Blue Zones founder and longevity expert Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Kitchen, says we can emulate general beliefs about what the holidays signify from the longest living people in the world in order to reduce holiday-season stress.
For one example, in Blue Zones regions, the focus of the holidays tends to not be on shopping or planning (as opposed to the fiasco that is Black Friday shopping in the United States), which can stoke stress. Rather, Blue Zone residents tend to embrace the holidays as an opportunity to reconnect with and celebrate their loved ones.
Read on to find four tips to make your holiday celebration similar to that of the the longest-living people in the world.
4 holiday tips to celebrate like the longest-living people in the world
1. Make the holidays about connecting with and celebrating family and friends
As opposed to jet-setting on exotic vacations, the longest-living people tend to stay home during the holidays to host and join gatherings for drinking, eating, and connecting with their loved ones. Often, children who have moved away from their hometown to bigger cities (like Athens for Blue Zone residents of Ikaria, Greece) will come home for the holidays and the family will have a long meal during which toasts are made to everyone’s accomplishments, among other things, says Buettner. (If you're not close with family members, you're not barred from partaking in this holiday practice; you can re-create it by gathering with your chosen family of close friends and other loved ones.)
“There’ll be convivial talk, but there’ll also be around-the-table toasts, and there’s often an expression of gratitude,” says Buettner. Expressing gratitude can help make you happier, and that happiness may lend itself to a lower-stress holiday experience. In addition to expressions of gratitude and personalized toasts, the longest-living people tend to not watch much TV post-dinner. Instead of remaining sedentary after a large meal, they opt to do something that elevates their heart rate, like going for a walk or dancing, Buettner adds.
2. Remember, it's not just about giving gifts
Blue Zone residents believe that the holiday season is meant to bring people together to celebrate their accomplishments, so gift-giving is not necessarily the top priority. Instead of the holiday season being focused on presents, "it's focused on family,” says Buettner.
Sure, many Blue Zone residents do give gifts during the holidays (there's nothing wrong with showing your love in this way!), but Buettner says that they tend to be modest on the volume of gifting rather than making a pile near their decorations of choice. Keeping the presents at a thoughtful minimum can help you save time and money that you’d otherwise be spending shopping—which can ultimately lead you to feeling less stressed and more keen to focus on relationships that matter most to you.
3. Tap into your spirituality during the holidays
Buettner says that in Blue Zones located in Latin America and the Mediterranean, there’s a stronger “spiritual component” around the holidays. Whether or not folks here are religious, they tend to connect to a higher power—which might look like going to church, but can also just be focused on believing in something bigger than the self. The holidays are “a meditative time and give room [for] reflection,” Buettner adds.
If going to a place of worship isn’t your thing, you can, of course, harness your spirituality without going to a religious institution. Meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness are great spiritual practices, for instance.
4. Be mindful of your nutritional intake
The longest-living people tend to have a plant-based diet throughout the year, says Buettner. And while they may enjoy meat-based dishes during holiday celebrations—like the pork roast or roasted goat, for example—Buettner says they tend to be mindful of portions and still round out their plates with plant-based sides, like sweet potatoes, squash, and wild rice.
To Blue Zone-ify your holiday meals, Buettner suggests including an array of nutrient-rich plant-based foods on your table. For some inspiration, check out these great vegan Thanksgiving recipes.
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