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?
The Blue Zones include:
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California