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.
Make at least one family meal a day sacred and time to be together. Establish traditions and family routines.
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.
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?
The Blue Zones include:
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California