One positive aspect of conflict is that it moves us to the edges of our structures of knowing. How else do we expand our awareness or broaden our viewing point? It forces us to step outside of our viewing point to see what lies beyond in the realm of possibilities…When individuals or communities use conflict as an opportunity to challenge their own ways of seeing things, they awaken to new aspects of themselves. They discover that their awareness can expand and grow beyond the limitations of their yesterday selves.” excerpt from “The I of the Storm…Embracing Conflict, Creating Peace”…Gary Simmons

It is the nature of people to be social and to seek acceptance within communities. The desire for common unity is a basic human trait. In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better. In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.

The following nine community lifestyle characteristics are the outcome of this study and are the basis of the books “Blue Zones” and “Thrive.” These common characteristics emphasize making changes to your environment that will influence your habits.

Move Naturally – Gain 4 Years

1. Just Move

The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They live in places where they can walk to the store, to their friends house or places of worship, their houses have stairs, they have gardens in their yards.

Consider making things a little inconvenient. Make that extra trip up or down the stairs instead of loading things at the top or bottom to take up later, walk to your airport gate instead of taking the moving walkway, park far from the entrance, walk a dog, do your own yard and house work, get rid of some the time saving electronics and power equipment that have “simplified” your life.

Right Outlook – Gain 4 Years

2. Purpose Now

Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Do an internal inventory. Be able to articulate your values, passions, gifts and talents. What are the things you like to do and the things you don’t? Then incorporate ways to put your skills into action.

3. Down Shift

Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation which is associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour. Find a stress shedding strategy that works for you and make it routine.

Eat Wisely – Gain 8 Years

4. 80% Rule

Marketers tell us we can eat our way to health. America has been eating its way well beyond health. Our strategy focuses on taking things out — instead of putting more things in — our diet. “Hara hachi bu” – the Okianawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomach is 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. Serve food at the counter, store leftovers, then sit down to enjoy the meal. Replace your big dishes with 10” plates. Remove TV’s from the kitchen. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.

5. Plant Slant

Go ahead and eat meat if you want. But consider it a condiment and try the leanest, finest meat you can afford. Try to limit it to a portion the size of a deck of cards and only twice per week. Beans, including fava, black and soy and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Snacking on nuts–about a handful a day has been associated with and extra 2-3 years of life expectancy.

6. Wine @ 5

Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 drinks per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

Connect – Gain 4 Years

7. Belong

All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or some other religion that meets as a community. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

8. Loved Ones First

Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping your aging parents and grandparents near by or in your home. (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.) Work on being in a positive, committed relationship (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in your children with time and love. (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes.)

9. Right Tribe

The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness is contagious. Assessing who you hang out with, and then proactively surrounding yourself with the right friends, will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else.

The reason people come together and form a common unity can either promote wellness and happiness or be a destructive relationship of control, abuse and co-dependence.

If acceptance in any relationship, family or community is dependent upon conforming to the standard and requirements of those “in control” then the environment is “sit down, shut up and follow directions” which is always filled with stress and creates fear. Wellness, longivity and happiness can not thrive under controlled conditions or in controlled communities.

For many years, I have been on the path of wellness and committed to health, love, wisdom, and abundance for all. This is the community that I belong to…common unity for all.

If you are looking for a change of community, get in touch with me and we will work together in creating a Living Well Support Group.

Love, Light & Lots of Laughter…Joa

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Contact: joa@joacarter.com