As you move into 2021, it’s important to think about how you plan to make this your year. There’s a lot to navigate when it comes to creating new habits and lifestyle choices. In the theme of Big Blue Energy, we wanted to take a snapshot of Blue Zones as a source of inspiration for goal setting in 2021.
So what are Blue zones?
Blue zones are regions of the world with the highest proportions of centenarians, or people who reach age 100.
Where are Blue zones?
There are 5 places in the world that meet the Blue Zone criteria:
- Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy
- Ikaria, Greece
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California - highest concentration of Seventh Day Adventists (Protestant Christian denomination)
- Okinawa, Japan
So the main question is, what’s their secret? What Kool-aid are they drinking?
A team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists came up with 9 lifestyle habits of the world’s healthiest, longest-lived people. Below, we’ve expanded on how we can adapt these into goals for 2021.
1. Move Naturally
Sardinians still hunt, fish, and harvest everything they eat. Okinawans garden in the sunshine. Nicoyans find joy in physical chores. Regular, low intensity exercise can be hugely beneficial in the long term. Blue zones prove that.What you can do:
Spend more time outdoors! Finding hobbies outside like gardening or hiking will help you get more Vitamin D and create an active lifestyle. Many of us are limited with the current circumstances, so make sure to take your Vitamin D3 on those days where you can’t get it naturally from the sunlight.
The people of Okinawa have a phrase: “Ikigai” - the reason you get up in the morning. In Costa Rica, they live by the phrase “Plan de vida” or reason to live. In blue zone cultures, there is great value in feeling needed and having a responsibility towards a greater good.What you can do:
Find meaning in the simple pleasures. Right now, it can feel like the world is against you and things don’t seem to go your way. But taking a step back to appreciate what you have, helps give you perspective on what is truly important.
3. Down Shift
Ikarians nap on the daily to lower stress and rest their hearts. Adventists have a 24 hour Sabbath- a period where you don’t have to think about work, the news, or daily stressors. Okinawans relax by sitting on a mat on the floor.What you can do:
Sure, a binge-watching TV session may feel like a way to destress. But it’s important to practice self-care and mental breaks in ways that truly remove you from the everyday worries of life. Try meditation, yoga, reading a book, working on a puzzle, or just taking a nap. Unplug when you can and prioritize self-care in times of stress.
4. 80% Rule
Blue zone cultures eat meals to 80% fullness. The residents of Loma Linda and Nicoya Peninsula eat light dinners, early in the evening. They also drink tons of water. This not only aids your digestion but allows your body to focus on resting when you go to sleep.What you can do:
Listen to your body. As Americans, we’re often told to finish everything on your plate or it’s considered rude. However, it’s more important to listen to your body’s signals that tell you when it’s time to stop. Focus on what you are going to eat for each meal rather than how you are going to sustain yourself. Quality over quantity!
5. Plant Slant
One of the most important commonalities across blue zones is their nutrition. There is a major focus on eating lots of fruit & veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, and low meat intake.What you can do:
Lower your meat intake, try alternatives like tofu or tempeh. Focus on buying whole food ingredients that are fresh and locally grown. Rather than counting calories, focus on getting the best nutrients. Many of the blue zone diets are high in Omega-3s, which you can supplement with Sports Research Omega-3 line of products.
6. Wine @ 5
Yes, you read that correctly. Sardinians drink a glass or two daily - bring on the flavonoids!What you can do:
Drink a glass of red in the evening. If you’re not up for a glass every night, that’s perfectly okay. And you don’t want to go overboard either. If you’re not a fan of wine, there are plenty of other ways to get the benefits. Flavonoids are found in many fruits & veggies, teas, and herbs. Adding SR Golden Milk to black or chai tea is a perfect morning remedy.
In Loma Linda, the community bonds by volunteering and giving back. As a faith-based community, health and wellbeing is kept central. Nicoyans frequently visit their neighbors and their traditions have enabled them to stay stress-free.What you can do:
Thank goodness for social media. There are now so many ways to connect with your community and old friends. When you do spend the time to connect, focus on being a good listener.
8. Loved Ones First
In Sardinia, every family member is cared for their entire lives. Okinawans value relationships with the young and old. Costa Ricans focus on family and the ability to laugh.What you can do:
Celebrate your elders! Spend time to get to know them and ask them questions while you still can. Having a strong connection with your loved ones is essential to your mental health and gives you an important perspective from the small stresses of life.
9. Right Tribe
Okinawans have something called “moai” meaning a life-long circle of friends. In Sardinia, men often gather in the street each afternoon and laugh with each other. Costa Rican elders tend to live with their families for the remainder of their lives.What you can do:
If you haven’t already, find the people who will be there to support you for the rest of your life. Keep close those who make you laugh and help you appreciate what you have. Having the right tribe around you can help reduce daily stressors and reduce risk of health scares in the long term.
There is so much to learn from Blue Zones and their values. To learn more visit https://www.bluezones.com/.