Blue… it really is the happiest colour!
Who says the colour blue implies sadness? In my ongoing desire to live a healthier, happier life, I have done some research into the habits of those who life full, meaningful lives and discovered something called a Blue Zone. A Blue Zone is defined as a region that boasts the highest number of centenarians and overall longevity in terms of life expectancy of it’s inhabitants. There are five of these zones across the globe: Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Icaria, Greece. The term “Blue Zone” is actually trademarked and was created by a guy named Dan Buettner in 2005 after he researched these regions over the course of a number of years based on the work of a couple of demographers named Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain.
Now, if there was one thing I am sure we could all agree on is that we would all like to live healthier, happier, and longer lives. Healthier. Happier. Longer. And, while our perception as to how we get there or achieve this may vary, I am sure we can all agree that this is something we all desire. Having spent a significant amount of time in Costa Rica over the years, where the mantra is “pura vida” I can honestly see how these people like longer, healthier, and happier lives than the majority of us. It’s an environment that is incredibly conducive to living a “pure life” and a place I hope to call home someday.
So, what does a long, healthy, and happy life look like to you? And, what are you currently doing to fulfill this vision or live this lifestyle? Or perhaps, what are you willing to do or change in order to get there?
“So, what does a long, healthy, and happy life look like to you? What are you willing to do or change in order to get there?”
I often wonder if it’s possible for one of those things to come at the expense of the other in terms of longevity, health, and happiness? I’m not sure any truly healthy activity (if done in balance and moderation) could come at the expense of your overall happiness? However, are there things we do that make us happy that come at the expense of our health? Let that one sink in for a minute. Are there things we do to feel good, to be happy, that have a negative impact on our health?
We can rationalize anything, can’t we? And hey, I’m the first one to admit that I do this on a regular basis! “One more glass of wine… it’s summertime… I’m socializing… Hey, it’s heart-smart wine!”
I know for myself, a balanced and healthy lifestyle can seem a little overwhelming or even extremes at times. Like it’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Like it’s at odds with being happy and enjoying life. Why do French fries have to taste so darn good! But seriously, it should really be about making small incremental changes that simply enhance what you are currently doing.
Living a healthy, balanced lifestyle doesn’t have to feel like you’re missing out on anything or compromising those things that make you feel good. I think at times in our quest to be healthier, we are too hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up if we miss a day of exercise because we are binge watching Netflix. Or, we get down if we choose that Vente Pumpkin Spice Latte (470 calories) instead of the green tea. Let’s face it, the majority of us are not elite athletes or personal development gurus who live the seemingly perfect lifestyle. Most of us are just a bunch of Ordinary Joe’s doing the best we can from our “current state of consciousness” (thanks Deepak). Living the ideal life has to be on your terms, on your schedule, and has to fit your identity, not someone else’s.
“Living the ideal life has to be on your terms, on your schedule, and has to fit your identity, not someone else’s.”
So, before we pat ourselves on the back and go back to a state of rationalizing our lack of discipline that leads to excuses and lethargy, I want to take you back to the concept of the Blue Zones for some inspiration. What I find most interesting about the people that live long, healthy lives, is that their health and well being is really woven into their everyday lifestyles. It’s not seen as something that is compartmentalized, but rather part of their overall being. And, what is fascinating to me is that of the five Blue Zones, Buettner discovered through his research that there were nine traits that were shared by the people in each of these regions. The “Power 9” as it is called consists of the following:
Moderate, regular physical activity
Plant based diet
Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine (WOOHOO!)
Engagement in spirituality or religion
Engagement in family life
Engagement in social life
Like anything in life, moderation is the key. What is interesting to note is that none of the above are truly extreme in terms of how they are applied or followed by those in the Blue Zones. Moderate physical activity doesn’t mean being a cross-fit pro or running marathons… it means going for walks, working in the garden, or simply being more active and less sedentary. Following a plant based diet doesn’t mean becoming a vegan or even a vegetarian… it simply means eating more vegetables and less meat. More fish and beans, and less fried or processed foods.
I think what I find the most interesting about the nine traits listed above are the number of things that are more mental, emotional, and psychological in nature. Having a purpose in life, reducing stress, having faith in something, and engaging in meaningful relationships with family and friends all have a significant impact on our overall health and well being. Socializing with the people you love over a glass of red wine can actually help you live longer!
But none of these things can be done in isolation. They are not mutually exclusive. Finding balance and consistency can be difficult and I’m certainly not the expert in balance and consistency. But I try… and when I fall down or miss a day or just don’t feel like it, I get back up and get back on track. One day at a time. It’s not slow and steady. It’s mindful and deliberate, without strain or self-inflicted tension.
“It’s all about the power of love… Love being the ultimate tonic and elixir for a life well lived.”
Something that helps me do this is a simple passage I read years ago from a book on yoga and meditation. I’d reference the book if I could but only have this passage saved in my phone. It’s simple, honest, and forces me to pause, gain perspective, breath, and most importantly, just live my life.
“Many people say they just want a normal life. But there is actually no such thing. There is just life. We cannot spend our time complaining about what we could have been. We cannot regret anything. Everything that has come before us makes us who we are right now. Looking back to what could have been distracts us from the path that lies before us. We wouldn’t be here if we had made other choices. That path is irrelevant.
Pay attention to the path you are on. Meet your challenges, face your fears, and live your life. That’s a life well lived.”
I suppose for me, it’s all about the power of love… Love of self. Love of the experience that is life…. the good and the bad. Love for humanity and the magic that surrounds us every single day. Love being the ultimate tonic and elixir for a life well lived.
So, as we drift into autumn and breath in the cool, crisp air and marvel at the red, orange, and yellow leaves that paint the landscape, close your eyes for a moment. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and think “blue.” Think of the colour of happiness, health, and longevity.