Living in the Blue Zone of Happiness

Living in the Blue Zones of Happiness
Image from Pixabay

By Jan Larraine Cox

In these times of COVID-19 and economic woes, who wouldn’t love to escape to a Blue Zone of Happiness? The truth is, we can make some choices today that can lead us there. 

National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner has traveled to and written about five longevity hot spots he discovered around our planet. The specific places he studied were Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Loma Linda, California, where folks can easily live past 100 years old. He circled them on his map in blue ink and thereby coined the phrase “blue zones”. 

Image from Healthy Lodi

Blue Zone Keys to Longetivity

Keys to longevity in these locations start with moving naturally in environments that encourage continuous motion such as house and yard work. Many tend their own gardens and walk to church, to work and to see friends. The great majority do attend faith services each week, which research shows adds 4 to 14 years of life expectancy 

Another life extender Buettner discovered is a sense of purpose or “plan de vida”—why I wake up in the morning. This commitment adds up to 7 more years of life expectancy, he found. 

Downshifting is also key: stress leads to chronic inflammation, which is connected to age-related diseases. Blue Zone people have frequent routines to de-stress, including remembering ancestors, prayer, napping, meditating and gathering with friends at days’ end. 

Drinking a glass of wine with food is also a typical social opportunity. Buettner found the longest-lived people thrive in what the Okinawans call moai, or a group of five lifelong friends that commit to each other for life and help shape healthy behavior.  

The 80% rule is to stop eating when your stomach is still 20% empty which can lead to losing weight rather than gaining. The main meal is earlier in the day and smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening.  

Blue Zone eaters tend to eat whole, lean foods and cut out sugar. Image from Pixabay
Blue Zone eaters tend to eat whole, lean foods and cut out sugar. Image from Pixabay

How to Blue Zone your kitchen? Some suggestions include “Four Always Foods”. Place on the refrigerator a note: 100% whole grains, nuts, beans and fruits. “Four to Avoid” include sugary drinks, salty snacks, processed meats and packaged sweets. 

If you can, shop at a local farmers market and avoid factory-made foods wrapped in plastic, and especially those with more than 5 ingredients. To boost your energy and vitality, eat at least 3 from this “Super Blue Food” list daily: beans, greens, sweet potatoes, nuts, olive oil, oats, barley, fruit, green or herbal tea and turmeric.   

Also, incorporate “Longevity Superfoods”:  

  • Vegetables & fruits: fennel, potatoes, shitake mushrooms, squash, seaweed, avocados, bananas, lemons, papayas, plantains, tomatoes.  
  • Beans: black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, fava beans.  
  • Grains: barley, brown rice, oatmeal. 
  • Lean Protein:  salmon, tofu, soy.  
  • Also include: coffee, green tea, red wine, garlic, honey, turmeric, Mediterranean herbs, nuts, seeds and olive oil. 

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