Humans have been searching for the source of youth and the key to happiness for centuries. There is an overwhelming wealth of information about how we can live longer, more fulfilled lives, so why are so many of us still so unhealthy and unhappy? Not to sound too drastic, but that’s a potentially fatal combination.
On a trip to Sardinia, I discovered that all I had to do was ditch the desk life and run away to the postcard-perfect island of Sardinia if I wanted to make it to the ripe old age of 100 (or even older).
The second largest Italian island has been listed as one of the planet’s rare Blue Zones- areas where longevity is the norm. Digging into the details a bit more, I came to learn that the reasons for their numerous birthdays has to do with several key factors that make common sense.
Move and Groove
Sardinians, like many other Europeans, walk a lot. And their strolls often involve hilly and mountainous inclines. In the blissfully beautiful evenings, elderly couples and young families are out having a gelato or enjoying the breeze. Old folks are not shipped off to wither away in nursing homes. Instead they get to live their golden years surrounded by their loved ones. Betty Farigu’s grandmother lived till the age of 101. “She had eight sons and one daughter,” said Farigu. “We are a big family.”
The Chia resident said it’s very common to have several generations living near each other and looking after one another. Not everyone owns a car and traffic is minimal and you are more likely to encounter to have to stop your car to let a farmer and his herd of goats pass by. In the tiny towns scattered on Sardinia’s mountainous interior, old folks are a vital part of happy communities. If nonna wants to chat with her best friend down the road, she’s got to get there on her own two feet.
Throw away the cellphone and ditch Facebook. Sardinian’s connect face-to-face. It’s an old school concept that reaps plentiful rewards for your ticker. When we feel engaged with other humans and are part of a community, we feel content, our stress levels go down, resulting in better overall health. “People are happy with what they have,” said Farigu. “They will open their homes and welcome you.”
The majority of the diet consists of what is grown and produced on the island. Fresher food, less junk and less packed food with scientific-sounding ingredients. Any pizza consumed easily gets burned away when you walk so much. “My grandmother used to make her own bread up until she was 101,” said Farigu. “She never took medicine or went to the hospital.”
The bonus point is that an evening glass of vino is enjoyed as the sun casts a golden glow on Sardinia’s heavenly shores. One glass a day keeps the doctor away.
Sense of Purpose
Ancient churches and religious processions are the norm on this Catholic island. Priests lead worshipers in prayer behind Biblical floats winding through narrow cobblestone streets. The locals get dressed up in colorful traditional garb; a testament to their steadfastness to the rich Sardinia culture. Having a sense of a greater good has been shown to improve health according to the Blue Zone Project.
The temptation to throw away the North American life of road rage, too little exercise, not enough impromptu walking, sitting all day and eating genetically-modified food is extremely strong for me and Sardinia has given me more of a reason to set sail in a new direction.
Have you ever wanted to pick-up and move somewhere better suited to you?