Recently while driving my son to school we were listening to the podcast version of NPR's TED Radio hour. If you haven't yet listened to this show, I highly recommend it. They take 2-4 TED talks and condense them into an hour with a theme, like "7 Deadly Sins" and "Animals & Us," and delve deeper with the presenters during interviews. It's one of the most fascinating, educational and entertaining hours of my week. You should check it out.
The talk we were listening to was called "The Fountain of Youth," and the first TED Talk was Dan Buettner's How to Live to be 100. I'd highly recommend listening to the talk, but here's the gist: there are seven areas of the world where, on average, people live longer. Buettner calls these areas "Blue Zones."
What I found most interesting about Buettner's talk was the list of things that all seven of these areas have in common — basic lifestyle choices that make life better and increase longevity for the people who live there. Their lifestyles almost always include:
What struck me the most was that all these lifestyle elements are embodied by book-loving outdoorswomen. We move our bodies in ways that feel both purposeful and natural. Reading allows us to have a purpose and reduce stress. Often on our outings we celebrate the end of a hike with wine (and our potlucks are a smorgasboard of healthy, vegetarian meals). And of course we are a community, a tribe of like-minded women who support and encourage each other.
Another reason I was so struck by this talk was because I just recently conducted a survey of women that asked them about how much fun they have in their lives (a subjective term, I realize, but I decided everyone can define fun and play in whatever ways they like).
The results were incredibly depressing.
So many of these women said that they don't have time to get outside, try new things or hang out with their girlfriends. Almost as many said that even when they do make time, they feel guilty for doing so. Why? Why do we feel the need to deprive ourselves for others' sake, especially when it's clear that others don't ask us to do it? What is it about playing the martyr that keeps us from living a longer, more meaningful life?
If you're a woman who can relate to feeling like you don't have the time to move your body, connect with other women and basically just live a more balanced life, I'd encourage you to create your own "blue zone." Find ways to move naturally. Create a purpose in your life — maybe that's being part of a larger community. Have a drink with friends over a vegetarian meal.
When I was in the Army, we used to make a joke whenever someone wanted to stop doing a job they hated: "Hey, Johnson, tell your first sergeant I said to take the day off." (Obviously first sergeants as a rule don't give a damn about who lesser-ranking soldiers think deserve a day off.)
Hey lady: tell that tired, guilt-ridden voice in your head I said to take the day off. Ignore your inner first sergeant and make a conscious decision to create your own personal blue zone: Stop doing things that will shorten your life and make it misreable, and start making time for the things that will enable you to enjoy a long, meaningful life filled with friends, movement and being outdoors.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
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