What’s your ikigai?
Culture and social constructs determine life longevity and quality, says National Georgraphic writer Dan Buettner. Having explored the world’s Blue Zones, places where people’s life is measurably among the best in the world, Buettner has identified nine common denominators of living long and well:
- Move naturally. On the whole, people in Blue Zones do not exercise in a way that is immediately familiar. Rather than consistently lift weights at the gym, run around a track, or swim in a pool, they set-up their lives so they are nudged to constantly engage in physical activity. This is to say, they often eschew conveniences that might make a physical task easier. For example, they always walk to the store, live in vertical houses (and take the stairs multiple times per day), and stir cake mixes by hand. When they do incorporate “intentional physical activity” into their day, its things they enjoy, such as gardening or taking regular nature walks.
- Right outlook: Engage in Downshifting. All of the longest-living people in the world regularly employ relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation. These Downshifting activities literally change the genes that respond to and deal with stress (source).
- Right outlook: Live with purpose. Having a vocabulary to engage in meaning-seeking activities, and to affirm the purpose of your life, allows people to get out of bed and embrace a new day. This will to meaning is responsible for upwards of 7 years of longevity.
- Eat wisely: Wine at 5. Drink a bit of wine everyday.
- Eat wisely: Plant-slant or plant-based diet. Michael Pollan’s mantra works well here: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
- Eat wisely: 80% rule. Find strategies that help you effectively consume fewer calories, such as the Okinawa practice of Hara Hachi Bu, in which you stop eating when you are 80% full.
- Connect: Loved ones first. Embrace those whom you most care about.
- Connect: Belong to a faith-based community. Going to church, synagogue, temple, or mosque on a regular basis has been show to increase your life expectancy by 4-14 months.
- Connect: Surround yourself with the right tribe. If you’re not born into the right tribe, proactively seek to add trusting and trustworthy people to your circle of friends. Designing and integrating yourself into a healthy social circle is “perhaps the most significant thing you can do to add more years to your life, and life to your years.”