If you haven’t heard of the Blue Zones, they’re diverse regions of the world that are home to some of the world’s oldest people. Concentrated areas where a higher than usual number of people live much longer than average.
I’m not attached to one day joining the Centenarian Club, or getting a letter from the Queen. However a few years back I made the choice to get to know my body – train it, understand it, take care of it and nurture it, so that I can really enjoy this lifetime – and show others how to do the same. What I’ve come to understand is that the quality and experience of your life heavily depends on how you take care of your body.
A team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists studied these Blue Zones and came up with nine principles the people from these regions all have in common. What’s interesting is the diet, exercise, lifestyle and community principles that keep the centenarians healthy in the world’s Blue Zone communities are very familiar to anyone who follows Ayurveda.
What do Blue Zones and Ayurveda have in common? Here are the 9 Lifestyle Habits of the World’s Healthiest, Longest-Lived People;
1. Move Naturally Blue Zones: None of the centenarians studied belonged to gyms, competed in triathlons or even worked out, but they all moved naturally throughout the day. Ayurveda: Ayurveda suggests exercising to only 50% of your capacity. More frequent and less intense workouts actually improve your energy. Nasal breathing exercises and yoga are two strategies to infuse modern workouts with ancient longevity wisdom.
2. Find Your Purpose Blue Zones: Centenarians live for something more than just surviving or making money. There is a more profound purpose that gives deeper meaning and joy to their lives. Ayurveda: The Law of Dharma is the law of purpose. Finding one’s purpose in life – or right way of living – is given major emphasis in an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Dharma follows the notion that everyone has a unique talent and how we express this can give deeper meaning to our life.
3. Slow Down Blue Zones: Blue Zone centenarians do not work 60-80 hour weeks, eat in their cars or in front of their computers, and go, go, go. They take time each day to eat, socialise, pray, nap, and relax. Ayurveda: Yoga, breathing and sitting in silence are some of the numerous ways an Ayurvedic lifestyle embraces the core human need to slow down, press pause and reconnect with the body and breath.
4. Stop Eating Before You are Full Blue Zones: The 80% rule, which is still practiced by the Okinawans in Japan, is to eat until you are only 80% full. Blue Zoners tend to eat their main meal at midday, and finish eating for the day in the late afternoon or early evening. Ayurveda: An Ayurvedic lifestyle suggests eating only until your stomach is three-quarters full. Eating is done in a relaxed, undistracted environment (never on the run or in front of a screen), and the biggest and most nutrient-dense meal is at midday with early and small suppers—all Blue Zone practices!
5. Eat Mostly Plants Blue Zones: People in Blue Zones tend to eat predominately plant-based, non-processed food with very little meat. Most eat small amounts of meat just five times a month. Ayurveda: Ayurveda recommends a plant-based (not vegetarian) diet, and has so for thousands of years. Red meat is acidic. It is considered a medicine and is used to stabilise blood sugar and remedy protein deficiencies. Eating more naturally occurring acidic foods (like red meat) in autumn and winter and more naturally occurring alkaline foods (like plants) in spring and summer, enables the body to naturally balance itself.
6. Take Joy in Small Indulgences Blue Zones: One way many Blue Zone people downshift is by having a small glass of wine around 5 p.m. This helps them relax and unwind and, of course, de-stress. Ayurveda: Alcohol is considered dulling for the mind in Ayurveda. While ok in moderation, wine at 5pm is replaced with relaxation techniques and activities that foster the feelings of love, joy, gratitude and connection (like spending time with loved ones or in nature). These feelings raise oxytocin levels in the body which make us naturally feel good – and relax. Bottom line: We need to turn down the stress volume on a daily basis.
7. Build Community Blue Zones: People who live longer, healthier, happier lives often have a group of friends that support and practice a healthy lifestyle. Ayurveda: In Ayurveda, this is known as a sattva. There’s a saying “you are the company you keep, so keep good company.” An Ayurvedic lifestyle includes immersing yourself in a sattvic environment, with people who are healthy, kind, compassionate and loving.
8. Keep the Faith Blue Zones: Most Blue Zoners belong to a faith-based community. As community-oriented people, they thrive and feel safe in trusted groups. Ayurveda: While Ayurveda is not a religion by any means, it comes from India, where worship – and ritual – is a natural part of daily life. Regularly tapping into something bigger than ourselves – God, Source, Higher Self, Divine, Universe (or whatever you choose to call it) helps all of us love and trust more freely, be compassionate, and give to others.
9. Family (Given or Chosen) First Blue Zone: Centenarians live with their extended families. There are few old folks homes in Blue Zone communities. The elderly are revered for their wisdom and are looked up to in society. Ayurveda: When a couple is married in India, the wife moves into the groom’s parents’ home. Grandparents and great grandparents are respected, as they are the kings and queens of the castle. Blue Zone research has confirmed that these are strategies and lifestyle practices that have been in place for thousands of years. The thriving centenarians seen in Blue Zones are positive proof that this ancient wisdom can deliver more than just longevity to anyone willing to try.
While it can be near on impossible to uphold all these nine principles or practices 24/7; Ayurveda is about doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.
It’s not just about living long. It’s more about living well. Happily. Easefully. Living a life which you fully enjoy. All it takes is being open to learning some new ways of looking at your life and yourself.
Curious? I am offering to introduce you to this life-changing knowledge, and a chance to really get to know your body if you put it into practice.
Join my Good Change online course for women – my flagship programme and the most ‘hands on’ transformative course on Ayurveda, nutrition and behavioural science. Early Bird doors close this Sunday 8 August.