What Are the Blue Zones?

Norrie Beach
The Road to Wellness
4 min readJan 10, 2022

--

How can they help you in your self-improvement journey?

Photo by Mika Matin on Unsplash

If you're ~in the know~ in the Wellness space, you might have already heard of Blue Zones, a concept invented by researcher and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner. Blue Zones refer to these five places in the world where Dan discovered that people live the longest, healthiest lives: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Through thorough research, Dan came up with nine commonalities between these five regions that seem to be the common denominators for living longer and remaining healthy late into life. He calls these the Power 9.

Here are the nine concepts, as explained by BlueZones.com:

  1. Move Naturally
  2. Find Your Purpose
  3. Downshift (reduce stress)
  4. 80% Rule (eat until you are 80% full)
  5. Plant Slant (reduce meat intake and increase plant-based foods, especially beans)
  6. Wine at 5 (drink alcohol in moderation)
  7. Belong
  8. Loved Ones First
  9. Right Tribe (surround yourself with like-minded people)

Research shows that genes determine only 20% of life expectancy. The rest is up to us. Dan is encouraging people to use these nine principles to allow us to live into our 90s without chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Cancer.

These nine principles will help you live a more fulfilled and longer life. So how can you incorporate some of these concepts easily into your year?

Add Short Walks To Your Day

When you wake up, put on your walking shoes and get outside. This will ensure that you start your day with movement, and you'll get outside into nature, which will reduce your stress. Try walking more throughout the day too. If you need to go to the post office or pick something up from the store, consider whether you can walk there instead of driving. We live mostly sedentary lives, especially those of us who work from home, so focus on being more mindful of ways you can easily incorporate movement into your day.

Make a Joy List

Finding your purpose may seem like the most daunting concept on the Power 9 list. It's a huge undertaking and something some of us may search for throughout most of our lives. But making a joy list might help. When you're doing the things you love, your life naturally feels more purposeful. For example, if you love to write, maybe your purpose is to reach people through your words. If you love to sing, perhaps you'll go to karaoke once a month and bring others the joy of watching you perform and do something you enjoy. If you love reading, maybe you form a book club, which will allow you to do something that brings you joy while also building community. Bring yourself joy first, and you might find that your purpose naturally follows.

Start Your Morning Slowly

Those of us who live the 9 to 5 life may find that the morning is full of chaos. We jump out of bed, rush to get ready, pour coffee in our mouths, and head out the door (or into our guest bedroom, if you work from home as I do). If this is your morning routine, you start the day with stress. Naturally, this stress will build upon itself as you get into work and dive into the usual multi-tasking jumble of to-dos ahead of you. Instead, try getting up a little earlier. Walk around the block, read a little while you drink your coffee, calm your brain before starting the day. The way you wake up can change your entire outlook. Then, when you go to work with a quiet brain, you're ready to focus on your tasks and get things done without stress.

Eat Mindfully

This year, mindful eating has grown in popularity as people move away from "dieting" and towards intuitive eating. When you listen to your body, you're more likely to eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full, rather than eating because you're bored or stressed. Try eating lunch away from your computer (I know, this is a big ask). Just sit with your food. Think about where each ingredient came from, starting with the seeds in the ground, going through the trip to the grocery store, and eventually to your house. This exercise will help you feel connected with the world around you while allowing you to focus entirely on your meal. Eat slowly, and stop when you're almost full.

Find a Community

If you lack social connection (who doesn’t after the pandemic years we're all living in), think about joining a group that does things that interest you. Maybe it's a virtual book club or a sports team. As we grow more connected virtually, the world is your oyster when it comes to opportunities to meet new people. There is something for everyone, and you'll be surprised at how many like-minded people there are out there if you look in the right place.

Re-evaluate Your Current Relationships

We're all changing a lot right now due to more time spent at home with more opportunities for introspection. So as the new year begins, think about the people in your life. Are they supportive and kind, or do you find yourself slipping into negativity when you're around them? Make sure you're surrounding yourself with the right people, and if you need to, don't be afraid of walking away from a relationship you know isn't serving you. It's all about you in 2022.

If you're curious about the Blue Zones, I recommend reading any of Dan Buettner's books or browsing around his website. There's so much more to learn, and he has a myriad of suggestions for incorporating Power 9 into your daily life.

--

--

Norrie Beach
The Road to Wellness

Freelance writer. Blogger. Lover of true crime podcasts, appetizers, and going to the beach.