I’m a huge fan of Dan Buettner’s series of books on Blue Zones – the places in the world where the average life expectancy is higher than average. In his work, Buettner identifies five major Blue Zones, where residents tend to live until the ripe age of 90, and sometimes 100. These places are found in the following cities: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California (yep, right here in the US!); Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece.
Some of the things residents of these places have in common (other than longevity) are healthy diets, daily exercise, minimal stress, and overall life happiness. I want to focus on the happy piece.
Now, we’ve done plenty of stories about how people can live a happy retirement. But I ran across a happiness list on Instagram from BlueZones that I think sums up the components of happiness pretty well.
In this post, happiness is said to be a mix of the following three ingredients: Purpose, pleasure, and pride. I think boiling down the broad picture of happiness in this way is unique and useful.
Along with their description of what makes for happiness, BlueZones also gave a list of 12 factors they believe contribute to an overall happy life. Not surprisingly, the list was compiled using observations of what people in the Blue Zones typically do in their lives, and each touch on purpose, pleasure or pride.
Take a look at this list to see which ones you’re already doing, and which ones you may want to weave into your weekly (or daily) routine:
1. You live with a loving partner. Of course, being in a loving relationship can increase your quality of life and happiness immensely.
2. You spend 30 minutes of quality time with your kids at least five times a week. This is so true. I will say that right now I am personally doing this, times ten. When does school start?
3. You own a dog. I think it could be a dog, cat, bird, or ferret, so long as you have a pet companion to keep you company and put a smile on your face.
4. You spend less than one hour watching TV or playing video games per day. Boy, I wish I could get my kids on board with this one!
5. You have people in your life whom you can confide in after a difficult day. I think this point is critical. If you don’t have close friends or family in your life, loneliness (and all the attendant problems) could creep in. My advice is to stay connected.
6. You eat at least six servings of fruits or vegetables daily. This sounds heavy, but if folks in the Blue Zones are doing it, I’ll have another serving of broccoli, please.
7. You meditate at least once a week. This isn’t something I do, but I believe in the mental and physical health benefits of the practice of meditation.
8. You visit the doctor and dentist at least once per year. If you have a relationship with your doctor, even better. Being able to have an informed conversation about your health is in itself very healthy. As for the dentist: Healthy gums, healthy heart.
9. Your home has good natural light. Natural light is a great mood booster.
10. You live near nature, whether it’s a park close by, houseplants or a fish tank inside, or a window through which you can clearly see outside. Just like natural light, nature can create a greater sense of happiness and well-being.
11. You can articulate your sense of purpose or life mission. This one reminds me of the huge importance of finding and having core pursuits.
12. You care for loved ones, such as sick children or aging parents. I’ve found that the happiest retirees are the ones who care for extended families. Plus, it’s just good to be a part of a strong family unit – you stay connected, and all help each other.