Personal Blue Zone

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):

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Just your daily reminder that correlation does not imply causation (see point 7 for example).

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And point 6 for that matter. People who can afford a glass of wine probably can also afford a healthier diet, or are just more diet-conscious. I don’t know, the point is, these two facts may have a common cause, not that one is the cause and other the consequence.

This is an interesting topic, I think we can all live healthier, but having fun is still a must :slight_smile: In the following I will tell you how I have fulfilled some of the above mentioned points for me. I am 33 years old and I have also questioned my lifestyle lately. During a time out, my girlfriend and I decided to apply for an allotment garden(?) in Swiss german ‘Schrebergarten’. We got it right away (250m2, yearly costs 330Fr). It is the perfect place after a stressful
office day (mostly sitting) to let your soul dangle, to be creative yourself and of course to plant healthy beans. Also I could develop my handicraft skills. It takes a lot of time to manage it, no question, but I have my workout and time to switch off. It sounds like a RE hobby, but there is definitely a diverse and also young community. Last but not least, you can have friends over until dawn and nobody cares :slight_smile: thanks for sharing and I hope you can start with a few points… You dont need to start all at once. Happy life everyone

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Sure, there might be other factors at play, but it’s quite remarkable that the difference is so huge.

Just today I was visiting friend in his family garden in Zurich. It’s an awesome hobby. Once my son will get a little bit older, I’ll consider renting this recreational vegetable garden. :slight_smile:

PS. Wow, I didn’t know it’s so cheap. That’s great news. Perfect mustachian hobby - cheap and craft-skills-building.

In Bern it’s pretty hard to get in, especially if you don’t have children. I apllied for one, knowing that it could take years until I’d be offered one.
But yeah, it’s very cool and cheap. You just have to remember that it is also quite some work. They require you to actually use your garden, and neighbors are said to report you if you don’t comply with all the rules. :slight_smile:

Depending on the parcel they even let you build/renovate a small shack/house, which can kind of become a weelend getaway. (Allthough you’re not allowed to sleep in it, because of fire regulations. Don’t know the rules about sleeping outside.)

I LOL-ed the first time I saw these gardens, because they are usually full of waving national flags. Albania, Italy, you name it. People display their national pride in the weirdest of places. I have a piece of land on the Swiss territory, so I will boast my heritage there :slight_smile:

How Swiss that is. :-p

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It’s not even their territory. I don’t understand national pride (or other prides for something that you haven’t achieved yourself), but this example of national pride is truly comical and bizarre.

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Do you struggle to cheer for some soccer team or tennis players too? Because I do… How could one be excited about an achievement of others?

I also hardly ever experience pride for that reason.

But cheering doesn’t require you to take any responsibility for an outcome.
It can simply be:
You have reasons to want team 1 to win (e.g. they play beautifully, your friends want them to win, or the have your sympathy). You either believe cheering helps them win (in a stadium), or you’re part of a group where you want to show that you belong, or cheering makes you happy in itself.

Wanting someone to win is actually almost a prerequisite to actually pay attention and enjoy any game. So it can somewhat become circular, where you search for reasons that team 1 is your favourite in order to increase your enjoyment.

I do remember that hardcore fans at football games used to say “we won”. But I believe it was more about showing your identity rather than claiming it was part of your achievement.

I’m guilty of cheering for exceptionally good Polish sportspeople who made it in a discipline where there was no success for a long time. I cheered for Golota, Malysz, Kubica, Lewandowski. That last Champions League final, I had no beef in the game, but I’ve been following Lewandowski’s career for 10 years, so I was pumped to see him finally achieve his dream.

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Sorry for detouring the thread a bit more. I remember going to a soccer game about 12 years ago with a friend and feeling extremely uncomfortable with everyone around me jumping and cheering for the winning team, while I had 0 empathy or excitement for the sport and the team. /shrug what I can get excited about tho are scientific achievements like SpaceX’s Crew mission or the falcon heavy launch when the two boosters landed back on the ground almost synchronous. Should I be worried about that?

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Yes, I don’t watch this. Welfare benefits and state-sponsored sports for me is modern “bread and circus”, and it will have the same effect on our civilisation as it had on Roman one. I hate television in general, I believe it is producing mindless people.

Maybe now…but a while ago TV made nations. Ask the italians. (now it’s rubbish though)

That’s another reason why I hate TV. I preferred the small Communities and small states we had before.

