where women celebrate their ageless authenticity

What Can We Learn From Blue Zones?

Who knew?

Blue Zones are places on the planet where the healthiest, happiest and longest living people reside. Apparently there are five such locations, as identified by explorer, author, and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner, who has who spent years collaborating with scientists, anthropologists, and demographers, to study how people live well in various parts of the world.

The story goes that when Buettner and his colleagues were identifying these areas, they drew blue circles around them on a map.

  1. Loma Linda, CA in the United States
  2. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  3. Sardinia, Italy
  4. Ikaria, Greece
  5. Okinawa, Japan

World map with blue background

Since my zip code is not on the color spectrum, I set out to see what well-being practices these communities had in common in hopes of creating my own Blue Zone right where I’m already planted. Here’s what I found…

We are influenced by our environment:

Here in America where our society idealizes youthfulness and vitality, “ageism” has a way of making us older adults feel devalued and invisible, with little to offer. Especially as women, we’re now the target market for the latest “anti-aging” and “age-defying” products in an endless quest to be something better than we already are.

In Blue Zones, elders are highly respected for their wisdom and experience, and they remain engaged with a sense of purpose. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” or “reason for being,” and Costa Ricans call it “plan de vida” or “why I wake up in the morning.” Either way,  studies have shown that having a sense of purpose extends life expectancy by eight years.

directional sign that says old life new life

                                                                                                 Blue Zones Lifestyle Habits

  • Moving naturally: They live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking much about it. It’s a way of navigating through life — walking to the store or to visit friends, tending their gardens, getting outside to commune with nature.


  • Purpose: They remain relevant with a sense of purpose – caring for others, being of service, contributing through work, and doing what they love to do. They feel vital and remain curious.


  • Downshifting: They have stress like we all do, but their daily routines help them shed that stress. Southern Adventists in Loma Linda pray; Ikarians nap, Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, and Sardinians have happy hour.


  • 80% rule: Blue Zone inhabitants eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening, and nothing again until morning. The Okinawan “Hara Hachi Bu” mantra said before meals is a cultural practice of mindfulness to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full influences whether weight is gained or lost. (Related fun fact: Okinawa has the highest percentage of centenarians in the world)


  • Plant Slant: Most of their diet consists of plant-based whole foods – beans (including fava, black, soy and lentils) are the cornerstones, along with whole grains, greens, sweet potatoes, and nuts. They eat meat rarely; only about five times per month. They also drink wine moderately and regularly, one to two glasses per day.


  • Belonging: They belong to a faith-based community and experience a sense of spirituality and connection to something bigger than themselves.


  • Love and connection: Successful centenarians in Blue Zones put their families first and take time to cultivate meaningful relationships with at least three friends. The right tribe can encourage healthy habits and a supportive social circle they can count on.


If you wish to dive deeper into Blue Zones, check out the wealth of info from Dan Buettner at bluezones.com.

woman with grey hair sees the sunset

My Takeaway:

While it’s clear there’s no secret formula or one size fits all approach to longevity and living our best lives, Blue Zones are terrific examples of consciousness in action – moving, eating intentionally, and connecting.

Beyond locations on a map, if our environment plays a crucial role in our well-being, it’s on us to shape our surroundings with a supportive operating system within ourselves. I’ve found it to be more of an inside job that begins with awareness and what you do with it. There’s great freedom in the choices I get to make to create a life of my design, in harmony with my mind, body and spirit. Being open and invested in the everyday choices I make sets me on a path of rediscovering all the pieces of me. It’s nice to be filled with wonder at 65. I’m like a kid again who can’t wait to go outside to play.

What choices are you making for you?