Living a long and happy life is something that will be found on most people’s list of wishes, desires and goals. But that is not surprising.
With average life expectancy of Australians now running well into our eighties, it is undoubtedly a universal goal that we will all want to enjoy our life to the fullest.
But life has a habit of throwing up all sorts of obstacles. We could be forgiven for thinking nature is conspiring to frustrate our attempts to enjoy a fulfilling life.
Some years ago I was researching the secrets of a long and happy life and in the course of that little exercise, I stumbled across some work produced by Dan Buettner.
Back in November 2005, National Geographic Magazine published Dan’s early research findings in an article titled ‘Here Are the Secrets of a Long and Healthy Life’. According to Wikipedia, the November 2005 edition of National Geographic is the third highest selling edition in the history of that respected publication.
At the centre of Dan’s research was an examination of a number of communities throughout the world where inhabitants seem to live much longer than the average. And when I say living much longer than the average, we are talking about communities having a disproportionate number of centenarians in their midst.
The areas where these folk live are referred to as ‘Blue Zones’.
So, where are these Blue Zones?
The areas subject to the original research included Sardinia, Okinawa and Loma Linda, just outside of Los Angeles. Subsequently, Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula and the Greek Island of Ikaria were added to the list.
People living in Blue Zones enjoy significantly longer and healthier lives than the general population.
This then leads to the question ‘WHY?’
Some of the characteristics of people who live in Blue Zones include:
Diet – That includes plenty of fresh vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fruit – and of course, minimal processed foods. Red meat is limited to perhaps one small serving once a week or, in the case of the community on Loma Linda, no meat at all as the residents are predominantly Seventh Day Adventists. Clearly avoiding fast foods, sugar, salt and processed foods is essential. A glass or two of wine each day and a couple of cups of coffee all seem to be fine.
Exercise – There aren’t many gyms in the mountains of Sardinia – exercise is derived from natural movement like walking, tending the garden and doing jobs around the house without mechanical aids. Keep upright and keep moving!
Release stress – Whether it is taking a nap each afternoon, enjoying a happy hour with friends, or meditating each day – embracing activities that relax the mind and body are crucial to maintaining health and wellbeing.
Purpose – Knowing why you are here and what motivates you to get up each day is a vital ingredient to having a long and healthy life.
Community – Having a sense of belonging, keeping your family close to you and engaging with a faith-based community, in whatever form that might be, are all indicators of a longer life.
There are a number of books that not only detail the research that has been done, but also material that covers diet and so many other practical activities that can be embraced if a long and healthy life is on your list of dreams and aspirations.
Disclaimer – this article should not be used as a substitute for professional medical, dietary, mental and physical advice. Where appropriate, seek professional advice.