Going back to the topic of longevity band healthy lifestyle. I made a quiz determining how long I’m gonna live on the blue zones website, and this is my result with their recommendations how to improve:

Your Life expectancy is 76.5 years and your healthy life expectancy (the years free of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes) is 65.0. You can add up to 19.8 more years to your life and add healthy years to your life by optimizing your lifestyle and environment. Below are recommendations specific to you and information on how to implement these recommendations. For a more comprehensive approach to making these changes try our online course Staying Alive: 9 Habits for Living a Longer, Healthier Life.

WHOLE GRAINS

Scientific studies have shown that whole grains do far more to cut our risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes than refined grains.

What’s the difference? Whole grain foods still include the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm, the USDA notes. In refined grains, the bran and the germ have been milled out. That means those foods (think white bread, white rice) have a finer texture and longer shelf life, but they lack a lot of what’s good for you, including fiber, iron and a number of B vitamins.

So it’s a real problem that most Americans do not get the necessary daily recommended servings of whole grains: 3- to 4-ounce equivalents for most men and women. (Find out which foods constitute a serving on this government table.)

There are lots of recipes that can help you increase your daily serving of whole grains. Here’s one to start with: Ikarian-style sourdough bread, and a video on how they make it in Ikaria, Greece.

ENJOY FRUIT

Fruits are a fantastic source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes. As the Mayo Clinic notes, fruit is packed with natural phytochemicals that help prevent a wide variety of ailments, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Think vitamin and mineral supplements are just as good? They aren’t, scientific studies say – one medical journal editorial called the pills a waste of money.

Here are a few recipes to get more actual fruit in your meals:

EAT GREENS

Not a big veggie fan? You’re not alone. Only about 9 percent of U.S. adults are eating daily recommended amounts of vegetables (2 to 3 cups), the CDC reports.

But it’s time to give veggies another chance (and we’re going to help you make them taste great).

The case for vegetables is clear: They are packed with nutrients, high in fiber, and low in sugar and calories. (To see which vegetables are true “powerhouse” foods, check out this CDC list that ranks veggies based on their nutrition density.) Veggies help lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, and likely some cancers. Vegetables can also lower the risk of eye and digestive problems and mellow the effect on blood sugar that can keeps appetite in check.

But we know your dispute with vegetables is that they are … yucky. Right? Wrong! Vegetables can be delicious – you just need the right dishes. Here are a few Blue Zones recipes to get you started:

EAT LESS MEAT

The World Health Organization recently issued a report that had a lot of meat-lovers seeing red. It concluded that eating processed meats like bacon, ham and lunch meats can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, noting that red meats like beef and pork are “probably carcinogenic.”

In the Blue Zones, people don’t eat nearly the amounts of meat that Americans do. We found that people there on average were eating small amounts of meat, about 2 ounces or less at a time (a portion the size of a deck of cards), about five times per month.

Looking for ways to eat less meat? The American Cancer Society offers this tip: Treat meat more like a side dish, not the main one. And the American Heart Association offers this advice: Limit yourself to lean meat like skinless chicken and fish, and less than 6 ounces total per day. For more, check out the Reducetarian movement, which urges people to reduce meat consumption (but not cut it out altogether).

Here are four tasty and filling Blue Zones plant-based recipes that make a great main dish for any meal:

DUMP JUNK

The joys of junk food are clear: It’s cheap, fast, tasty and available everywhere. But America’s favorite sweets, snacks and fast food are also chock full of calories from refined sugars and artery-clogging fats, loaded with sodium and lacking anything of nutritional value, including fiber, vitamins and minerals.

There’s no question that junk food has made America fat and is a growing health hazard worldwide. Eating these foods can lead to any number of ailments, including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and many types of cancer.

But here’s the good news: Cutting junk food out of your diet may not be as hard as you think. Blue Zones Checklists offer science-backed tips on how to set up your environment to cut out junk food and eat healthier.

CUT SODIUM

Shaking your salt habit will help you lower blood pressure, which can curb risk of stroke and heart disease. A recent study also suggested that high sodium intake is also bad for our bones.

But Americans love their salt. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day; U.S. government guidelines recommend less than 2,300 milligrams. But most U.S. adults get way more than that, roughly 3,400 milligrams. And the salt shaker is not our biggest enemy. More than 75 percent of our sodium intake comes from restaurant and processed foods (roughly 40 percent of it comes from a list of 10 of high-sodium foods, including pizza and deli meats).

For tips on how to change your environment to eat less salt and lead healthier lives, check out our Blue Zones Kitchen Checklist.

