I haven’t always treated my body like a temple. Hell, in my twenties I treated it like a dumpster fire that could only be put out by pissing on it and then dancing in the ashes until 5am.
You name it, I abused myself with it: drugs, alcohol, skipping sleep, eating disorders, smoking, casual sex, instant coffee…You get the picture. Sure, I have LOTS of great stories, but I didn’t do myself many favours, physically speaking.
These days I try to live a reasonably virtuous life, because I feel like I’m finally getting good at this living thing and I want to keep doing it. Not only that, but I want to feel as good as I can while it’s happening.
So when we spoke to Dr Jen Martin recently at Champagne Cartel, I was excited to hear she had the answer to exactly what we need to do to live a long and healthy life. Well – Jen likes us to be clear about this – Jen didn’t come up with this answer. But scientists have discovered “blue zones” throughout the world where a lot of people live a whole lot longer than anywhere else.
Those blue zones are:
- Ikaria, an island in Greece
- Okinawa, an island in Japan
- the Barbagia region of Sardinia (Italy)
- Loma Linda, a small city in California
- the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica.
What do all these areas have in common? We’re glad you asked. Scientists have found nine things these people have in common, and they reckon we should be doing them too, if we want the same effects.
So unless you want to pack up the family and move to Costa Rica (hmmmm…), then you might want to try this at home.
- Move naturally. That means finding ways to be active throughout your day. Sure, you might want to go for a run or cycle or whatever, but what about walking to the shop, gardening, doing housework, whatever. Just don’t sit at your desk all day. That shit will kill you. #SittingIsTheNewSmoking
- Have purpose – a reason to get out of bed in the morning. That might be kids, a lifestyle blog, a job you love, a project you’re working on, or a house you’re renovating. Whatever it is, it just needs to have meaning for you – and it will add up to seven years to your life.
- Chill the eff out. Sure, stress will come into your life, but people in the blue zones have effective ways of dealing with it. Ikarians love to nap, Sardinians have happy hour. You do you, boo.
- Eat to 80%. That means when you’re mostly full, you stop – before you’ve got potato scallops coming out your nostrils. Enjoy your food, and then stop before it gets gross.
- Eat plants. No, you don’t have to go vegan (although I have), but you’ll do well to eat more plants – beans specifically. They’re the cornerstone of most of the blue zone diets. Add in loads of fruit and veg, and minimise the meat intake and you’re golden. There are loads of great options out there these days, it might just take a bit of experimentation if you’re not used to it.
- Drink wine. Yayyyy! Yeah, we should have put this one up front, but we wanted to save a treat for you for reading this far. People in the blue zones are not teetotallers. They enjoy a social tipple with friends and/or food – but they stop before they want to punch on and sing Working Class Man at the top of their lungs.
- Belong to a community. Most of the blue zone folks are into some form of church and, while that’s cool if that’s your jam, Dr Jen reckons you could also achieve the same sense of belonging in other groups. The main thing is being part of a community with some regular form of meeting and/or ritual. That can add a whopping 14 years to your life, so don’t skip it!
- Family first. No, not the hideous political party – we’re talking taking care of yours. That means having strong connections with grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles – you get the gist. It’s good for you, so have your elderly mother come and live with you, and call your Uncle Bert for a chat once in a while. You don’t even need to tell him you’re doing it so you’ll live longer. And if your family sucks, that’s okay – create your own family with neighbours and friends.
- Find your tribe. Blue zone folks know what we know – friendships and strong social networks are important. That’s why we created Champagne Women (have you joined yet – you should – do it here).
Thanks Dr Jen for sharing the big secrets with us!
You can find Jen Martin sharing shots of science on her blog Espresso Science, and she’s at @scidocmartin on Twitter and Instagram.