don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re not prone to panic or stress about the small things; there is a prominent sense of stoicism and pride amongst these people as they grow older and wiser.”

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