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 ninth and final lesson 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 Nine: Right Tribe
One of the most powerful things you can do to change your lifestyle for the better is to surround yourself with a strong social network—an inner circle of friends—that share similar values. Social connectedness is an integral part of life in each of the five Blue Zones. For example, Okinawans have moais—which roughly means meeting for a common purpose. Originally created out of financial necessity, moais today are more of a social network support, a vehicle for companionship.
Research supports the health benefits of surrounding yourself with the right tribe. Strong ties with friends, relatives, a spouse, club membership, and volunteerism all have an impact on how well people age. Members of longevity cultures often work and socialize with each other as this reinforces cultural behaviors. It’s much easier to adopt good habits when those around you are already practicing them.
I am fortunate to have a great group of friends—old and new—who I regularly communicate with about ups and downs of life, child rearing, careers, marriage, diet, nutrition, health, fashion, books, etc., etc. Although we each have challenging schedules, we try to touch base regularly—by phone or in person—to know that as friends we care and can count on each other. Some speculate that a superior social network is one of the reasons why women live longer than men. Women tend to have stronger and better systems of support. They’re much more engaged with and helpful to each other and more willing to express their feelings.
Interestingly, Japanese women tend to live 8 percent longer than American women and their moai may very well be the reason why. Chronic stress takes its toll on overall health and those who have an ingrained mechanism to shed stress daily, with friends and family, seem to fare better and longer.
Think about your friends and family. Reflect on the true meaning of friendship and identify your inner circle. Create your moai and reap the benefits of having a social network you can count on and who can also count on you. It’s much easier to go through life knowing there is a safety net of friends and family you love and who love you.
Tips and strategies to build your inner circle of your personal Blue Zone
Identify your inner circle
Know the people who reinforce the right habits, people who understand or live by Blue Zone secrets.
This may seem like common sense, but to many it is not. Of the centenarians interviewed, none were grumpy. Elderly who are likable are more likely to have a social network, frequent visitors, and de facto caregivers. They seem to experience less stress and live purposeful lives.
Create time together
Spend at least 30 minutes a day with members of your inner circle. Establish a regular time to meet or share a meal together. Building a strong friendship takes time and effort, but it is an investment that can lead to not only added years, but also happier, more fulfilled years of life.
One to nine, our journey through lessons from the Blue Zones is finished. However, your quest to discover the secrets to longevity need not end here. Although a true fountain of youth does not spring from the ground, it has come to us through centuries of trial and error. How we use the wisdom and information from healthy and happy centenarians is up us, the choice is ours.
Thank you for joining me along this journey. Feel free to revisit the lessons from time to time as a reminder every now and again. For your convenience, previous lessons are linked below.
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.
The Blue Zones include:
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California
A Recap of the Nine Lessons
Lesson One: Move Naturally
Lesson Two: Hara Hachi Bu
Lesson Three: Plant Slant
Lesson Four: Grapes of Life
Lesson Five: Purpose Now
Lesson Six: Slow Down
Lesson Seven: Belong
Lesson Eight: Family First
Lesson Nine: Right Tribe