In The Deep, Deep Blue Zone
“So that’s how they do it”. I had arrived in Ikaria only six hours ago but it felt like I had been waiting for twenty.
Waiting to get my drink. Waiting to be served at the local tavern. Waiting for the employee to show up in the fisherman store (don’t ask). “Relax, dude” my friend kept saying to me. Easy for her to say; she was born on the island and she never missed spending her summers there. She was one of those people – the “Relax, dude” people. Not my style (but love is blind). She never lost her nerve, no matter what was happening, no matter where she was or whom she was talking to. She was almost always calm. Also, also!, all four of her grandparents were still alive; all of them were near 100 years old. She knew. I had to trust her. She knew.
Lose track of time.
Get in the Blue Zone.
I had never been in any of the other four Blue Zones. In Okinawa in Japan. Nor in Sardinia in Italy. Nor in Nicoya in Costa Rica. Not even in Loma Linda in California, even though I’d visited the West Coast twice by then. But Ikaria was here, in my own country. Far away, so close. And I was determined to see what the fuss with the Blue Zones was all about. Twelve hours after I set my foot on the island, I finally got a grasp of what was going on. You just need to relax. Right?
“Don’t be absurd,” my friend told me. “It’s not just that. It’s a combination of things; it’s the diet, it’s the social engagement, it’s the physical activity, it’s the wine, it’s maintaining a sex life into old age!” Hmmm…
“Ok,” I thought “let’s start over. I need to find the secret.”
I read in Wikipedia:
Blue Zones are regions of the world where people live much longer than average. The term first appeared in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story “The Secrets of a Long Life” by Dan Buettner.
In his book, Buettner provides a list of 9 lessons, covering the lifestyle of Blue Zones people:
- Moderate, regular physical activity. (Sort of)
- Life purpose. (Well…)
- Stress reduction. (Hard level)
- Moderate caloric intake. (Check)
- Plant-based diet. (Check; I guess)
- Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine. (Goodbye cocktails)
- Engagement in spirituality or religion. (Not even close; I should meditate more)
- Engagement in family life. (Check)
- Engagement in social life. (Check! Yes!)
“Is that all?” I asked my friend sarcastically. She smiled. “Yup. Also, grow your own greens. And get a nap for an hour every day after lunch”. “Are you insane?!” I shouted (not very Blue Zoney) “I have a full-time job! And I live in an apartment”. “What can I tell you, dude, it’s your choice” she replied in a stoic manner.
She was right (dude). It’s a choice.