Staying active, eating healthy, and sleeping sufficiently are keys to having a long and fruitful life, according to the world’s longest-lived people. It’s not only about what you do on your own, though. In Blue Zones locations like Okinawa, Japan, and Sardinia, Italy, where people live longer, healthier lives than anywhere else on Earth, maintaining solid connections is also a pillar of life.
After directing a team of demographers, biologists, and anthropologists to locate these locations, author and researcher Dan Buettner launched Blue Zones, a platform that provides information on the everyday behaviours of the inhabitants who live there. The researchers discovered that these places have a lot in common. Many of them, for example, focused on interacting with others, demonstrating that great relationships can help you live longer.
People in Blue Zones do five things in particular to emphasise and develop their social connections.
1. Make deep emotional bonds in your relationships.
Keeping your friends and family close can affect not just your happiness, but also your health span, or the number of years you live without contracting a disease. “Many studies have shown that people with lots of friends and loving relationships in their lives have lower rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and possibly even cancer,” Richard Honaker, MD, a family medicine physician and chief medical advisor for Your Doctors Online, previously told Well+Good.
Dr. Honaker has personally investigated this link with ageing people in Bao, China (not a Blue Zone, but a place known as The Longevity Village). “Our research indicated that people were healthy and ageing was slowed as long as they stayed in the village and adopted the village lifestyle,” he says. “However, if they departed for work in one of China’s major cities, their health would suffer.”
2. Maintain a social life that is lively.
Finding individuals you connect with and scheduling time to meet them, whether through a religious group, a reading club, or a yoga studio, can have a significant impact on your lifespan. “Research after study reveals that having a faith may prolong longevity,” says Dr. Honaker. This is most likely due to the fact that you surround yourself with people who share your beliefs and meet with them on a frequent basis.
3. Make mealtime (and drink time) a time for socialising.
Blue Zone residents are recognised for their plant-based diets and moderate alcohol consumption. Consider the inhabitants of Sardinia, Italy. They consume red wine on a regular basis. Meanwhile, residents of Okinawa, Japan, enjoy drinking awamori, a distilled rice liquor. They’re not, however, eating and drinking alone; instead, they’re sharing the experience with their loved ones.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian, epidemiologist, and medical writer, told Better By Today that people in Blue Zones regions “eat to live, not live to eat.” “Each meal is an opportunity to interact with others, spend time with family, and express thanks for all of life’s blessings. They taste the cuisine, enjoy the company, and slow down for a while.”
4. Maintain a sexually healthy lifestyle
More than 80% of persons between the ages of 65 and 100 have sex in the Blue Zone region of Ikaria, Greece. Of course, sex is a wonderful way for people to connect. Sex triggers the release of hormones that aid in human couple bonding and generates an intimacy feedback loop. Sex can help you and your spouse show up more completely in the relationship by reducing stress, boosting confidence, and leading to a better night’s sleep on an individual level.
5. Maintain a geographical proximity to loved ones.
Family members stay close to each other geographically and physically in Blue Zones because they are close-knit communities. It takes a village to raise a child, as the phrase goes, and being close to family (including your chosen family) means having a support system. In addition, younger people are available to assist the elderly.
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