When scientists first published their studies on the earth’s five blue zones where people live the longest most follow-up reports picked up on the nutritional aspect. But a common denominator less debated was that people in all the five regions felt a strong sense of belonging and purpose within healthy and supportive communities.
We are hard-wired as social beings. The people we surround ourselves with have a much higher impact on our health and happiness than previously thought. Your tribe can either pull you down or lift you up. (see my previous blog)
Creating strong social networks
Strong community ties are key to longevity, according to Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones”. The five blue zones were identified as communities living in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.
The Okinawans, for example, are known to create strong social networks that provide financial and emotional support to their community members.
Good communities prescribe healthy habits
People in longevity cultures socialize with one another, reinforcing prescribed behaviors such as adopting good nutritional habits and exercise.
Sardinians and many Mediterranean cultures end their day in the local bar where they meet friends and family. Village festivals and harvests require all members of the community to participate.
Professor Lisa Berkman of Harvard University did a nine-year study in which she found that the impact of marital status, friendships, and the level of voluntary work in clubs or associations all had an impact on how well people age.
But how do I identify and become a member of a healthy tribe:
- The people you most associate with in your inner circle should be people who uplift, validate, and support you emotionally.
- Avoid people who are notoriously focused on the negative and emanate permanent grumpiness. Buettner writes in “The Blue Zones. “Of the centenarians interviewed there wasn’t a grump in the bunch… Likable old people are more likely to have a social network, frequent visitors, and de facto caregivers.”
- Spending time together each day with a positive activity such as walking can make a hugely positive impact on your life. Frédéric Gros, a professor of walking, says: “Walking is exploring the mystery of presence. Presence to the world, to others and to yourself… You discover when you walk that it emancipates you from space and time, from… vitesse.” So-called “philosophy walks” are designed to stimulate deeper thinking while out walking in nature.
Some people might argue that maintaining a strong family bond is good for you. But for some people sharing time with their biological families makes them feel unhappy, stressed, and unhappy. Human families are extremely complex and interactive.
Whether it’s your biological family or your chosen tribe or community. It should give you a sense of fulfillment, happiness, and a generally positive feeling of being liked and accepted just as you are with all your light, shadow, and uniqueness.
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker
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