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Lessons from centenarians


Living to 100 may seem impossible. It is certainly unusual and those who do you always want to know their secret, which is often unexpected, simple and unscientific.

Reading The Blue Zones, 9 lessons for living longer  revealed that attitude, faith, purpose and good relationships to be the golden thread through the lives of these precious souls living to the grand old age of 100 and beyond.

Though their diets were revealing, they were diverse, dwelling in lands stretching from the Japanese island of Okinawa to Costa Rica.

So it’s not just about food. Though nutrition is important and it is negligent to not eat mindfully with the mindset that food is truly medicine, optimal health goes way beyond that and I may even stick my neck out to say that you might get away with a diet that falls short IF you have joy in your life, a sense of purpose, mutually happy relationships, contentment and gratitude.

There are some pictures of these wise people in the book, one of Seiryu Toguchi from Okinawa and at 105 he sits in his chair soaking up the rays of the sun on his face. There is a serenity that smooths his face. The Okinawans spend time gardening, walking, they leave life’s difficulties in the past, they eat till they are 80% full and consume medicinal plants, especially mugwort, ginger and turmeric, from their gardens daily. They have known famine, war and hardships, misery and the loss of loved ones and yet their attitude is one that the hardships served them well, allowing them to enjoy the present. Okinawan women are still among the longest lived people on earth.

These centenarians walk for exercise, and as they walk they take in their surroundings, activating all their senses and in this is mindfulness and meditation. Those who plug their ears and pump up the volume while out walking are missing such a vital part of healing; being at one with nature, grounded, hearing, seeing, taking in the scents and feeling the air on their bare skin. It’s hard to do when you are literally stuck in your head.

You don’t have to sit crossed leg in silence to reap the benefits of mindfulness. It is there for the taking if you just tune out and tune in.

John Muir the great explorer and lover of nature said “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” He knew that appreciation of what nature offers is food for the soul.

In Ikaria the longest lived are the poorest, living in the islands highlands. They potter in their gardens, walk to their neighbour’s house, take an afternoon nap and fast occasionally. These people seem to know what is good for them and do it, and I can’t imagine they go against the wisdom of the body and act in a manner that might bring about discord.

They enjoy the company of others, spend time in uplifting conversation and in Sardinia the old men gather in the street laughing with and at each other! They also drink red wine every day made from their own grapes. They put their family first and care for and support one and other.

Lessons can really be learned from this most uplifting book and I smiled my way through it. These are not difficult ways of living to adopt. Perhaps just a new way of thinking and being can make all the difference.

So, live well, love your fellow human beings, laugh, don’t take life too seriously, let things go, eat mindfully, walk in the fresh air, enjoy the sun and perhaps good health is much easier to attain than we realise.

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