As you move into the 2021 new year, you may be pondering goals like improved overall well-being or living more simply. It’s essential to mindfully align your goals with your core values so you have a deep and personal connection with “why” you want to achieve these goals. This very act can assist you in staying motivated as the year goes on.
Values are universal and arise from the experience of being human. Every decision you make is either a conscious or unconscious attempt to satisfy your needs. Whatever your need, whatever is important to you or what is missing from your life is what you value. As your life situations change, and you become a more seasoned soul, you grow in psychological developments, therefore your value priorities change. When you use your values to make decisions you focus on, what is important to you as well as what you need to feel a sense of well-being. Let’s explore the Blue Zones Project as a resource that may assist you in fulfilling your new year’s goal.
In 2010, Healthways and Blue Zones co-created the Blue Zones Project. The Blue Zones Project is a community by community movement to inspire people to lead more active, longer lives. Overall well-being integrates, an individual’s sense of purpose, social connections, physical health, financial confidence, and connection to one’s community. Since the partnership began, Blue Zones Project has positively affected more than twenty communities across the country.
In these communities, residents and business owners alike work together to improve well-being for themselves and their neighbors. The results consist of lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and more socially connected people. The Blue Zones are identified places around the world where people live the longest: Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan. These people live longer because their surroundings encourage them into the right behaviors.
A key player in the Blue Zones Project was journalist, health activist and National Geographic Fellow, Dan Buettner. In his books, “The Blue Zones Solution” and “The Blue Zones Kitchen,” Dan and his team of dietitian experts named these key factors Blue Zones residents consistently integrated toward enjoying long, healthy lives:
1. Choosing a whole food, plant-based diet that is naturally low in fat and sugar. The earth is our food source and includes only the purest forms of food. The farther you move away from the source, the more processed, unhealthy and expensive the food becomes. Go closer to the source when buying foods, beverages, and supplements. For example: apple-applesauce-apple juice or Sugar Cane-Syrup-Processed Sugar Crystals.
2. Practicing stress management techniques including meditation and yoga or low intensity exercise. Meditation:
- Reduces rumination and stress
- Boosts working memory and focus
- Creates greater relationship satisfaction and increases happiness
- Boosts the immune system Note: Prayer, expressive arts like drawing, painting, journaling etc., and hobbies such as woodworking, sewing, etc., also place the brain in a meditative state.
Yoga and Exercise:
- Low intensity exercise or yoga decreases cortisol levels
- Improves brain function and focus
- Improves sleep
- Increases dopamine levels and other “feel good” neurotransmitters, which improve mood
3. Enjoying moderate exercise such as walking and moving naturally every 20 minutes or so to places such as looking in on a vulnerable neighbor, going to a friend’s home or to work in a garden. Complete as many household chores and kitchen preparation processes by hand rather than using mechanical conveniences. For example: Use a whisk rather than a mixer to beat the breakfast eggs. 4. Maintaining social support and community that co-creates love, intimacy, meaning, and purpose. This includes not only new hobbies, rather a sense of responsibility for their community, family or the next generation. Carefully cultivate your closest social circle by completing a social circle checklist. Research shows you start mimicking the behavior and even the feelings of your close friends and family members. Augment your circle of close family and friends to include positive influences to create a life support and safety net. In addition to preventing many chronic diseases, these lifestyle changes can often reverse the progression of these illnesses. For the first time, research has proven that lifestyle changes alone can reverse the progression of even severe coronary heart disease. Lifestyle changes can reverse type 2 diabetes and may slow, stop, or even reverse the progression of early stage prostate cancer. Lifestyle changes can change how your genes work. Explicitly, it may enliven genes that keep you healthy, and divert genes that promote heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and diabetes. The latest research shows diet and lifestyle changes may even begin to reverse aging at a cellular level.
“The secret of change is to focus your energy not on fighting the old, rather building the new.” Socrates
For more details on longevity read the books: The Blue Zones Solution and The Blue Zones Kitchen by Dan Buettner or go to: ontargetliving.com to download an Adult or Kids Food Target Chart.
Sandy Block-Hansen, MS, is the St. Francis Healthcare Campus Family Footprints coordinator, a Catholic Health Initiative Mission and Ministry program created to support, inform, and offer resources to parents in the role of parenting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-643-0475.