Blue Zones: The Perfect Environment for a Long Life
How many people have you met who have lived over 100? Do you currently know of anyone who is packing a three-digit age number? Ever wonder why some people live so long while others live a normal life expectancy? We might have a little bit of insight on this.
You see, on average, life expectancy is around 72 years old (globally). However, there are a few places on Earth where the average can increase by 10 to 12 years. These places are known as blue zones.
What are Blue Zones?
Blue zones are regions where some of the oldest and healthiest people live. The term first emerged in 2005 in a Nation Geographic magazine cover, “The Secrets of a Long Life.” As of now, there are 5 blue zones:
- Icaria, Greece
- Loma Linda, California
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Sardinia, Italy
- Okinawa, Japan
There are signs of people sharing certain lifestyle habits in each of these cities that result in a happier, healthier, and older population.
Welcome to the Blue Zone in Costa Rica: Nicoya
If you have never heard of Nicoya, we’d like to tell you a little about it.
Nicoya is roughly 4 hours away from the capital of Costa Rica and belongs to the province of Guanacaste. It is home to multiple people over 90 (and many even over 100) as a blue zone. A couple years ago, we had the pleasure of visiting some of Nicoya’s older residents. Trust us…those were some fascinating conversations.
The Nicoya Peninsula is also known for its exotic beaches and historical background, thanks to being one of the oldest settlements in Costa Rica. It is also a less-traveled destination for visitors, making it the perfect getaway for a private and secluded vacation.
Nicoya Compared to the World
As we mentioned before, Nicoya is one of the blue zones in the world. But how do these zones differ from one another?
We believe the better question is: What do these cities have in common? A principle called the Blue Zones Power 9 sheds some light:
In the modern age, it is pretty common to choose comfort over effort. And who could blame us? Public transport, machinery, and technology have improved our work lives and our ability to move. However, one of the things people have traditionally done in the blue zones is using their own bodies to get things done. Forget unnecessary mechanical conveniences for things like house or yard work. For these populations, being able to move is a blessing that we should take advantage of.
2. An Optimistic Outlook
Have you ever heard someone say that perspective can change your life? For the blue zone in Guanacaste, this is called “plan de vida”, which translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” The motivation to wake up and accomplish their goals gives these citizens the purpose they need to keep going, even when things seem rough.
Now don’t get us wrong, stress affects everyone. However, the mentality in which these regions take on makes a huge difference. Most populations have their own routines to reduce stress, both attached to religious or social practices.
3. Mindful Eating
A happy stomach is a happy brain. In blue zone communities, mindful eating is practiced in different forms such as:
- The 80% rule: The philosophy of eating until your stomach is 80% full, avoiding bloated stomachs, and allowing for a healthier digestive system.
- Plant-based diets: Most blue zones incorporate things like beans, soy, lentils, and vegetables in their diets instead of prioritizing meats. Meat is a rare delight, and when they do eat, their serving size is about 3-4oz.
- Moderate drinking: This doesn’t mean avoiding your daily glass of wine. Actually, it is encouraged. Instead of drinking huge amounts of alcohol during the weekend, try drinking 1-2 glasses per day (preferably wine). Extra points if they are drunk during meals surrounded by either friends or family.
Humans are social creatures. Therefore our connection with others affects the way we perceive and endure life. Some of the social habits people from the blue zones share are:
- Belonging: Based on a study done by the official Blue Zones organization, only 5 people of the 263 interviewed said they didn’t belong to any faith-based organization.
- Family: People living in blue zones keep their parents and grandparents close by (many even in their homes). This provides an opportunity for the elderly to keep engaging with younger generations and to feel less excluded. It also allows people to be there for older people in case of an emergency.
- Healthy environments: Being surrounded by the right people makes a lot of difference. Records show that being influenced by people with healthy habits such as avoiding smoking, healthy eating, and being positive will make you less likely to start a toxic or harmful habit.
How to Live Longer!
Though you might not live in a blue zone, you can start practicing some of these techniques. Surround yourself with others who want to improve your life expectancy.
Our best advice is to start with what you can control. Adjust your outlook on unexpected situations, move as much as possible, and practice mindful consumption of food and drinks. While you might not live to a 100, considering how genetics plays such a huge role. However, with the right environment and social support, you can start changing your daily life!
Your Time is Now
Why would you want to live to be 90? There is probably a lot of the world out there you haven’t discovered yet. Foods you have never tasted, people you haven’t met, paradises you haven’t seen yet. It seems like there are a lot of reasons to want to live long and healthy lives!