I have always been intrigued by Dan Buettner’s identification of the five original blue zones – areas across the globe with the healthiest, longest-living populations – but then I watched the Netflix series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones and I was transfixed! In his articles, book, and the documentary, Buettner reveals the habits, diets, and lifestyles of centenarians living in these areas. His revelations have not only sparked a desire to transform how I live, but also where I live, both in a geographical sense (I personally find Martha’s Vineyard to be its own mini blue zone and the Hudson Valley has strong ties to living off the land and offers countless outdoor living activities) as well as in relation to personal space.
I’ve been inspired to make changes to my home and lifestyle that enable me to live a more peaceful, healthier, and longer life. For example, I have built a mocktail bar, created a comfy bedroom for quality sleep complete with black out shades, stocked a healthy pantry that includes nuts and beans, have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables within eyesight, and designed dining and living areas that foster connection with friends. I also have an e-bike, take daily walks, and get to the gym several times a week for weight training.
Here Are Some Tips for Turning Your Home into Your Own Personal Blue Zone
Create Community Living Spaces
A sense of community and family is strong in the blue zone. And the best place to start building a supportive community is right in your home. Create welcoming communal spaces that invite family and friends to socialize and connect with each other. One of the most ideal places to build bonds is at the dining table. I like to set the table with beautiful dinnerware, glassware, utensils, and centerpieces because settling down for a meal isn’t just about the food, it’s about the feeling of warmth and togetherness. That’s why I like to make each meal feel special. Another way to strengthen bonds is to create a true family room that incorporates separate, comfortable zones where you can come together to engage in conversation, watch a movie, play games, do a puzzle, or simply read.
Build a Bedroom Conducive to Restful Sleep
Blue zone centenarians sleep seven to nine hours a night and take frequent naps. To follow their lead, design a tranquil bedroom that eases you into sleep and helps you to sleep through the night. Paint the walls with soft, calming colors or a warm shade that envelops you, whichever you prefer. Install blackout shades or curtains and skip the TV to minimize sleep disturbing light that can throw off your circadian rhythm. Add dimmable lighting that will help prepare your body for rest, and make your bed up with cozy sheets, pillows, and blankets – or cooling sheets if that is what you need for the best sleep!
Incorporate Areas and Elements that Encourage Activity
People in the blue zone are far from sedentary; they are on the move! They definitely aren’t sitting at desks all day or spending hours on the couch watching television. While we likely cannot completely emulate their active lifestyles, we can embrace the concept in our home design choices. Turn that extra bedroom or basement into an exercise room so you can easily squeeze in a workout. Place large, comfy cushions on the floor where you can read, chat, or take part in activities. Blue zone residents sit and get up from the floor many times throughout the day, which exercises their legs, back and core, as well as helps with flexibility. Grow a garden – tending to it requires activity, connects you with nature, and provides fresh grown produce. Keep a shoe rack or basket near your door so you have easy access to sneakers for walking or running.
Set Up a Kitchen that Aligns with Blue Zone Cooking
We often don’t eat well because we just don’t have the time or the “good for you food” is out of sight. Thoughtfully design your kitchen to make cooking easier and where healthy food is highlighted. Add pull out shelving to your cabinets for easy access to small appliances that speed up meal prep like slow cookers and instant pots. Place bowls of fruit and glass jars of nuts on the counter to encourage healthy snacking. Pour your olive oil into a pretty cruet and keep it within arm’s reach from the stove. Put oats, rice, and beans in glass jars at the front of your pantry so they are highly visible. Build a beverage station and stock it with tea, water, and wine – yes, I said wine, many blue zone centenarians drink the libation moderately or regularly! Focus on mindful eating by not installing a television in the kitchen. Add some fresh herb pots on the windowsill – they bring the outdoors in and are great to have on hand for healthy cooking.