Dan Buettner, the author and explorer who pioneered research on longevity hotspots, makes it his mission to share exactly what people from these regions do throughout their lives that keeps them so healthy. From the low-protein diet to the importance of community and connection, the sharing of knowledge is meant to help others live longer lives, too. A few of these habits can be practiced in the morning, as soon as we wake up, to kickstart our day.
4 morning habits for longevity, inspired by the Blue Zones
1. Find your 'ikigai'
When you wake up in the morning, what gets you out of bed? What's your drive? Finding whatever that is and embracing it fully is one of the habits embraced by the residents of at least one of the Blue Zones.
The Japanese concept of ikigai is about to discovering what sparks your soul and leading life with purpose. According to the Blue Zones, having a purpose is linked to longevity; it literally gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning as you age.
If you're not sure where to begin, Ken Mogi, a neuroscientist and author of Awakening Your Ikigai, previously told Well+Good how to tap into that inner magic. The process, Mogi says, usually starts by embracing five pillars: starting small, accepting yourself, connecting with others and the planet, finding joy in little things, and being present.
2. Don't skip a healthy breakfast
Unsurprisingly, a healthy diet is an important part of becoming a centenarian. Buettner says that sticking to nutritious eating plans, like a plant-based diet or the Mediterranean diet, can help fuel a long, healthy life. A part of this includes the most important meal of the day: eating breakfast.
One woman—a 105-year-old living in Loma Linda, California—swears by starting her day with a hearty bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal. Topped with fiber-friendly dates, wholesome walnuts, and a splash of protein-packed soy milk, it's a super easy meal to make in the morning. Buettner says she follows each bowl with a "prune juice shooter" that helps to get things moving while reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
Here's everything you need to know about the Mediterranean diet:
3. Enjoy a cup of morning coffee
People who live in each of the five Blue Zones savor their morning cup of joe. "[People in these areas] drink up to two or three cups of black coffee per day," according to Buettner's findings. "The American Heart Association found that consuming coffee, both caffeinated and decaf, was associated with a lower risk of total mortality."
Now, that doesn't mean you should go loading up your cup with sweet cream lattes or six packets of sugar. Instead, opt for a splash of milk in your coffee with a teaspoon of sugar or a plant-based milk alternative and natural sweetener, like oat milk and agave. Or swap out your morning coffee with a cup of tea, another staple throughout the Blue Zones. "To really Blue Zones your coffee or tea routine, make coffee or afternoon tea dates with friends or family to chat, laugh, and get that face-to-face time that’s so important to health and happiness," says Blue Zones.
The benefits of coffee, explained by a dietitian:
4. Say something nice to the first person you see
Sarah Wilson, an Australian journalist and author of First, We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Story on Anxiety, once asked Buettner for his own morning routine. In addition to eating a healthy breakfast (full of fruits and grains) and completely 20-minutes of exercise (usually yoga or a bike ride to work), Buettner starts each morning by literally complimenting others.
"Say something nice to the first person we meet," he wrote in an email to Wilson. "A Harvard study shows that behaviors are contagious so if you do it to your neighbor, it’s likely to come back to you."
Considering how important connection to community and meaningful human relationships are in Blue Zones, it's likely Buettner picked up this morning habit up from his research. In addition to sparking this emotional ripple effect, find your community and cultivate a healthy social life. Whether it's first thing in the morning or throughout the day, human connection leads to happier, longer lives.
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