Welcome to La Vie en Bleu a series where I share what Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, reveals as powerful and simple lessons that can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life. We continue with the seventh of nine lessons from the Blue Zones, five unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led to not only an amazing number of years lived, but also a better quality of life.

Lesson Seven: Belong
Healthy centenarians in the Blue Zones belong to and participate in a spiritual community. They have faith.

The simple act of worship appears to be one of those powerful habits that seem to improve your chances of adding a few more quality years to your life. Studies show that attending religious services—even as infrequently as once a month—may make a difference in how long a person lives. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu.

If you don’t subscribe to any specific religion, or if you haven’t had a positive experience with religion, you may want to explore a belief that is not based on strict dogma. Belonging to a religious community helps one develop large and meaningful social networks. This may help some to have a higher self-esteem and self worth as religion can often encourage positive expectations, which can improve heath.

When I first read about this lesson form the Blue Zones I thought about my aunt who is 91 years old. She has always been one of those active and elegant women who always looks put together–hair nicely coiffed, nails manicured and clothing quite chic. As she has gotten older, she has quite naturally slowed down. She doesn’t entertain guests or go out as often, but one activity that is like her life-line is going to church at the same time every week. I think it makes her happy to not only have the weekly continuity to participate, but also to experience the familiarity of her spiritual community.

People who pay attention to their spiritual side often have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, depression, stress, and their immune system seems to be a little stronger. The faithful seem to be both healthier and happier.

Tips and strategies to strengthen the spiritual dimension of you Blue Zone
Be more involved
Find a spiritual community where you can belong. If you already belong to a religious community, find ways to be more actively involved. For example, volunteering and/or joining a choir.

Explore new tradition
If you do not have a particular religious faith, try a faith community. Explore your options including the faith communities listed above and other non-traditional communities like Unitarian Universalism and the American Ethical Union. I’m sure there may be others. Explore!

Keep an open mind
Keep an open mind and just go. Try it out.

La Vie en Bleu will continue with lesson number eight from the Blue Zones on how to live a healthier and happier life. Won’t you join me?

xo,
Martine

The Blue Zones include: 
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Ikaria, Greece
Sardinia, Italy
Okinawa, Japan
Loma Linda, California

Related sites:
The Island Where People Forget to Die
Blue Zones
Life in the Blue Zone

8 thoughts on “Get Involved

  1. Hi, Martine – Thanks for sharing this. I am so interested in the blue zones. Ironically, my husband spent four days in Loma Linda, California for a head and neck surgical training conference about a week ago. It is a Seventh Day Adventist community. The group is very spiritual, very active and extremely health conscious! I am Jewish, but I enjoy taking lessons and teachings that are positive from any faith or spiritual group. Have a great day. Warmly – Shanna

    1. Hi Shanna, how neat that you’re not only familiar with the Blue Zones, but also that your husband was in one of them recently. I studied public health at Loma Linda’s School of Public Health. The town is super small and known mostly for the Medical Center and the Medical and Dental Schools. As you’re Jewish, you probably also heard that they observe the same Jewish Sabbath (Friday night sundown to sundown). So glad you’re interested in the Blue Zones! I think the lessons are great and relatively easy to practice if we make it a priority to live better, healthier lives. From time to time I will try to relate posts (recipes and other interests) to Blue Zone values. Speaking of healthy recipes, I’m hoping to create a section on my site called “Petit Appetit” for healthy recipes for little ones. My challenge is finding time!! 🙂

      1. Hi, Martine,
        Thank you for your note. Well, we certainly do have a lot in common! Tell me more about Loma Linda – there is a one year opportunity for my husband there that he is considering! Yes, you are right about shabbos – we share a shabbat with the SDA community. I love focusing on all the ways that we are connected – and similar – to others! 🙂 I look forward to reading more about Blue Zones. Oh, and I love your Petit Appetit idea. If you would like to team up on this, let me know. It sounds like a fabulous idea. Yes – time – there is never enough. Take good care – and thank you for your kind response. Best wishes, Shanna

        1. Hi Shanna,
          Well, as in most places there are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to living in Loma Linda. A few advantages: it’s located a little over an hour away from the mountains/skiing, the beach, and the dessert so you have lots of different terrains very near. The city is in the San Bernardino valley so in the winter time, when the Santa Anna winds come through to blow the smog away, you find you are surrounded by snowcapped mountains, well foothills really, but it’s relatively pretty. However, in the summertime it CRAZY hot, and the valley is filled with smog (pollution from LA’s heavy traffic) and it’s basically an armpit of Cali. There’s not much to really “do” in Loma Linda–you can hike some hills but for any entertainment (restaurants, movies, shopping, etc) you have to go to neighboring towns. Considering it is a Blue Zone and the whole town is centered around the University and Medical Center, I think there’s always been great potential for it to be a really cool health forward city, but something has always been missing. If your post would be for just a year, I think it would be fine, especially if you’ve never lived in California. I LOVE California and living a year in Loma Linda would allow you the opportunity to explore the beauties of California. From Loma Linda you could drive to all sorts of beautiful places/cities–San Diego, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and the list goes on.If you have any questions, let me know!
          As for teaming up on Petit Appetit, sure! How? I’m open to ideas. I’m planning to publish my first post on it this morning. It’s been sitting in draft form on my computer for a few days but my active toddler has kept me busy! Have a great day! — Martine

        2. Hi, Martine – This information is so helpful and informative. I can’t wait to share it with my husband. The idea of seeing the beauty of California is what is drawing me… If you lived anywhere in CA, where would it be. As for teaming up – let me marinade my thoughts. We both seem to have similar ideas about feeding children and recipe development for toddlers. My email is shanna.ward@alumni.utexas.net if you would like to brainstorm further on the topic. Though clearly we are both busy with our babes! Thanks again for taking the time to provide some insight into Loma Linda. Best wishes, Shanna

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