No, I'm not talking politics.
I'm talking lifestyle.
I have been fascinated by the research and stories surrounding what has been dubbed "Blue Zones" which are unique enclaves of people scattered around the globe who live extraordinarily long & happy lives.
I think I've already referred to some of their stories in past blogs:
The Island Where People Forget to Die:
Keep Things Simple For A Healthy, Long Life:
Secrets From The Island Where People Forget To Die
Some of the Blue Zones around the world include not only Ikaria, Greece; but Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and (hey there's even one in the good old USA! No surprise it's the vegetarian-oriented 7th Day Adventist capital of the USA) Loma Linda, CA.
The thing is, however, is that there is no magic tied into the geographic location of these Blue Zones (however I DO regret that the only section of Costa Rica we DIDN'T visit was the Blue Zone area of Nicoya due to the pricey-ness (sometimes being a cheapskate doesn't pay!)).
What makes a Blue Zone special are qualities that ANY of us can replicate ANYWHERE we happen to live. And THAT'S been my concern and focus lately. My own extended family, I've recently become aware, has been successful in creating a very important Blue Zone quality of their own: a sense of community, belonging and inter-connectedness.
My mother's side of the family consists of 7 siblings, many of whom reside within 10 miles of each other. One sibling and her husband have been having some challenges lately and their adult children were rushing to the "rescue" and attempting to urge them to consider assisted living. However they insisted on remaining in their own home independently...or rather inter-dependently. As they have the extended family for support. My father will stay with my uncle, who cannot be safely left alone, while my mother takes my aunt out grocery shopping and socializing. My parents will get the minivan out once a week or so to go around and pick up as many family members as possible for an evening of dining and movies at the theater. My mother broke her ankle in a fall last year, but her siblings came to her aid to keep things going in the household. There is support, connection and inter-dependence. It works! And really, really well! I am so proud of my family!
In my work as a therapist I have seen over and over many crisis situations arise, especially as people age, in which lives of isolation and separateness results in a fragility that leaves people highly vulnerable.
While the other qualities of Blue Zones are absolutely essential as we all know here at SparkPeople...such as:
---regular and enjoyable physical activity
---healthy food choices with minimally processed foods
---healthy amounts of sleep with routine periods of slowing ourselves down and being mindful
---an attitude of gratitude
These above qualities can be addressed in isolation and solitude and can still leave us highly vulnerable if we are not paying attention to the care and development of our own sense of community, belonging and meaningful connectedness with people who matter to us and to whom we matter as well.
This becomes ever more important as we age. As I near retirement (hopefully next year!) this is an important wake up call for me as I know I can become lost in the daily routine of my employment and tending to all of those other "Blue Zone" areas of health and wellness to the neglect of my sense of meaningful connection to friends and family.
So I'm passing along this wake up call to each of you out there as well since who can't read these accounts of Blue Zone lives without a sense of admiration and quite possibly envy?
I've just ordered copies of "The Blue Zones of Happiness" to learn more about Blue Zones and take their quiz which can tell one the strengths and weaknesses of your lifestyle from the Blue Zone perspective. The book broadens the focus even toward one's community and enhancements to the urban design of where one lives to promote Blue Zone qualities. I'm looking forward to it!
Spark On Everyone!