Wellness Wednesday: Lessons from the Blue Zones

This month, I have been focusing on community ties with respect to social well-being.  There are numerous studies assessing associations between social connectivity and circumstances with respect to health outcomes.

In fact, social determinants for health, is a hot button topic within current health policy.  On a broad perspective, these determinants fall under three primary categories; 1) social institutions, 2) surroundings, and 3) social relationships (Anderson, et al, 2003).

One of the most compelling projects that has further illustrated this construct is the Blue Zone Project.  Originating out of the work from a National Geographic investigative journalist and researcher, Dan Buettner,  the project as a whole has taken an anthropological approach paired with methodology from epidemiology.

The project inspired a movement and has been referred to by many leaders in the field of lifestyle health.  Various activities to build out some form of a Blue Zone like attributes to communities have been initiated across the U.S. through workplace wellness service providers, government grants, and other community-based initiatives.

Although the majority of us do not live in a “true” Blue Zone, the project does present certain qualitative factors for all of us to consider.  In layman’s terms, it helps us consider actionable areas in our lives by revealing the characteristics of those living within an official Blue Zone.

In application, the project presents us with 9 key themes for living a life most suited for good health and longevity; regular natural movement, purpose, stress reduction (“down shift” methods), 80% rule in terms of eating to only 4/5th fullness, heavy intake of plant based foods, low-moderate consumption of quality wine, sense of belonging, prioritizing loved ones first, and associating with the “tribe”, ie social circles (Buettner, 2016).

It is the last three areas that align well to my monthly theme.  They are both inspirational and scientific.  To elaborate further;

Belong – essentially, find your faith and the respective group to help support you in it.  This may not be a traditional religion, but there should be principles that mimic various world religions including unity, moral conduct, and regular, consistent social congregation.

Loved Ones First – nurture yourself AND familial relations.  In some cases, this may also include the “family you create for yourself”, meaning certain close friends.  Consider a plan to take care of aging parents and loved ones while relishing in the many wisdom-based lessons they can provide you.  In some form or capacity, find at least one life partner.

Right Tribe – ever hear of the New York Times article, “Are your friends making you fat?”, which focuses on socialization with relation to health behaviors (Thompson, 2009)?  Although I don’t love the actual title of this due to potential stigmatization, the concept within presents some truth.  Align yourself to those who are willing to practice healthy behaviors and, in return, inspire those around you through your commitment to do the same.

I might also add that intertwining “purpose” into the three concepts above can have a dynamic effect.  Your sense of purpose can help lead you in the behaviors associated to social constructs AND your exploration of social relationships can also further support your definition of purpose.

In lifestyle practice, this could translate to identifying your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly intentions.  There are a whole host of mind-body tactics to help you do this as well as effectively planning methodology.  For those that might need a little help with this, please check out my professional website.

REFERENCES:

Anderson, L.M., Scrimshaw, S.C., Fullilove, M.T, and Fielding, J.E. (2003). The Community Guide’s Model for Linking the Social Environment to Health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 24(3S), 12-20.

Buettner, D. (2016, Nov 10). Power 9, Reverse Engineering Longevity. Retrieved from Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/.

Thompson, C. (2009, Sep 10). Are Your Friends Making You Fat? New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13contagion-t.html.

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