For some time I had this idea, that I want to live a happy, healthy and long life. While researching this matter, I stumbled upon the Blue Zones - the regions where people live unusually long and healthy (and presumably happy too). Since, I live mostly unhealthy (although pretty happy, yet full of weird modern anxieties) life, I decided to adapt my lifestyle for long-term well-being, happiness and longevity.
Here are my comments and ideas on building a Personal Blue Zone (based on The Power 9 from Blue Zones website):
- Move naturally - The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron or run marathons. Instead, their environments nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
My idea: I need to start stretching 3 times a day, walking 2 times a day, biking once a day, hiking once a week, dancing once a week. Although I’m not sure how to organise the last two with a small kid at home.
- Purpose - Why do you wake up in the morning? Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
My idea: This is a hard one. I think this can have multiple dimensions - on one hand, my general purpose is to live a happy and sustainable life and to provide for my family, so they can live a happy and sustainable life; on the other hand, I could decompose this and ask myself - what is the purpose of my work? what is the purpose of my hobbies/free-time? what is the purpose of spending time with family and friends? Last one is easy to answer - they provide me joy, happiness, satisfaction and sense of meaning and being needed. But answer to second and first is not trivial - I don’t know what’s the point of my work except that I make money and sometimes enjoy it (there are periods when my work makes me enthusiastic, but there are periods when it makes me miserable). I feel that it would be more rewarding to work on something that brings money, is fun and also contribute to other people happiness (but the last one is the most difficult to achieve). At this point of my life, I won’t become a doctor saving lives, I won’t invent a cancer cure, I won’t save the humanity from self-destruction, I won’t discover anything. I’m not sure how I could contribute more and gain more happiness from the contributions. Maybe I should focus more on being more “contribution-productive” in hobbies/free-time. In my free time (outside of family time), I tend to circulate between self-improvement topics (reading books about personal finance, general self-improvement, parenting and child psychology, etc) and being libertarian activist (mostly translator to one of the biggest Polish free-market think tanks). I think both of these things contribute to society - first, by self-educating myself I provide my environment a positive example to others; second, by translating economics articles to Polish I increase the access to scientific and popular science knowledge in Poland. But maybe I could contribute more or differently? I don’t know, it’s a hard problem to solve and I can’t find any obvious answer to this.
- Down Shift - Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every majorr age-related disease. The world’s longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress.
My idea: I need to meditate and walk more. I’m thinking about buying a guitar and start learning (again) to play simple songs. Paradoxically, I also need to think how to organise time for myself - as my child is the biggest source of happiness in my life, he’s also the biggest source of stress and time/attention eater - the second being my work and third my hobbies (weird, but true because it’s frustrating to see yourself failing in your goals while being focused on self-improvement, similarly it’s frustrating to preach libertarian ideals and see society going in completely opposite direction).
- 80% Rule - “Hara haci bu” - the Okinawans say this mantra before meals as a reminder to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full.
My idea: Start cooking smaller portions. Well, to be precise, start cooking in general. I’m terrible cook, so as the most un-mustachian solution, I’ve decided to buy a Thermomix.
- Plant Slant - The cornerstone of most centenarian diets? Beans. They typically eat meat - mostly prok - only five times per month.
My idea: Switch to plant-based (semi-vegan) diet. I’m thinking about eating vegan 4 times a week, eating meat twice a week and eating fish once a week.
- Wine@5 - Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends.
My idea: Develop a glass of red wine with friends once-twice a week habit. I’m not sure how to implement this, due to small kids, but this one is not my priority - as a Polish a find myself drinking more often than this anyway. It’s just natural for an Eastern European.
- Belong - Attending faith-based services four times per month - no matter the denomination - adds up to 14 years of life expectancy.
My idea: This one was quite shocking to me. I consider myself a God-agnostic cultural post-Catholic and I’ve lost my faith and got irritated with the Church over years more and more. To the extend that I stopped attending all services few years ago. I’m not sure if I can switch back to service attendance and more-sympathetic attitude to the Church. Maybe I could, but maybe I should find an alternative - I need to find a semi-ideological or semi-moralistic, supportive, cohesive and integrated community that will engage me and that I can believe in. This is really hard, especially as an expat in Switzerland. One such candidate would be a Polish expat community, another a mustachian one, or a libertarian one, or maybe a completely new one that I have currently nothing in common? I don’t know.
- Loved Ones First - Centenarians put their families first. They keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit to a life partner and invest in their children.
My idea: I don’t have a problems with this, but - as an expat - I rather focus on my wife and child, and I’m not in regular contact with my parents and my brother (or my Polish friends or extended family). I know that multi-generational families live longer, but it would be hard for me to switch to multi-generational household after living a comfortable life in a “nuclear” family. As an alternative, I think I need to spend as much time with family and friends at home, and visit more often my parents and brother (and friends and extended family) in Poland. For that I need to plan ahead more vacations (or remote work) in Poland.
- Right Tribe - The world’s longest lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviors.
My idea: I think I need to eventually move to a “healthy” neighbourhood and integrate with the neighbours. I currently stick to a small Polish (or general expat) community in Zug, but I don’t have much to do with locals. I don’t think my “community” is particularly unhealthy (except that I think people tend to overwork themselves and over-consume their hard-worked money). I wish I had a healthy community (with kids for my son’s company) with whom I could meet more often (on daily basis?), and we could together live a healthy lifestyle and reinforce each other’s good habits. I don’t have a good solution for this, but I think I need to either learn Swiss German and integrate with the local people, or move back to Poland and find/build my community there. Time will tell what I’ll do.