How to improve a quality of life

Don Buettner calls it “interconnectivity of the power of nine.”

Mt Shukstan from Artist Point
Mt Shukstan from Artist Point

As a National Geographic fellow, Don studied five communities around the world where people live exceptionally long and active lives.

In communities he studied, people who live active lifestyles well into their hundreds all share these traits:

  1. They all eat a low-fat diet where meat is a treat rather than a rule.
  2. They all have strong social connections. They have family and friends they can depend on.
  3. They get plenty of rest.
  4. The drink herbal teas and red wine in moderation.
  5. They go to church regularly.
  6. Their life is stress-free.

There are plenty of people out there offering advice about healthy living and anti-aging. Trouble is their advice rarely works, probably because big changes don’t stick and we fall back into old habits.

Most people do not continue dieting longer than a few months. Gym memberships last less than a year. Many people don’t even bother to keep taking their prescription medications.

The Blue Zones Project asked you to make small changes in your life. If you eat off a 8-inch dinner plate rather than 10-inch one you probably reduce your food intake by 20%. If you use a tall, skinny wine glass rather than a wide, short one you will drink less.

Take time to relax. Meditate or better yet take a walk in the woods. Buy a bike and use it for short trips in your neighborhood. When my brain comes to a grinding halt in mid-afternoon, I get on my bike and ride around the block a couple times. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes to come back full of energy.

Nap when you get sleepy. Napping lowers stress hormones and gives your heart a rest. Studies show that nappers have up to 35% lower chance of dying from heart disease.

Fast occasionally. Periodically reducing your caloric input by 30% is the only proven way to slow the aging process in mammals. Avoid junk food by replacing chips with fruit. Make healthy food snacks readily available and put the junk snacks in the back of the food shelves. Stop eating before you get “full.”

Live life with purpose. People who feel valued live longer. When you know why you were blessed with life, you know what goals to set and what you want to accomplish in this life. Never retire. Quit working for your boss as soon as you are financially able, but when you no longer have to work for others, work for yourself. Pursue your own dreams with passion. You will live a longer, happier and more productive life.

A cautionary word about alcohol: Moderate amounts of wine, beer and liquor can increase heart and brain health and lower your risk for diabetes. Alcohol in moderation seems to improve circulation and decrease inflammation. There is even some evidence that a daily drink can reduce bone loss, slow dementia and even reduce the risk of getting some cancers. The key word is moderation.

I have alcoholics in my family. A glass of wine in the evening turned into finishing the bottle And then into half a bottle of vodka a day just to keep the DTs away. My Internet research seems to indicate that blue grape juice has nearly as much benefit without any of the risk. A glass of wine with friends is healthy, but more is not better.

Take responsibility for your own health and happiness.

Make the commitment to make the small changes that can give you a long, active and purposeful life. Find out more and take the Blue Zone Project Pledge to live longer, better.