There’s no denying the fact that the fear of aging is *very* real. In an attempt to chase away pesky gray strands, fine lines, and saggy skin — our obsession with looking “young” has certainly made the anti-aging beauty industry a pretty penny. (Your overflowing vanity filled to the brink with deep wrinkle-reducing creams, renewal serums, and age-defying moisturizers can certainly attest to that!)
Aging is most definitely a gift that not everyone in life receives.
But the metaphorical fountain of youth may not be such a fanciful, far-off concept after all! In 2004, National Geographic Fellow, New York Times bestselling author, and educator Dan Buettner set out on a quest to uncover the secrets to longevity and good health. His research identified five regions around the world, which he named the “Blue Zones,” where people statistically lived the longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icarian (Greece); and Loma Linda (California). After years of research, Buettner and his team were able to document the shared characteristics among the highest concentrations of centenarians living in the Blue Zones.
So, what’s the secret to good health and living well into your 100s? Simply put — staying youthful and living longer is less about expensive skin care regimens and more about making simple lifestyle tweaks. Get healthy and increase your longevity by adhering to five common characteristics Buettner found among communities residing in the Blue Zones:
1. Eat a plant-based diet (and don’t overeat!)
One common denominator among those living in the Blue Zones is that their diets are 95 to 100 percent plant-based. Blue Zones residents’ meals primarily consist of whole grains, vegetables, seasonal fruits, nuts, and a LOT of beans (a staple in the Nicoyan diet — they’re high in fiber, low in fat, and pack a mighty, protein-packed punch)! Try eating like the Blue Zonians with this delicious Hearty Veggie & Barley Casserole recipe!
You should also stop eating when you begin to feel full. Practice mindful eating (and portion control!) and chew your food slowly because when you eat quickly, you consume more calories before your body’s able to register that you’re full!
2. Get regular exercise
Okay, this one’s a no-brainer. Getting regular exercise has numerous health benefits, such as strengthening your bones and joints, increasing your blood flow, and reducing the risk of various diseases, which in turn, increase your overall longevity.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to become a seasoned rock climber or marathon runner! At any age, you can incorporate simple physical activities into your daily routine like swimming, strength training, yoga, tai chi (a popular choice in Okinawa, Japan) or even walking! If you’re already slacking on your “get fit” New Year’s resolution, try taking a few minutes out of your day to try these five gentle, cleansing yoga and pilates moves!
3. Cultivate a strong sense of purpose
Countless studies have proven there’s a solid link between a person’s overall psychological wellbeing and an increased life expectancy. In a nutshell, research shows happy people that live meaningful lives generally live longer than those who are unhappy and don’t have a strong sense of purpose. Granted, figuring out what your purpose in life is does involve quite a bit of introspection. What are you good at? What makes you happy? What makes you feel fulfilled Take a long, hard look in the mirror and make an effort to answer these questions truthfully; you’ll be on your way to a purpose-oriented and long life in no time!
4. Maintain close relationships
Throughout his studies into the Blue Zones, Buettner found loneliness to be incredibly toxic, saying it “shaves about eight years off of your life expectancy!” Cultivate strong, meaningful relationships with your family and friends, and if you’re in a relationship, forge an unbreakable bond with your significant other.
Loneliness tends to strike senior citizens a little harder, so make it a point to reach out to your elderly family members. If you’ve got free time on your hands, you can also volunteer at a retirement home or senior living community. You’ll help prevent feelings of depression and isolation amongst seniors — and perhaps yourself as well!
5. Have a little faith
The Blue Zone of Loma Linda, California houses one of the largest concentrations of the ultra-religious Seven-Day Adventists — a Protestant Christian denomination. While their longevity may be largely due to the fact they’re strict vegetarians, a common attribute of the Blue Zones is their faith.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to become a bible-thumping, habitual-Sunday service-attendee. Spirituality doesn’t have to be rooted in any particular religion and your sense of spirituality can certainly exist sans the Holy Scripture. Whether your faith resides in a higher power, the stars, or yourself, you can always practice mindfulness by meditating regularly and connecting with your higher consciousness. Put simply — do all things with love.
Are you on your way to Blue Zones-level longevity?
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