Rules give us meaning, direction, and clear boundaries. What is life change like without rules? We know what happens when we resolve to “eat better” or “be healthy”: not much of anything, save for a salad or a hike or two.
The Blue Zones Life Challenge gives you actionable and clear rules so that you know you are taking your new life into your own hands and making something amazing that will last. Ready for some measurable and achievable success? Here is how to be a rule-follower in order to be a “conventional life” rule-breaker:
The first three “rules” aren’t things you will do every day—you will take the two tests at the beginning and the end of the four weeks and you will use the Purpose Checkup (Rule 3) to guide you on your path. Measuring your progress is a fantastic motivator to keep going for as long as it takes to make the changes permanent and your life better.
To start, see where you currently stand with the Blue Zones tests and the Purpose Checkup. Are you as happy as you’d like to be? How is your projected lifespan compared to where it could be? And is your purpose defined? Things measured are the things that are managed. Just knowing where you start will help you see the real benefits and find the ongoing momentum.
1. Take the True Vitality Test
The Blue Zones True Vitality Test calculates your healthy life expectancy and gives you a baseline read on how you’re doing. Do this at the beginning and the end of the 4 weeks. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
2. Take the True Happiness Test
The Blue Zones True Happiness Test, based on the leading scientific research into well-being, will give you a baseline read on where you are at the start of the four weeks. Do this at the beginning and the end of the 4 weeks. Tracking helps you stay focused.
3. Take the Purpose Checkup and write your Purpose Statement
You can take the Purpose Checkup and write your Purpose Statement anytime during the 4 weeks, but week 4 is specifically geared towards finding your purpose. Use this Guide to Unlocking Your Purpose to write your Purpose Statement.
4. Follow 4 Always, 4 to Avoid
- Always: 100% Whole Grains (choose farro, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, whole cornmeal, bulgur wheat)
- Always: Nuts (a handful per day, variety is good, avoid sugary coatings)
- Always: Beans (a cup of cooked beans per day)
- Always: Fruit & Vegetables (5-10 servings per day)
- Avoid: Sugar-sweetened beverages (unneeded empty calories)
- Avoid: Salty Snacks (too much salt and preservatives)
- Avoid: Packaged Sweets (cookies, candies, processed sweets)
- Avoid: Processed Meats (linked to cancer and heart disease)
Why? The longest-lived people in the world, centenarians in blue zones regions, ate a plant-slant diet full of beans, fruits, and veggies for almost their whole lives. Nuts were a daily snack and they did not eat processed foods. Meat was a condiment or a celebratory food in four of the five blue zones; centenarians in one of the blue zones regions were mostly vegetarian.
Most Westerners have diets that are calorie-rich but nutrient-poor, so we want you to add a healthy amount of Blue Zones foods to your diet. You’ll feel a real difference as you crowd out the unhealthy foods with the good stuff.
5. Walk: Get a walking buddy or join (or start) a walking group
Walking is one of the safest, easiest, and cheapest ways to move naturally throughout the day. Just walking 30 minutes a day can have a big impact on your health and mood.
Even though you can walk alone (and we do suggest you walk as you much as you can every day!), one of the foundations of blue zones communities around the world are strong social connections and communities.
Walking with a buddy or a group integrates both the movement and social aspect of the Blue Zones Life. Research shows people are more likely to walk with others or with their pet. Walking and talking is a way to connect while reaping the benefits of moving.
“If you want to go fast, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk together.” —African proverb.
Whether you get a walking buddy or join a walking group, the goal is to meet and walk a few times per week. However, you might only find a group that meets once a week in your neighborhood, and that’s fine too. First, because many groups will only have weekly scheduled meetups, and also because you will automatically be meeting new people that are interested in getting out and getting moving. Hopefully, over time, you can arrange to meet one or a few members of your group at additional times during the week for extra walking.
Walking is a cost-effective and accessible exercise that can help prevent heart disease, depression, and obesity. Besides the healthful aspects of walking, it also helps you to:
- See your neighborhood, town, and city in a new way.
- Explore local parks and trails safely.
- Make new friend and community connections
Some Ideas for Finding Your Walking Buddy:
- Spouse, partner, or family member
- Friend or acquaintance
- Coworkers (In the morning before work, during coffee break, for 20 minutes before or after lunch)
- Member of your church, temple, other faith-based community
- Fellow student
If you want to find a walking group in your area, check:
- Meetup, a popular and easy-to-use free community group website
- American Volkssport Association
- Local Facebook Groups
- Local YMCA
- Health Clubs or Gyms
If you can’t find one in your neighborhood or one that meets at a time that works for you, you can also start your own walking group.
Recent studies show that walking as little as two hours per week can help you live longer and reduce the risk of disease.
Walkability is key! Find the places and the people in your neighborhood for daily walks and get creative to increase your daily step count. Walk briskly around an indoor mall or big box store if the weather is bad, or schedule walks with coworkers around the parking lot or your office building during or after lunch. Amish communities have some of the lowest obesity rates in the country and they walk at least 15K steps per day on average. Blue zones centenarians walked and moved naturally every day of their lives.
6. Track your progress with weekly tracking sheets
Recording your tasks or doing any kind of journaling can seem backwards and a waste of time. But there’s a lot of research that shows it helps with short and long-term goals. You can review your progress weekly to make sure you are on track, you can plan for some of your time-intensive tasks as you review your activity, and you can look back at your progress and celebrate how much you’ve achieved in such a short amount of time.
We would like you to actually print and track your progress on these free printable weekly calendars, but you can keep track on your own digital calendars or spreadsheets if you wish. If you carry around your printable calendar with you instead of hanging it up at work or at home, then take a few shots of it with your smartphone as your week progresses so you have a digital record in case it gets lost.
7. Do one new Blue Zones activity per day
You get to choose which new prompt you will add to your daily well of wellness. Week by week, they add up to amazing new power building a foundation to your health. The four weeks each have a theme. You’ll have three prompts that are required for the week—just choose which days you’d like to add them—and four choose-your-own-adventure prompts you can use to fill in the rest of the week.