As we walked through Greenwich Village, looking for a decent shot of joe to fuel an afternoon of shopping and cooking and talking about the enigma of longevity, he pointed out that the men and women of Icaria, a Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, regularly slurp down two or three muddy cups a day. This came as delightful news to me. Icaria has a key role in Mr. In Icaria they stand a decent chance of living to see
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One night, a few years ago, Costa Rican Alejandro Zuniga received a phone call from a friend. The vegetable seller had, indeed, won the lottery. His friends assumed he would use the money to build a large house, buy fancy clothes and enjoy a more affluent life, but Alejandro surprised them.
He continued to sell avocados in the market, and chatted and joked with friends as he always used to. But the middle-aged man was also doing something else quietly. A National Geographic fellow and bestselling author who spent the last two years working on The Blue Zones of Happiness published last year , he has been collaborating with experts in various fields and undertaking explorations across the globe since the late s to understand the secrets of longevity, health and, most recently, happiness.
The books evolved after he stumbled upon a report by the World Health Organisation that said Okinawans had the longest life expectancy in the world. He also found Okinawans have less rates of cancer, heart disease and dementia than people in the US. The Japanese have a term for it — ikigai. National Geographic too, thought so, and in commissioned him to find the first Blue Zone areas — so called because the marker the researchers used to plot the map was blue in colour — and to decipher what the people there did to live so long.
The notion that you are going to consciously eat the right food for long enough to avoid a chronic disease is misguided. It never works. What works is an environment where plant-based foods are more accessible, cheaper and is more or less the culture.
There are no fast food joints in Blue Zone areas, says Dan, who is largely vegetarian, gleefully. Meat is eaten only on special occasions or on weekends. Usually, the cheapest and most easily available foods are beans, food grains, nuts and greens. Also, physical activity came naturally to them. Today, many societies try to pursue health and longevity relying on diets and exercise.
They have no idea that they are doing the right things; they are just living life. So, the key to longevity is to shape your environment. Having a sense of purpose, physical exercise, social interaction are some factors that contribute to happiness and longevity, he adds. You can measure it by asking them the number of times they laughed or felt joy.
To identify the happiest people, Dan asked big data bases such as Gallup and the World Database of Happiness to pinpoint places where these three facets of happiness are very high. In the third area, Costa Rica came out tops with people there reporting that they feel more day-to-day positive emotions that any other place in the world. Danes pursue a job that they love as opposed to working for status or money. People work on average 37 hours a week. They join a club so are socially interactive; pursue hobbies, take six-week vacations.
It all adds up to a very pleasant life on a day-to-day basis. And a purpose driven life. Money IS important, says Dan. If you are earning more than that, your day to day experiences do not improve vastly. So was it the desire for happiness that prompted Costa Rican Alejandro to give away all his wealth?
Is giving crucial to happiness? According to him, about 80 per cent of human happiness at the national level is tied to high GDP, healthy life expectancy, generosity, good social activity and tolerance. With a Minister of State for Happiness and Quality of Life, Uhoud Khalfan Al Roumi, a first in the world, the country is striving to become one of top five happiest countries in the world by That last one is important, says the researcher, with a laugh.
If you live in an unhappy place and move to a happier environment, on average you can see your happiness rise. Getting about 60 minutes of physical activity - a walk, for instance - is fine to start your day.
Ideally, your commute to office is on foot, definitely not by car. Ideally, work for between six and seven hours. A half hour nap in the afternoon, an hour of giving back either through volunteering or even taking care of your children in the evening, an hour of watching some TV or being on social media, eating dinner with the family would complete the day.
Working super hard, chasing money, driving to work through environments of soulless cities and eating fast food makes it very hard to pursue authentic happiness, he says. If I were a 10, it might take away the drive.
It now makes life interesting. You need to know what they were eating when they were children, when they were newly married, when they were in the 50s…. Keep your social networks alive. Unhappiness and unhealthiness is contagious. Every happy person you add to your network increases your happiness by 15 per cent.
The kind of people you need to be looking for? Vegetarians, those whose ideas of recreation is physical activity, people who are funny and who are positive about work. Choose your job based on passion not on money. After about 75K dollars a year, your day to day emotional quality does not improve. So if you are making around that amount but doing a job you hate, get another job that does not pay you as much but which you love. Make sure you get at least an hour of physical activity. Walking, for instance, can make a huge difference in terms of health and happiness over time.
Engineer activity into your life. If you look at the lifestyle of people who live for years, you see that they move around once every 20 minutes on average. Take the time to do an internal audit or inventory to know what you are good at.
Find out what you like to do, what lines up with your values. Marrying the right person is important. Married people are three times more likely to be happy than unmarried. But find someone who matches your values; if you are a happy person make sure you marry a happy person. And if you are an unhappy person, make sure you marry an unhappy person. Such relations are likely to work out. What does not work out is when a happy person marries an unhappy person. That is a recipe for divorce. If you are religious, you are more likely to be happy.
Religion is also good for your longevity. Toggle navigation. Anand Raj OK Jan 7, Dan Buettner, the author of the Blue Zone series, reveals how you can be happier. Robbie Collin Jun 4, Shelley von Strunckel Jun 4, Flic Everett Jun 3, This website stores cookies on your computer.
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9 lessons from the world's Blue Zones on living a long, healthy life
As my centenarian friends showed me, the choice is largely up to us. Dan Buettner is an explorer, National Geographic Fellow, award-winning journalist and producer, and a New York Times bestselling author. He discovered the five places in the world—dubbed Blue Zones—where people live the longest, healthiest lives. His articles about these places in The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic are two of the most popular for both publications. Buettner now works in partnership with municipal governments, large employers, and health insurance companies to implement Blue Zones Projects in communities, workplaces, and universities. Blue Zones Projects are well-being initiatives that apply lessons from the Blue Zones to entire communities by focusing on changes to the local environment, public policy, and social networks. The program has dramatically improved the health of more than 5 million Americans to date.
The man who unlocked the world's secret to living to age 100 says you can skip the gym
Subscriber Account active since. Dan Buettner, a continent-trekking cyclist and storyteller, figured out that the world consisted of at least five "Blue Zones," in the early s. That's when he made the term, which was first coined by the European demographers Michel Poulain and Gianni Pes, a household phrase in a best-selling cover story for National Geographic. In this handful of hidden corners scattered across the globe, he discovered that people were sailing past the year mark with surprising frequency, and often avoiding dementia. People residing in these Blue Zones are outliving us because they have figured out what others have not, according to Buettner. They consistently eat a healthful diet, and they also move around about every 20 minutes or so during each day. But he says it took him years after that initial discovery to figure out exactly why the rest of us are getting the simple diet and exercise formula so wrong.
My Dinner With Longevity Expert Dan Buettner (No Kale Required)
This book takes the science a step farther to reveal what individuals can do in their own lives and communities. While working in the blue zones areas, I found that having a strong sense of purpose, a circle of healthy friends and living in walkable neighborhoods are all as important as a good diet. But I also realized that food is the entrance ramp for better living. I lay it out in the book. But I can tell you that the longest-lived are getting 95 percent of their calories from plants and only 5 percent from animal products. Contrary to what the paleo or Atkins diet says, these folks actually eat a high carb diet.