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This question orginally appeared on Quora. Answer by Nela Canovic.

The Blue Zones are five regions in the world where many residents live to be over 100. They consume a healthy diet, yes, but in addition to that they lead productive lives (they are physically active and perform daily physical tasks such as farming and gardening), and they seem overall happier with their lives than we would expect them to be, given their age.

Dan Buettner's book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest provides more details on the regions, the people, and what they do in their daily lives that makes them so unique.

What are the Blue Zones?

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Icaria, Greece

What are some common lifestyle characteristics in the Blue Zones?

  • They focus on leading a rich family and social life
  • They smoke less
  • They enjoy a moderate alcohol intake (and when they do, it’s usually red wine)
  • In most cases, they are semi-vegetarian, i.e. they eat a plant-based diet
  • They maintain a moderate and regular level of physical activity
  • They experience low levels of stress (due to their lifestyle)
  • They are regularly engaged in spiritual practices (including religion)
  • They express having a sense of purpose: the belief that one's life has value and there is a reason to enjoy it.

Why is having a sense of purpose important to leading a high quality of life?

  • In Okinawan culture, people call this sense of purpose Ikigai : it literally means “a reason to get up in the morning.”
  • Ikigai is not something that can be acquired quickly; it is a long process of the search for self and requires a deep level of personal maturity.
  • People who discover ikigai experience a greater satisfaction of living a meaningful life, which is likely one of the top reasons people in the Blue Zones live such long lives.

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