Dan Buettner is an internationally-recognized researcher and US National Geographic Fellow, who has studied the world’s oldest and happiest individuals to find out their secrets to living a long and healthy life.
His research found pockets of the world where these long-living individuals were more commonly found, which he named ‘Blue Zones’. Although we may not live in Blue Zones like the Greek island of Ikaria, or Sardinia in Italy, we can use the research to make small changes in our daily lives that may improve our health and wellbeing.
Here are our five favorite lessons in longevity from Buettner’s New York Times best-selling books Blue Zones and Thrive:
It seems the world’s longest-lived people look for simple ways to include gentle exercise throughout the day. For example, if you live close to the store and only need to buy a few things, you may like to walk instead of drive. Instead of picking up the phone to catch up with a friend, cycle to their house for a chat face-to-face.
2. Down shift
Research has shown that stress has a negative impact on health. A study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that stress undermines the body’s capacity to deal with inflammation, which is the cause of many age-related diseases. So it’s clear we need to reduce stress to stay healthy—but how? According to Buettner’s Blue Zones research, it’s all about our daily habits.
‘What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress,’ Buettner writes. ‘Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.’
Try to find a routine that helps you relax and shed the stress of your day. This may be 10 minutes of mindfulness, meditation, a morning walk or simply reading before bed.
3. Plant slant
Diets of people living in Blue Zones are full of fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants, with plenty of olive oil, beans and only small servings of meat. Try to incorporate fruit and vegetables into your diet every day and consider an antioxidant supplement to help prevent free radical damage.
4. Right tribe
Social circles that support healthy emotional behaviors are important for living a long and healthy life, according to Buettner. If you feel like you need to increase your social activity, try joining a team or club, or arrange coffee with friends. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people who make you feel valued will contribute to your mental and emotional health.
2. A happy workplace
The Blue Zones research found that the people happiest at work were also happiest at home. ‘Finding a job that engages your natural talents and gives you constant feedback is a sure way to build happiness,’ Buettner writes. Things like commute time, vacation allowances and whether your job challenges and inspires you are also important factors when considering whether your job makes you happy.
What do you think? Do you have any lessons in longevity passed down through your family that you’d like to share?