10 Longevity Lessons We Loved From The Netflix Documentary Live To 100: Secrets Of The Blue Zones

by | Oct 6, 2023 | Entertainment

Longevity researcher, National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner and New York Times-bestselling author has spent the last 20 years studying the secrets to longevity. On his quest, he identified five remote and urban areas (which he named the Blue Zones) with the highest population of centenaries. The Blue Zones detailed in the four-part Netflix series are Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Loma Linda a suburb in South California, Ikaria Island in Greece and Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The biggest takeaway, he found, was that these longest-living people lived longer without even trying. 

The point he says, is not to prevent death but to learn how to live in alignment with our bodies’ deepest needs so we can get as many years out of our bodies as possible. All this while bearing in mind that, ultimately, we don’t really have a say in how long we get to live.

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Below are some of the lesser-explored longevity practices from the documentary that stuck out for us. The best part? You’re already familiar with some of these practices and they’re easy enough to start implementing right away – with a load of discipline of course. Let’s do this… 

1. Be sure to always have fun

Be easygoing, forgive quickly, don’t take things too personally and laugh as often as possible. Doable much?

2. Eat smart

It’s no new info that our diets hold the key our quality of health. And the solution to healthy eating doesn’t lie in restrictive diets and yoyo dieting. When an elderly in Sardinia was asked about the secret to her long life, she cheekily responded with: ‘WINE!’ 😂

Most people in blue zones swore by plant-based diets rich with vitamins and proteins. We also learn that, according to the Sardinian diet, starches aren’t necessarily bad but one should consume them moderately. The Okinawans embrace the concept of hara hachi bu. It simply means that when eating, rather stop when you’re 80 percent full. The Okinawans swear by this concept as a way to control their eating habits. They also happen to have one of the biggest populations of centenaries and the lowest rates of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure — and a few others. 

3. Find your Ikigai (Japanese) — or plan de Vida as they refer to it in Nicoya Peninsula

It’s the idea that something gives one a sense of purpose or a reason for living. This concept is particularly important as it gives human beings a reason to wake up and pursue something worthwhile. According to experts the world over, being productive and having a sense of purpose – especially one that benefits others – ensures that you’re not socially isolated.

4. Avoid inactivity at all costs

Most elderly people in Okinawa and other Blue Zones were found to have one thing in common – they all weaved one form of low-intensity exercise or another into their daily lives, which inadvertently keeps stress at bay. Meaning, they didn’t necessarily set aside time exercise or have a gym membership, as is the norm in modern-day living. From gardening, kneading bread, herding livestock and taking slow walks on steep hills to playing sports and making pasta from scratch, they deeply integrated physical activity into almost all their daily activities, often working from the floor instead of using chairs.

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5. Be part of a community

This helps with keeping feelings of loneliness at bay. Some of the elderly profiled in the doccie met often for a glass of wine, to engage in mere banter or constructive convos, to people-watch in the village or belonged to a sport club of sorts. Loneliness or isolation was found to be an epidemic in itself, a fact most of the elderly were well aware of. In Okinawa for instance, some elderly form moais, or groups of community friends, that gather often and support each other financially or emotionally in times of need.

The younger generation of adults in these Blue Zones took pride in caring for the elderly, especially those who never had children of their own and are known to live alone. They did this through visiting them regularly, cooking for them or taking care of them in times of sickness. That said, old age homes are an unknown concept in these parts.

6. Keep the mind engaged

Allowing your mind to wither away is the quickest way to poor health – and an even poorer quality of life. Taking up a hobby as simple as knitting, gardening, reading, volunteering or learning new skills keeps the mind (and you) engaged, focused, satisfied and can lead to a far better quality of life. Stress, as we all already know and as detailed by experts in the doccie wreaks more havoc in our bodies than we can anticipate.

6. Quality of life over chasing status and money

The idea of working to live and not living to work is a glaring priority in these Blue Zones. It’s the idea and understanding that life is to be lived and not spent behind a desk with the intention of building wealth and leading flashy lifestyles at the expense of one’s peace of mind. Everything in moderation and balance at the centre of it all. In these parts, work-life balance is a reality and not an elusive idea.

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7. Positivity all the way

 Per Buettner’s research, blue zone residents live in a constant state of calmness and therefore have lower to no stress levels. Things are done at a snail’s pace and there’s often no rush to get anywhere. Unwinding regularly, even in the middle of the day, and dedicating time to their religion/faith are just some of the ways in which they nurture their peace of mind. When one elderly in Sardinia was asked what her secret to a long life had been, she responded with a cheeky: “WINE!” 

8. Live in the moment

Savouring all of life’s moments, big and small, happy and sad, also contributed to longevity. Translated into modern speak, it’s what psychological experts often refer to as, ‘sitting with a feeling’ and not rushing it or wishing it away.

9. Form genuine connections

From taking their romantic and platonic relationships seriously to prioritising family, blue-zonians take pride in having others to depend on. There’s definitely no room for big egos and individualism there!

10. Minimise your stressors

We generally live in a culture that glorifies busyness, stress and material success. Just because something works for your colleague or your neighbour has just painted their house again doesn’t mean that this, too, should be your reality. The secret to a well-balanced life is finding what resonates with you – and pursuing it despite what everyone else is doing. We could eat well and exercise regularly, but we should never take the impact of stress on our bodies lightly.

Very NB: Though many medical experts are interviewed throughout the doccie, what is also worth noting is that Live To 100: Secrets Of The Blue Zones is meant to inform and entertain viewers. That said, it is important to always consult your GP before making drastic changes to your diet, exercise, or lifestyle.

See the trailer below:

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