Reality Check: The Blue Zones

If you were making a list of what you want most of all, you might include “a long, healthy life” on that list. You wouldn’t be alone. Considering that attempts to find the “fountain of youth” date back centuries, we know that the wish for longevity isn’t new.
With our near-instant world-wide communications, stories of illness and death can become overwhelming. And whether because of age or circumstance, you may find difficulties within the circle of people close to you as well. It can seem like everything is getting worse, never better.
To keep perspective, I believe it’s helpful to deliberately make an effort to look for pieces of good news. Thus, I think that this story about longevity from a few years ago is worth our attention.
Apparently, it all started with a National Geographic expedition. Dan Buettner looked around the world and found five areas notable for longevity. In these places, people were staying active well into their 80s and 90s; many were living to 100 and beyond. He calls those areas the Blue Zones.
A logical question then, is “Why?” Are there commonalities among these places? Turns out, there are indeed; Buettner identified nine common elements.
Great! But is there anything among them that we can use? If not, then it’s nice-to-know, but ultimately unhelpful, information.
You’ve probably guessed that food choice would be in there somewhere, and it is. There are even Blue Zone diets and cookbooks available that reflect the food-related observations.
But it’s not all about food. A few other characteristics stood out for me.
The first is that longevity is related to “purpose.” Apparently, having a sense of purpose adds years to your life! Yet the idea of purpose can be puzzling. What exactly do we mean by “purpose”?
In the study, purpose was described as “why I wake up in the morning.” For some, that purpose is obvious. If you have anyone who depends on you, then you know why you wake up in the morning. This might be children, family, friends, even your pets, your workplace, a community or group of some sort. You have things to do that have an impact on someone.
From a Choice Theory perspective, having purpose is one way to satisfy our need for power/recognition. Knowing that we are doing something that matters can change our outlook. It tells us that we matter. We can find purpose by finding something that we are able to do that matters.
Another Choice Theory connection that I detected appears in three Blue Zone characteristics.
The Blue Zone characteristic of “Loved ones first” indicates that connections with family and commitment to a life partner are common in these areas.
There is also a reference to “right tribe,” which simply means that it is helpful to be surrounded by people who have healthy behaviours and attitudes themselves. Good habits are contagious; so are poor ones.
A last point is the observation that a high percentage of the people belong and are active in some type of faith-based community.
Those three characteristics would satisfy what is referred to as the need for love and belonging in Choice Theory.
While we don’t have much control over the body that we have been given, we do have considerable control over what we do with it.

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