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There are a few locations in this world that are considered “blue zones.” One off the coast of Greece, one on an island off of Japan, and a small section in Costa Rica, to name a few. These spots seemed to have found the fountain of youth and have an exceptional number of people living well past the century mark.
What’s their secret? Well, scientists have done extensive research on these locations to discover what the secret potion is, and to be honest, nothing out of the ordinary really stood out. Sorry for the let down. A lot of the habits they shared were all common things you probably have already heard: Their diets seem pretty clean, many of them growing or having access to homegrown food. No fancy diet or anything, just real food. There were no signs of gym memberships or exercise plans other than everyday activities. No one was taking supplements, diet pills, or fancy drinks. Just living … and living for a very long time.
However, one thing that researchers did find to be a common theme was that all the locations were relatively very happy. There was little to no clinical depression or anxiety. No signs of mental illness or stressful lifestyles. When one looked closely at the source of this happiness there did seem to be a binding thread. All the areas had tight-knit families and friends that spent a lot of time together. The people had outside activities that they enjoyed doing regularly. There was a sense of community and support, and rarely did anyone ever feel that they were isolated or alone. More importantly, all the people felt a grand sense of purpose where they lived, even more so the older they became. The result was that the people felt an overall sense of joy for being alive, which kept them living well into their hundreds.
Now no one is questioning your enjoyment for life, but if we take a good hard look we could probably all use a little more of that sense of purpose and belonging in our society. We often talk about what’s on our plate and getting the right nutrients, but sometimes we have to look at those things that feed us on a different level – food for our soul if you will. Things in our lives that bring us a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment that no meal on a plate ever will, no matter how lavish. A great concept perhaps, but how do we do better on this? Here are a few ideas on ways to spark some of that lifeblood magic:
Go on an adventure with a friend: We may have a list of some good friends but find those who are ready to just pick up and do something new like go camping, travel, or paddleboarding. Adventure is always a great way to renew a sense of life and even better to share it with someone else.
Eat alone less often: Random thought, but many of these “blue zones” shared that sense of community and rarely ever ate alone. Eating is not an individualized activity, but something loved ones share with others. This helps to strengthen the bond between family and friends. Where do you think the phrase “sit down and break bread” comes from? Plan a dinner party, bring back family sit down meals. Nothing brings people together like sharing a meal.
Explore a new hobby: It’s easy to get stuck in our routine, but picking up a new hobby can bring about a new dimension of perspective again. Sure, you may not be very good at first, but learning and improving over time is part of the process and reward. It’s never too late to learn how to play an instrument, pick up a new sport, or learn a new language. These all relate to having more purpose in life.
Make time for yourself: This one is not always easy, but skipping out on what’s important to you has hidden consequences. Consider that fitting those things into your life that make you happy is probably more important than ordering that salad for lunch. Find what feeds your soul and make it part of your life.
Volunteer and give back: Just like finding time for you is important, so is the act of giving to others important. Donate time to a local charity that is meaningful to you. It could be serving food at a soup kitchen, tending to creatures at the local animal shelter, or perhaps you have a valuable skill that you can contribute pro bono to a non-profit organization. Even the gesture of reaching into your wallet to help someone who is a few dollars short in the checkout line gives back to the greater good, and your soul will be the richer for it.
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