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 eighth 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 Eight: Make Family a Priority
Successful centenarians tend to build their lives around family. It is their core. They marry, have children and consider familial duty, rituals and togetherness an intrinsic way of life. Zeal for family is evident throughout their whole life.

By the time they reach 100 years old and beyond, their lifelong devotion to their family is reciprocated by their children’s love and care of them. In four of the five Blue Zones, the younger generation welcomes the older generation into their homes and lovingly check up on them regularly. For them, a natural part and way of life. Studies show that elders are less susceptible to disease, eat healthier diets, have lower levels of stress, and have a much lower incidence of serious accidents when they live with their children. They also are found to have sharper mental and social skills when living with family.

Nowadays, in many cultures, families are getting so busy that quality family time is becoming very rare. Although time for shared meals and activities is often hard to orchestrate as busy schedules make it difficult to get together, family time is an investment worth making. We spend most of our life making investments—education, professional development, activities/hobbies, etc. Why not invest equally or more in the lives of the people closest to us, our family?

As I find ways to invest in my son’s life, I often think of rituals I want to establish in our home—meals together, holiday traditions, family vacations, weekend activities, daily routines, etc. As children thrive on rituals and enjoy repetition, every night either my husband or I read to our son as part of his bedtime routine. The other night however, I went in and sat with both of them. My son sat across both of us, his torso leaning against mine while his legs draped across my husband’s lap. The fact that both of us were there to read with with him brought him so much joy as he looked at both of us and giggled in delight, as if he perhaps had arranged this serendipitous reunion. It’s not always possible for all of us to read together before baby’s bedtime, but I thought perhaps as a family we should try to do it more regularly. An investment I’d like to try and make.

Successful families make it a point to spend quality time with one another. Are there any family investments you’ve made that you would like to share?

Strategies and tips to help put loved ones first
Put family first
Invest time and energy in your children, your spouse, and your parents. Play with your children and talk to them, nurture your marriage, and honor your parents. Unplug the electronics and spend quality time with each other.

Establish rituals
Make at least one family meal a day sacred and time to be together. Establish traditions and family routines.

Showcase family
Create a space in your home to display photos of family—deceased loved ones, parents, and children. Take annual family photos and display them in progression. Photos serve as a constant reminder that we are not alone and instead connected to something bigger—family.

Get closer
If you live in a large house, consider living in a smaller house to create an environment of togetherness or establish one room where family members gather daily. It’s easier for families to bond in smaller spaces.

Have you started to put the lessons from the Blue Zones to work in your life? If so, I’d love to hear about your thoughts, experiences, challenges and successes. La Vie en Bleu will continue with lesson number nine, the final lesson 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

7 thoughts on “Family First

  1. Hi, Martine. I love your outlook on life. Close-knit family life is a big key overall happiness – and longevity. Even though it is just my husband, me and our two little ones (and he works at least 80+ hours/week and travels), family is always our priority. We value family and are looking forward to even more togetherness later. Thank you for sharing with all of us. – Warmly, Shanna

    1. Hi Shanna. Thank you for commenting. Each day I continue to learn and see the importance of quality time with loved ones and am reminded to make family a priority. It’s good not only for our health and happiness, but also for those we love and who are near and dear to us. I totally understand the challenges of creating family time when working many hours and traveling, but it seems as though your family has its priorities straight. Your little ones are blessed to have such dedicated and loving parents. How old are your little ones?

      1. Hello, Martine. I am benefiting from your writing. Even if I have learned what you express – at some point – it is so important to be reminded of what is important. Modern day society is not always supportive of sustaining enduring, loving family units and friendships. We must make it a priority. My husband is a surgeon in an underserved area with serious needs – nutrition, health, mental health, necessities – you name it. He is also a volunteer reservist in the military. I am the one “here” for our kids and my partner, because we both value our family – and someone must be physically present! Our children are: Naomi – Four in December. Asher: Two in February. Your son is so photogenic – and that smile! How old is he? I will continue to read your blog for inspiration, reminders and guidance. After living in Europe, I began to value what life should be – but life is never completely in accordance. Have a lovely night – and warmest regards. – Shanna

        1. Good morning Shanna,I’m so pleased that you are enjoying my blog. I’ve tried to focus on topics that are important to me and help me to become a better person, spouse and mother. I’ve hoped that the blog and journey would be inspiring and helpful to others so your comments bring me much joy. Yes, you are right, modern day society does not always support the sustainment of loving and healthy relationships with friends and family. Many kuddos to you and your husband for the many sacrifices you make for your family, children and others who are vulnerable. Also, especially to you for being present for your family. I know it’s not always easy, especially when we often put self to the side for the betterment of the group (family unit). Be sure to take time for yourself every now and then too. I have to remind myself of this as I get so busy caring for everyone else. For me, raising my son to feel happy and safe and for him to learn to be kind, empathetic and good is one of my priorities. I’m far from perfect but each day I consider it an opportunity to strive, to learn and do the best I can with the resources I’ve been given. I hope he will see that and learn to forgive/accept and learn from my imperfections. The picture on the blog was taken when my son was about seven months old. He’s now 15 months! He lights up our world everyday and he loves to smile and giggle. I wish you all the best and hope you can continue to draw inspiration from my blog. If I can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thank you so much for commenting. Your words have inspired me and assured me this blog can touch lives in many meaningful ways. I thank you!

        2. Hi, Martine,
          Your blog is so meaningful – and so important. Your message should be shouted from rooftops. I am so grateful to have stumbled across it! I learn something new with each of your posts.
          Yes, motherhood is indeed a a journey. Your son is loved – and continue to strive to be your best self – and the best mother that you can be. What more can he ask for? 🙂 Good job, Mom!
          Thank you for your thoughtful message and encouragement! It was generous of you to take such time to respond.
          I hope that you have a lovely day! And that you continue to take a bit of time for yourself, too. I am taking that part of the message to heart. Thank you.
          Be well,
          Shanna

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