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Blue Zones: A Mindful Way of Living

Do you ever dream of living a long, healthful life? Individuals who live in Blue Zones are close to this reality. Blue Zones are different areas of the world, such as Sardinia, Italy, and Okinawa, Japan, which have the highest number of centenarians.

Centenarians are people who live to be 100 or older. This raised life expectancy has been credited to the centenarians’ lifestyle choices. In fact, lifestyle choices account for 80% of how long you will live.

How can we adopt this way of life and make good decisions for ourselves? According to an article published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, the lifestyle choices of centenarians all over the world are summarized as follows:

  • Move naturally. Many centenarians in Blue Zones are constantly moving due to their environment. For instance, doing yard work and growing gardens. Our location can be a big factor in how active or inactive we are.
  • Purpose. This is described using the concept of “having something to wake up to in the morning.” That is a reason to keep going.
  • Downshift. Take moments throughout the day to de-stress. This could be done by being mindful or even through meditation or prayer.
  • The 80% rule. In Blue Zones, people are encouraged to eat only until they are 80% full to prevent overeating. You can practice this by listening to hunger and fullness cues. For example, only eating until you are comfortably full instead of overly full.
  • Plant slant. People who live in Blue Zones tend to have plant-based diets. This could be implemented by focusing on vegetables for your main dish and meat as a side.
  • Wine at 5. In Blue Zones, particularly Sardinia, they drink red wine twice a day for health benefits.
  • Belong. According to research, belonging to a faith-based community can extend your life expectancy.
  • Loved ones first. In many Blue Zones, families, including grandparents and parents, live under one roof.
  • Right tribe. Having a support group with people who also have healthful behaviors encourages us to keep up our good habits.

By applying these practices to our own lives and in our communities, we can improve our mindfulness, motivation and movement to help lengthen and enrich our lives. This can be difficult to do on our own.

The Blue Zone Project is helping create Blue Zones all over the U.S. They do this by working with community influencers to make healthful lifestyle choices easier and more convenient for citizens to make. Living a long, healthful life can be done anywhere if you have the right mindset.


By Rachel Warner, NDSU Extension Intern

Reviewed by Julie Garden-Robinson



Buettner, D. and Skemp, S. (2016). Blue Zones: Lessons from the world’s longest lived. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 10(5), 218-321. doi: 10.1177/1559827616637066

Zeng, Y., Feng, Q., Gu, D., and Vaupel, J. (2017). Demographics, phenotypic health characteristics and genetic analysis of centenarians in China. Mechanisms of Aging and Development, 165, 86-97.

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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