How to live a long, healthy life?
Due to my niche as a green living blogger, I can safely assume that the majority of my readers place the health of their families near the top of their priority lists. That said, the act of living a healthy life means different things to different people.
For some of us that may mean getting ourselves to the gym regularly. For others that may be eating a well-balanced diet. But what exactly is a healthy diet?
There are so many trendy new ways of eating that have come out in recent years. Paleo, keto, whole 30, gluten-free . . how do we truly know that any of these diets are what’s best for our family’s health?
And what about other aspects of our lifestyle; critical areas such as socialization, relationships, stress levels, alcohol consumption, smoking and ways of thinking?
How much do each of these paths actually matter when it comes right down to living a longer, disease-free life?
The Blue Zones
The book I just finished reading, titled The Blue Zones, uses research-based case studies in order to determine just that. In it, Dan Buettner examines the elderly populations of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.
In this article, I would like to pass on the lessons I have learned from Dan and all of the thriving octogenarians that he studied in writing this fascinating book.
Prioritizing Social Connections
Regular exposure to people helps us live longer. That’s not just any people; of course, but people who matter to us. And it doesn’t have to be family members. Close relationships with friends can be just as meaningful.
Loneliness can shave eight years off of the average life expectancy.
In the U.S. especially, we are becoming more and more isolated. Moms can really struggle with this because they are so overwhelmed with raising kids. We are also more mobile than ever, and establishing a new community can be difficult when you can’t find the time.
It is crucial to our mental and emotional health to retain deep connections, and also build new ones. There is no time better than the present, when we are in the throes of parenthood challenges, to have a consistent support system in place.
So how do we do this? Here is a list that I have come up with from my experience as a serial relocator:
- Download one of the many friend-finding apps for moms. I personally love Peanut, and have found so many playdate and mom socializing opportunities on there.
- Call up an old friend who you’ve lost touch with. You already have a history and that’s worth something.
- Get involved in your local PTA. Your kids already go to the same school, so you have something in common.
- Find a volunteer organization with a purpose you are passionate about. This will also help with your sense of purpose, something a lot of moms struggle with.
- Think back to the activities that made you smile before having children. Oftentimes we will find that life has gotten in the way and we no longer find time to do those things. But we need to at least try to integrate one of those pleasures into our new life, for our own sanity. Perhaps you loved to paint or dance or run. Brainstorm some ways you can get back into some of those pastimes, at least on some level.
- The next time you find yourself out with your children at a park, the library, gymnastics class, wherever–strike up a conversation with another mom. It’s not something most of us are ingrained to do, but it’s an opportunity for connection.
Focus on a more Plant-based Diet
Everywhere you look, it seems like people are adopting more meat-heavy diets. It all started about 20 years ago with the controversial Atkins diet. The high amounts of fat consumed went against everything we’d previously learned about healthy eating. Now we have much of our population swearing by similar diets such as Paleo and Keto.
While it is true that many moms have had great success eating according to these plans, I wonder if it truly is the best option for our bodies in the long run. The reason I say this is because one of the primary takeaways I got from The Blue Zones is that most of these octogenarians reported having only eaten meat once a week as a treat.
So if the world populations that live the longest are all eating diets that revolve around plants, why are we trying to eat so much meat?
Not only does it appear to be healthier for our bodies to focus on produce, but it is also much easier on our environment. Raising livestock is one of the most wasteful and harmful practices that we have on this planet.
I realize that this is not a popular viewpoint, but definitely something to consider. I, myself, have joined “the Paleo train” in the past. Recent findings have led me to try a new path with my family, however. We are trying to gently wean ourselves down to consuming meat only a few times weekly.
Here are some of the common factors in the diets of The Blue Zones‘ populations:
- Limiting meat consumption to approximately once weekly
- Including a cup of beans (any type) in your daily diet
- Limiting dairy and egg consumption
- Beverages mainly consist of water and tea–primarily herbal or green
- The rest of their diets consisted of whole grains, greens, potatoes and nuts
Regular Consumption of Red Wine
In reading this book, I was also a little surprised to learn that most of these lively Octogenarians also made it a habit to drink a glass or two of red wine each day. I, myself, enjoy a glass most evenings while I am making dinner.
That said, I am aware that due to genetics or other factors, some moms can find this to be a slippery slope. In that case, I encourage them to skip the wine and opt for some of the less addictive practices mentioned in this post.
If you do include a glass of wine in your diet, I highly recommend you try to find organic versions. Conventional grapes are steeped in pesticides and the wines also contain sulfates, which are used as a preservative.
Moderate Physical Activity
As most of us already know, movement is critical to health and longevity, regardless of where you live. However, moms can really find it challenging to find the time to incorporate any exercise at all into their daily routine, when so much of their energy is passed down to their little ones.
Yet, there are definitely many things we can still do to contribute to our need for movement. Try some of the following ideas. You will be making yourself a better mom; mentally, emotionally and physically.
- Walking was a big one for many of The Blue Zones’ citizens. Pull out the stroller and walk those kids around the block!
- Yoga feels sooo good, but I know how hard it can be to find inner peace in the midst of needy children. Depending on the kids, you may be able to get them to do some with you. Try one of the Cosmic Kids Yoga Adventures on Youtube, like the Frozen version below. They are so much fun!
- If not, try to do it during naptime, after bedtime, or when the spouse is home to keep them entertained. Yoga with Adriene has so many wonderful yoga videos for every mental and physical need.
- Join your local YMCA. They offer child care while you work out–and so many group classes, kids activities and lap/family pools. Not to mention, parents’ night out child care included in the low monthly price!
- Find a Stroller Strides or Baby Boot Camp class and take those babies along!
- Or simply try an online group exercise class or borrow a dvd from the library.
A Strong Sense of Purpose
I already touched on this a bit in the socialization section, but it is definitely something worth pointing out. Having some sense of purpose in life was another common thread that united all of these different elderly populations around the world.
This can also be challenging for a lot of moms because their time and attention is so monopolized by their children, rightfully so. It is especially relevant for stay-at-home moms because they don’t have an outside occupation to drive them. Of course, finding ways to raise your children can be very motivating; but having that alone as your sense of purpose can often leave some sense of void.
So what can we do to fill it? Well, we can make a list of all of the causes, topics, hobbies and activities we were passionate before our children consumed us. Then we can pick one or two of these that can feasibly be pursued in some way.
I know that for me, this blog and its message of the importance of green living is definitely a strong driver in my sense of purpose. Any activity that gives you a feeling of making a difference can have a huge positive impact on your daily outlook.
Establishing Good Habits
While most of us are decades away from old age, there is great value in establishing the healthy habits of longevity early on. We will not only increase our chances for living the golden years, disease-free; but also increase the possibility of us making it there.
What are your thoughts? Comment down below.
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