Blue Zones: How Ikarians Live Simply for 100+ Years

Sloww Blue Zones Ikaria

“The Island Where People Forget to Die” — That’s the title of The New York Times article I came across during my existential crisis in 2015.

I was searching through some emails recently and came across an email I sent to my dad in early 2016. Here’s exactly what I sent him:

I would say Ikarians (from the Blue Zones) are the most sane humans on the planet. Long healthy life, minimal impact on the planet, meaningful relationships (“us” vs. “me”), plant-based diets, drink wine and tea with family and friends, clear purpose based on satisfying low-level needs, no care about time, walkable communities, gardening, enjoy physical work and find joy in everyday chores, enjoy being outside, etc.

I decided to dig a little deeper to see if there was even more we can all learn from the long-lived people in Ikaria, Greece. If you’re curious about the Blue Zones in general, you can see a much more extensive post I did on Blue Zones here.

Why care about the Blue Zones Ikarians?

Well, this is pretty compelling:

Today, Ikarians are almost entirely free of dementia and some of the chronic diseases that plague Americans; one in three make it to their 90s. (Source)
Reaching the age of 90 at two and a half times the rate Americans do. (Ikarian men in particular are nearly four times as likely as their American counterparts to reach 90, often in better health.) (Source)

Dan Buettner is the leader of the Blue Zones research and author of several books under the name. He claims that genes are only 20% of the longevity formula — 80% is lifestyle. He says, “The environmental components…are portable if you pay attention. And the value proposition in the real world is maybe a decade more life expectancy.”

That means there’s hope for all of us!

What else can we learn from the Blue Zones Ikarians?

My little refresher course on the Blue Zones was even more eye-opening. Like most things in life, healthy lifestyle habits start by making daily choices.

If you dissect my summary at the beginning of this post, there are a variety of factors at play in the long, healthy lives of the Ikarians:

  • Connection: Meaningful relationships (“us” vs. “me”)
  • Modified Mediterranean Diet: Mostly plant-based diets, drink wine and tea with family and friends
  • Clear Purpose: Based on satisfying low-level needs (the popular purpose concept, Ikigai, comes from the Blue Zone in Okinawa, Japan)
  • Unlimited Time: No care about time or watching the clock (a totally different perspective on 24 hours per day)
  • Natural Movement: Walkable communities, gardening, enjoy physical work and find joy in everyday chores, enjoy being outside, etc

But, there’s even more. Somehow I missed the Blue Zones “Power 9” healthy lifestyle habits a few years ago. Here are some additional things to consider incorporating into your own lifestyle based on the Blue Zones research:

  • Down Shift: Little to no stress or anxiety (that leads to inflammation which leads to diseases). More good reason to get started with downshifting.
  • Spirituality: Practicing any faith can add years to your life
  • Sleep: Wake naturally, naps in the afternoon. Naps are having a comeback. Now nap science and research backs their benefits.
  • Environment: I’m sure it helps living near water (in this case, the Aegean Sea)

It’s based on Slow and Simple Living Principles

The Ikarians are the types of people who live the story of the tourist and the fisherman on a daily basis and over the course of their lifetimes.

In the original Blue Zones regions, life unfolds more slowly, more quietly, and with less urgency. People’s lives aren’t laced with worry, hurry and the constant need to be elsewhere. Not coincidentally, perhaps, they live longer lives. (Source)
A relaxed pace of life that ignores clocks. (Source)

With all the debate these days about following your passion (or not following your passion), it’s hard to argue with this:

Do something in your life that stirs your passion…When my husband died decades ago, I continued doing what I love…Do not want more than what you really need. If you envy others, that can only give you stress. — Ioanna Proiou, 105 years old

Here’s a nice overview video if you want to see the Ikarians in action:

I thought this was a beautiful comment on the video:

Poor in finances, rich in nature, friendliness and health. I can recommend it for people to be creative and fill up their soul batteries.

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Originally published at Sloww.

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