THE HAPPIEST / HEALTHIEST PLACES ON EARTH – BLUE ZONES

We all have goals and aspirations in life but I would suggest If you were to ask people what their number one goal would be as they grow older, I suspect good health would be well up many peoples list. Easier said than done, and you only have to switch on the news in any of part of the western world today to find stories breaking regarding levels of illness in society, overcrowding of hospitals and the complete breakdown of health and wellbeing right across society. 

It’s very depressing stuff..... however did you know that there are parts of the world where in fact the complete opposite is the case, and in fact, many people live fit and healthy lives well into their 90’s and even over 100 years old.  

What have the following five different parts of the world (otherwise known as Blue Zones) have in common?

1.   The Italian island of Sardinia.

2.   Okinawa, Japan.

3.   Loma Linda, California.

4.   Costa Rica's isolated Nicoya Peninsula.

5.   Ikaria, an isolated Greek island.

Blue zones are places in the world where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else on earth. The population in areas designated as blue zones typically live to 90 / 100 years old. Interestingly these areas comprise not only the oldest groups of people on earth but also the healthiest and happiest people on earth, who don’t do medications and often work well into there 80’s.

I am an avid reader and podcast junkie, and it was listing to Rich Rolls podcast over Christmas where I came across the fantastic Dan Buettner, who has written two books on the subject and spent over five years visiting these countries studying its people, their habits and even their levels of happiness. Five blue zones have so far been identified and thoroughly researched by Buettner in partnership with National Geographic, and the findings are particularly interesting.

What is the secret

I hear you ask this question?  Do these groups of people wear fit bits and engage in cross fit and pilates every day along with swimming, meditating and drinking lots of protein shakes?  Believe it or not – none of the above really.

After five years of research and investigations Buettner was able to determine that the secret to health and longevity lay in the natives of these blue zones lifestyle.  When we talk about lifestyle we are talking about a healthy diet, a family orientated lifestyle (where you include the family as often as possible), daily exercise, reduction of stress, a sense of purpose, along with some kind of religion or belief mechanism.  In a nutshell combing all of the above has allowed the communities of the blue zones to be recognised as areas in the world that comprise the most centenarians. 

As I was making my way through Buettner’s book I couldn’t help but notice how simple the lives of the people in these areas actually were, which I found quite refreshing and also inspiring. 

Although it may seem hard to achieve this lifestyle, the absolute simplicity and power of it should actually be refreshing and uplifting. Society today particularly in western countries, is dominated by pharmaceutical companies and conventional medicine as a means to fix sickness, however as I have went on my own journey trying to fight Multiple Sclerosis, in actual fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  It was only when I started to understand that by me helping and facilitating the bodies natural healing process through a more natural and unconventional approach to my own MS challenge, did I notice a remarkable improvement in my own health both physically and mentally. 

The reality is (and it can take some time and research to understand this), but the gift of a long and healthy life is already in the hands of each and every one of us. Scientists believe that over 75% of all illnesses is as a result of the environments we all keep,  - what an incredible stat!! 

Our environment of course being what we eat, drink, the air we breathe, how we think and interact with others and finally how we move.  This can be wrapped up in one word – our lifestyles.  

Nutrition

Food and nutrition plays a key role in keeping us all healthy and alive.  One of the great things about society today relates to the amount of information available now through on line, podcasts, Netflix, books, scientific journals and the rest, where the facts around the science of food are available for all of us to mine through and more importantly learn from which will allow us to make better food choices.  Personally I went on a journey a number of years ago, which has lead, me to a plant based whole food diet, which largely makes up the menu of the communities who live in the blue zones, which tells its own story. 

Exercise

Again there is a tonne of evidence now available to prove scientifically the benefits of exercise and how regular exercise can help you fight off illness and disease and keep your body and mind strong.  The communities of the blue zones exercise daily, cycle or walk most of the time and have an element of manual labour throughout each day keeping the muscles active and blood circulating regularly.

Don't do Stress

Who doesn’t want a stress free life and to live happy?  Again easier said than done. Buettner found in his work that those who live long and healthy in the blue zones unanimously live low stress, happy lives enriched with strong family ties, a sense of purpose, and a healthy dose of spirituality, and also worth noting - plenty of sleep!!!

If we are all generally happy, then our actions will lead us to doing those things in life on a regular basis that promote health and wellbeing.  If we do these things like eating well, exercising daily etc…. then its easy to understand how beneficial that can be for our wellbeing which would lead to all of us living longer healthier lives. Simple ey?

Those that are living a life constantly full of stress, anger, and resentment have high levels of cortisol constantly flowing in their bodies. The long-term effects of this are dramatic, increasing blood pressure, and generally increasing the onset and severity of heart disease and several other major diseases and illnesses including mental health disorders and cancers etc.  How many people do you know has had a breakdown over stress, working too hard, poor mental health?  Unfortunately it’s way too common in this day and age.  These kinds of people are few and far between in areas known as the blue zones.

It's a Choice

So there you have it, living long and healthy is not mysterious and not overly complicated to understand, more so a choice. The unfortunate part of all of this is that most of us are simply making the wrong choices in life, which is leading to bad health and impacting our own levels of happiness and overall fulfilment.  The very interesting part of all of this is that you do not actually need to live in a blue zone to kick-start or change your life and your health for the good.  No matter where you live in the world, you can very easily adopt as much as possible, a lot of the science and data we now know about people who do live in these zones and how they live their lives from day to day.  It's not complicated and for me personally, I have adopted many of these practices and brought them into my own life on a daily basis, and I live in Ireland, which is unfortunately not going to be classified a blue zone anytime soon, given the huge health problems our own society is currently facing.

It is important to say that living long and healthy like people in the blue zones is not achieved through shortcuts or quick fixes. You can’t exercise on Saturday and simply ignore the many other ingredients the rest of the week – that simply wont work.  You need to embrace the lifestyle in its entirety and bring all of the elements involved into your daily routine.   

If you feel you are interested in finding out more information on this, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of Buettner’s two books on the topic, and slowly but surely, start to change how you go about your daily life.  This work is not anecdotal, the research is there to prove and demonstrate that if you are disciplined enough to adopt this lifestyle, sooner rather than later you will start to reap the rewards, and if you stick with it long enough, you will more likely live a lot longer, more rewarding purposeful life.

I would also recommend you go check out Buettner’s website, www.bluezones.com  which sets out clearly all of the information you need to understand this lifestyle and it’s benefits.  

#I R O N M I N D 

You can find me on Instagram at @conorDevineIM or twitter @conor_devine

 An Incredible read

An Incredible read

Conor DevineComment