What is the secret to a long and healthy life? The Blue Zones project www.bluezones.com was initiated to determine the answer to that question by studying commonalities among people who live to be 100 years or older.
They identified 5 places around the world with the highest concentration of centenarians and discovered 9 common traits shared by these long-living populations:
Move Naturally – living in environments that nudge daily activity
Purpose – a reason for living – “plan de vida” meaning “why I wake up in the morning”
Down Shift – methods to cope with stress, including: remembering ancestors, prayer, napping, and happy hour
80% Rule – eating enough to fill their stomachs 80% full and eating smallest meal last
Plant Slant – basing diet on plant foods with meat eaten infrequently
Wine @ 5 – moderate drinking, with friends and with food
Belong – participate in a faith-based community
Loved Ones First – keeping aging family members nearby, committing to a life partner, investing in children with time and love
Right Tribe – with social circles that support healthy behaviors
Note how many of these factors are related to human connection. In a world where we appear more connected than ever with hundreds of “followers, friends, and links” we are also lonelier than ever before.
Humans need human connection, not just digital connection. Human connections promote health and longevity. According to Dr. Emma Seppala, Science Director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, high social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. “Social connection” is a feeling of closeness and belongingness with others. Humans are a social species – we are wired for human connection and without it our health suffers in multiple ways.
There are many ways we can connect, but one of the most common ways to connect is to share food and drink. Our family has been committed to family meals forever, and still are, even now that our children are grown up and out of the house. Last night we ate an extended family meal at our son’s house and then babysat so they could attend our grandson's school open house.
I’ve shared in previous posts (https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/single-post/2017/09/29/What-I-learned-at-the-table and https://www.nutritioncommunicator.com/single-post/2017/09/22/Could-eating-together-help-us-live-longer) about our weekly visits to University Place in West Lafayette, where both of our mothers live. This week we were joined by both of our sons, a daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and two great nieces. All of the residents recognize us and appreciate our weekly gathering.
This week I also got together with lunch with four “old” colleagues from the Nutrition Science department at Purdue. The five of us try to get together at least 1-2 times a month. A little effort in staying in touch is so worthwhile!
In the picture above I am enjoying a meal with some of our closest and dearest friends in South Haven, Michigan, where we travel each year in October. We have been getting together with these friends to discuss a book every month for 36 years! This weekend our family is traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to reconnect with the couple who started the group. We may make new friends, but we keep the old!
Next weekend, we are hosting a block party for our entire neighborhood. One of our goals for the year was to invite neighbors over for dinner every month and host a block party during the summer. It has been so rewarding to get better acquainted with our neighbors. I’ll be sure to post a picture and blog about how our event turned out.
Who could you connect with and share a meal, or an ice cream cone, or a drink? Make connecting with others a way of life… it might just add years to your life!
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien