What if you had the recipe of life choices that could help you live longer, healthier, and happier? That is exactly what studies show happens in “Blue Zones,” parts of the world with unusually high numbers of happy centenarians. If you don’t live in a Blue Zone, you do not have to move. You can strive to create your own Blue Dot right where you are. Read on for some of the ingredients to content longevity.
How are Blue Zones different?
The 5 best-known Blue Zones are Icaria in Greece, the Barbagia region of Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and Loma Linda in California. What these places have in common appears to be a simple pattern of important lifestyle habits that fall into four categories:
- Move: Stay active in a natural environment. Exercise and move as part of your regular day.
- Have the right outlook: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Know your purpose. Breathe, slow down, sleep, nap, meditate, prevent “amygdala hijack,”and spend time with friends. Help limit the body’s life-shortening production of cortisol that comes from stress.
- Connect: Emphasize relationships. Cultivate connections with friends and family, create community, and reduce loneliness that can accompany aging.
- Eat wisely: Eat less and avoid the trend of larger portion sizes; eat more plants than meat and avoid inflammation-causing foods; consume red wine regularly, but moderately if you choose alcohol.
How to create your Blue Dot where you live now
If you don’t live in a Blue Zone, should you move to one? Maybe, but probably not. Should you give up? No. We suggest creating your own “Blue Dot,” in the non-Blue Zone where you live. In today’s busy world, it may be hard to imagine mastering all of the habits above even if you are already strong in some of them. However, you can make choices that simulate a Blue Zone and still get some or all of the benefits.
Half the battle may be to ensure sure you are making active and conscious choices rather than defaulting to established patterns. Start small and write down your goals for each of the four areas, using ways you enjoy. This is not about perfection. It’s about making small changes that positively affect your trajectory toward where you want to be.
Start to identify ways to incorporate shifts in your lifestyle. What if you:
- Biked, ran or walked part or all of your commute?
- Set a regular schedule for date night?
- Have a monthly plant-slanted potluck dinner party or gathering at the park?
- Hire a nutritionist or find a cookbook or website to help you create a few satisfying and easy recipes you can make together as a family? You can shift your caloric intake and eat more healthfully.
- Go for a walk or hike in a green space to improve your state of mind?
- Plan for and take extended time off—a Mid-Life Gap Year—to focus on your health and create a Blue Zone lifestyle?
Do you have friends that seem to have figured it out their own Blue Dot? If so, ask them how they do it, and give it a try. That might also lead to a growing Blue Dot community that creates a new Blue Zone!
The unspoken factor: your financial wellness habit
If you’re not in a Blue Zone, we believe there is an unspoken wellness factor that is necessary to help make the benefits of a Blue Dot lifestyle possible: financial wellness. Having financial flexibility makes it more possible to create your own Blue Dot now and to maintain it throughout your life. Studies show that financial security improves health and longevity, whether it is due to better diet, reduced stress, better medical care, being able to afford to remain in your community, or other factors.
Higher longevity also means more years to fund. The sooner you create a plan and effective financial habits, the greater the chance of success in creating an enduring Blue Dot. Plus, financial wellness creates a virtuous loop. The confidence and security you gain from a well-built financial plan contributes to a positive outlook while curbing the effect of a primary stress factor: money. It’s a double win! Rather than worry, you can direct your energy toward the relationships that matter and the lifestyle you desire.
Enlist the support you need
One part of making a Blue Dot work is having the community to support the lifestyle. While you may not have a whole geographical area dedicated to the lifestyle you want, within your own Blue Dot you can identify the people and resources who can support you and keep you on track. Consider these ideas:
- Commit and tell someone. Goals accomplishment is greater when you tell someone else about it. You might even find that others will want to create a Blue Dot club.
- Get started. Follow the move, outlook, connect, eating and habit-forming suggestions above, in a way that works for you. Then, invite others to join you!
- Boost your financial wellness. Create or update your financial plan to match your life goals, with the help of a qualified and objective financial planner.
As some have said, “a goal without a plan is just a dream.” What’s preventing you from living your best life and Blue Dot strategy sooner? A happier, less stressful, more balanced life rich with relationships may be right around the corner.