Less Stress, More Happy with a Blue Zones Approach for Seniors

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Senior couple relaxing at ocean

Raise your hand if you’ve been extra stressed so far this year. How could you not be with the COVID-19 pandemic going on? The uncertainty, the fear and the restrictions have undoubtedly taken their toll on all of us. But there is a way to reduce stress that’s practiced by residents in Blue Zones®, five regions in the world where people seem to live the longest. Here’s what they do and how seniors can apply their approach.

For more information on how we incorporate the Blue Zones’ approach to fitness in senior living, check out our Successful Secrets to Aging Guide!

senior living guide to aging well

Why You Should Worry about Stress

Stress isn’t good for anyone, but according to Harvard Medical School seniors are particularly vulnerable to the health issues it can cause including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Increased risk for heart disease

Not sure if you’re stressed or not? Some of the telltale symptoms are tension headaches, indigestion, heart palpitations, poor concentration, sleep difficulties, anxiety, irritability, crying and/or overeating.

De-Stressing in the Blue Zones

Blue Zones regions include: Sardinia, Italy; the Greek island of Ikaria; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan. Research in these regions has found that residents share similar lifestyle traits known as the Power 9® which help them to age well.  We’ve discussed all these traits in past blogs , but one that specifically related to stress is known as Downshift.

In Blue Zones, residents certainly have stress like we do, but they “Downshift” by incorporating routines to help them manage it such as taking a few moments each day to remember their ancestors (Okinawans), praying (Adventists), taking a nap (Ikarians) and happy hour (Sardinians).

How You Can Stress Less

You can apply the same approach to manage the stress in your life. In thinking about what to incorporate into your routine, focus on things that trigger the opposite response such as relaxation and happiness. For example:

  • Practice Gratitude – It’s surprising how a bit of perspective can lower your stress level! You might try making a list of 4-5 things you are grateful for in which to reference when feeling stressed, or keep a daily gratitude journal which can also serve as a nice record of some of your most fond memories.
  • Embrace Your Spiritual Side – Regularly participate in faith-based activities (another Blue Zones’ Lifestyle Trait – Belong), or connect spiritually through meditation which can take many forms such as Tai Chi, yoga, breathing deeply, repeating a mantra and/or spending time reflecting in nature.
  • Sleep Better – Very few people actually get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night required to restore your body.  To do so, follow a regular sleep schedule, minimize naps, have a bedtime routine to wind down, create a safe, comfortable place to sleep (minus the devices!).

Blue Zones’ research has also identified drivers of happiness such as doing meaningful work, socializing daily – even owning a dog! But one that we find particularly important is living in the right environment.

Worry-Free in Senior Living

As we age, one of our biggest stressors can be maintaining the home. Senior living offers a solution. Our communities are designed for your convenience and comfort with beautiful grounds, spacious accommodations and amenities such as fitness centers, fabulous dining, housekeeping and laundry services as well as a range of opportunities to socialize and find purpose. Plus, we’re pet friendly! What’s more, our residents have the added peace of mind that support is available however their care needs evolve.