Picture this: A 100-year old you, hale and hearty, walking steady and stern, moving around the house, sharing a few laughs here and there with your family and friends, having the time of your life sipping wine.
In a world where a packet of chips full of sodium and cholesterol-increasing cheesy burgers are our go-to foods; carcinogenic pesticide-containing fruits and vegetables rule our diets; sitting in front of our laptops and phones all day, coping with stressful situations make for the major part of our day; and the idea of a good night is partying while intoxicated—turning this dream to reality seems like far-fetched.
I mean, even if we manage to get past the chances of a heart attack, cancer, Alzheimer, covid-19, and countless other diseases culminating from our oh-so-cool lifestyles, what are the odds of actually being happy and making it that far?
Well, if you follow this secret you might just make it
The secret is out and Dan Buettner, a New York Times-bestselling author, is the man who revealed it in his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.
He first identified regions with the happiest inhabitants in the world, who also lived the longest—up to a 100 years, perhaps—and labelled them as the ‘Blue Zones’: Icaria (Greece), Ogliastra, Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), and the city of Loma Linda (California) are the lucky five.
And luckily for us, Buettner has decoded the secret to their happiness and longevity. Follow these nine principles and you can have such a life too:
1. Move that booty
Blue Zone inhabitants carry out their household chores themselves and don’t resist walking. We all underestimate the power of moving naturally, but need I remind you that a little cardiovascular activity never hurt anyone?
Surely, you’re familiar with the power of walking, but a 2009 study conducted at the Harvard Medical School reinstates its value and touts walking as “the poster boy for moderate exercise”—all thanks to its multiple benefits. You see, walking can help lower the risk of cardiac health issues like cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, peripheral artery disease obesity, and vascular stiffness. In fact, the study also mentions its huge contribution in fighting against mental health-related issues like stress, dementia, and depression.
2. Find a purpose
Waking up in the morning with a purpose in your head can add up to seven years to your life expectancy as per Buettner’s research. In Okinawa, they call this ‘ikigai’ and in Nicoya Peninsula, it’s called ‘plan de vida’; but the idea remains the same.
“What brings meaning to our lives, what purposeful activities we pursue, what makes us wake up in the morning and take on the day—basically, what our “ikigai” or raison-d’etre (reason for being) is. Knowing this can make a lot of difference to our state of mind and add to our happiness quotient,” explains Dr. Divya Parashar, a Delhi-based rehabilitation psychologist.
3. Put that stress away
Stress, unfortunately, is an inevitable part of life—even for the inhabitants of the Blue Zones. And countless researches and theories have proven how stress can be detrimental to the cardiac, endocrine, metabolic, and immune processes in your body.
However, dealing with it in a better way is what can make a hell lot of difference. Buettner can’t ‘stress’ enough on the importance of incorporating stress-relieving activities in your daily routine as a solution to this problem. Take a nap like the Ikarians, do a happy hour like the Sardinians or find a hobby that excites you and puts the tensions away if you want to lead a happy, healthy life, ladies.
4. Don’t forget the 80% rule of eating
Not only do the people of Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the evening, they also stop eating when they are 80% satiated. This take-away from the Japanese philosophy of ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ (eating until you’re 80% full) can prevent overeating and well, the consequential hazards of overeating.
The idea for beginners is to stop eating when you’re done half done and wait for some time to feel full as it takes the brain approximately 20 minutes to signal that you’re no longer hungry.
5. Plants for the win
The diet of the Blue Zone inhabitants is predominantly vegetarian and involves consuming fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains along with a small amount of meat. This idea is strongly agreed upon by Delhi-based nutritionist Kajal Pandya, who suggests eating a clean, balanced diet for overall well-being.
Obviously, you get your fair share of nutrients and strength, plus eating healthy means better hormonal health, which in turn means—happiness—what else?
6. Don’t mind the wine
Having a glass of wine at five in the evening with friends or food is another secret to happiness of the people living in the Blue Zones.
Research has time and again proven wine to be a stress-alleviating elixir and glorified it’s benefits for the heart, but you’ve got to restrict the consumption to one glass a day and not go overboard, okay?
7. Follow your faith
Buettner’s book also mentions being a part of a faith-based community as a major factor leading to happiness. In fact, doing so can add up to 14 years to your life expectancy.
Ladies, not only can it give you a sense of fulfilment, it can also distract you from what’s giving you stress and give you hope and strength to deal with it all.
8. Remember, family first
Prioritizing work and ignoring family and friends has become a part and parcel of our lives. But this isn’t what the happy residents of Blue Zones do. They value their intimate connections and give them more importance. This in turn makes them happy.
Dr Parashar states:
Fulfilling your own needs and putting your family or loved ones first can make you happier.
9. Your tribe’s gotta match your vibe
Last, but not the least, a carefully-chosen group of friends you can trust and rely on can add so much emotional stability in your life, you can’t possibly imagine.
“Social support is a pillar that we all stand on. If we have friends who we can count on in times of adversity, who share values and beliefs, are nurturing and caring, and who stand by us through thick and thin, then they definitely add to our happiness quotient,” explains Parashar.
Now that the secret is out, what are you waiting for? Just change what you have to and make yourself happy!