BE FRIENDLY

Research suggests that strong friendships may lead to a longer life. That certainly seems true in the world’s Blue Zones, where social connectedness is the traditional norm. In Japan, they have a name for close-knit circles of friends who lean on each other for support throughout their lives: moai.

It makes sense when you think about the things our friends do for us. As the Mayo Clinic notes, friends take an interest in our health and well-being, increase our happiness and reduce stress, help us cope with trauma and drama in our lives, and boost our sense of purpose (which is also among the secrets to longevity in the Blue Zones).

The lesson? Nurture the friendships you have, especially the ones with healthy, happy people.

You can learn more about tending those relationships in these articles:

HAVE FAITH

The one Blue Zone in the U.S. is in Loma Linda, California, which includes a cluster of Seventh Day Adventists. Much of their lifestyle (healthier plant-based diets, no smoking, pursuit of a strong sense of purpose) are likely contributors to their longevity.

But it’s also likely that routinely gathering together in faith leads to their longer lives. How do we know? All but five of the 263 Blue Zones centenarians we interviewed were part of a faith-based community. And when we crunched the numbers, we found that attending faith-based services four times a month added 4-14 years to the lives of the faithful.

Less frequent churchgoing seems to have health benefits, too; a recent sample of about 3,600 adults over 7.5 years found that those who attended a service at least once a month saw about a 30 percent reduced risk of death. Attending a religious service can foster what scientists call “social integration.” Building a strong social network of both family and friends has been shown to foster good mental and physical health.

Learn more about purpose, faith and how your outlook affects longevity: Purpose, Faith and the Right Outlook

DON’T IGNORE DEPRESSION

Science tells us that depression is a real enemy of longevity. The condition is often associated with a number of unhealthy behaviors, including smoking and drinking, getting too little sleep and overeating. A World Health Organization survey concluded that depression can be even more damaging to health than chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes and arthritis. And depression is not uncommon – roughly 7.6 percent of people in the U.S. over age 12 suffer from it.

Important Tips:

  • Most important, if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from depression, don’t ignore it – get medical help. A wide variety of treatments are available, which may include therapy or medications, and health care professionals can help you decide what’s best for you, the WHO notes.
  • Pay attention to your diet. For example, studies suggest that people deficient in folic acid have higher risk of depression. Good sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, grains and legumes. Also pay attention to how you feel when you eat. People who eat when they feel depressed tend to have the most trouble losing weight, which can lead to other health problems.
  • Exercise. If you are depressed, exercising might seem like the last thing you want to do, but it could make a big difference, the Mayo Clinic says. Here are Mayo’s tips on how to get started.
  • Lean on your friends and family. A strong support network is key to recovering from depression – and reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, notes HelpGuide.org, an emotional health website. The site offers 10 tips for reaching out and building relationships.
  • Get screened for depression, especially as you get older. Depression is the most common form of mental illness among older adults, but it is also one of the most successfully treated illnesses, the CDC notes.
  • Have faith. Recent studies have suggested that people who are more religious are at lower risk of depression than those who are not spiritual.

ANXIETY AND STRESS

We’ve all felt moments of stress and anxiety. And in our busy in lives in a fast-moving world, sometimes we feel it routinely, along with the ill-health effects that stress creates.

But as with depression, stress is very treatable. A number of healthy habits can help you handle stress, from exercise and eating right to sleeping more and spending time with friends.

Learn more about maximizing health and longevity with this Blue Zones article on stress management, which includes four tips on effective strategies for combating stress in your life. The American Heart Association also has good advice on how to reduce stress.

IMPROVE YOUR ATTITUDE

Anger can surface in many places – in line at a coffee shop, or in traffic. Or maybe your anger runs deeper in the form of a long-simmering frustration over an issue at work or at home.

Anger is a normal human emotion, but coping with it effectively is key to your health. Festering anger can eventually erode important relationships in your life, as well as put you at higher risk for ailments from high blood pressure to heart disease.

So finding the right coping strategies can both smooth out your days and improve your longevity. One strategy: For one week, note the events and situations in your life that trigger a negative physical, mental or emotional response. Then seriously consider: What could you do differently next time to make yourself feel better about these events?

For more, check out these three suggestions from the Blue Zones Power 9 Principles designed to help you outsmart anger.

The Mayo Clinic also has “10 tips to tame your temper,” which include using humor, and learning to let go of a grudge.

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Sounds a bit “sect-y” to me, but there are certainly some good points to take away to live a healthier life.
Go raise those 76!

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These days I feel like I can join even Charles Manson sect to motivate myself to change my lifestyle to a more healthy one.

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