You could say Dan Buettner has been on the ultimate retreat. It was 20 years ago that he began his worldwide search to determine where people live the longest and why. After identifying the original five Blue Zones (Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; and Okinawa, Japan), he began to connect the dots on what made each destination so successful in producing centenarians.
These days, the globetrotter has become the international face of longevity, with multiple books and a recent Netflix series, Live to 100. When we ask Buettner which Blue Zone would make for the ideal retreat, he immediately suggests Ikaria. “Stay at Thea’s Inn, eat Blue Zones food from a nearby garden, look out on the Aegean Sea and hear the villagers play music,” he tells us. “You’ll probably party with the same people I did. Instead of Instagramming each other, they’re talking to each other!”
That social connection is critical. Buettner’s findings show that those who socialize regularly live eight years longer than lonely individuals. “When we’re not connected, we don’t do well,” he explains. “If we could compress a healthy social life into a tablet, it’d be a blockbuster drug.” For those looking to embody the Blue Zones principles at home, here are Buettner’s top 10 tips — no travel necessary.
Sip soup for breakfast.
Start with a savory breakfast like minestrone, which is full of protein and veggies, instead of sugary cereal or saturated-fat-packed bacon and eggs.
Skip the car.
Walk to get your morning cup of coffee. Buy the best bike you can afford, even an e-bike. Also, learn how to take the bus to work.
Take the toaster off your counter and replace it with a bowl of fruit. In this “see-food” world, we’ll eat what’s put in front of us.
Eat more plants.
Get a plant-based cookbook (Blue Zones or another) and learn to make three new dishes. Eat a cup of beans and a handful of nuts every day to increase life expectancy.
Take a nap.
Know your purpose.
List your values in three columns: what you are, what you like to do and what you’re good at. Find an outlet for each, as purpose needs action.
Take a month this winter and join a faith-based community. It’s an instant social network to downshift with others in a time-honored way.
Get back to this daily ritual many of us have forgotten. This pause also lowers cortisol and aids in digestion.
Go to happy hour.
Grab a glass of organic or natural wine and a moment of appreciation with loved ones — a ritual consistent with longevity.
Pick your people.
Unhealthy people and their bad behaviors are as contagious as the common cold. Find friends with good habits and mimic them.