The lives and habits of those who live in Blue Zones, otherwise known as the regions where the longest-living people on the planet live, have always fascinated us at The Optimist Daily. We’ve already shared stories about how Blue Zone dwellers drink alcohol, eat, and sit, and now, to add to this compelling list, this article focuses on how they set up their homes.
The way you organize your home has a significant effect on your longevity, because of the way it nudges you towards passively making everyday lifestyle decisions. “For example, Cornell found that up to 90 percent of food choices we make each day are unconscious,” says longevity expert Dan Buettner. “So, even if I were to convince you to make good conscious decisions about what you eat and get you to remember to make those decisions for the next 30 years, that would only cover a fraction of the total number of food decisions you’d be making daily.”
9 tips on how to design your home in a way that will naturally boost longevity
Put your TV in a room that’s far from your kitchen
Studies have found that people tend to eat past the point of fullness if they’re simultaneously watching a show. If you strategically place your TV in a room that you have to walk several steps (or even better, up or down a flight of stairs) to reach, then you’ll be less likely to snack mindlessly. Plus, even if you do get up to grab a snack, you’ll have to walk a bit, too. “It’s that type of regular, built-in physical activity that’s easy to maintain,” says Buettner. “And over time, it can have a more consistent effect than a gym membership, which we’ve found most people use fewer than twice a week.”
Keep a shoe rack by the door
Taking your shoes off as soon as you get home is a common habit among people in Okinawa, Japan, one of the world’s Blue Zones. Having a shoe rack by the door makes it more likely for you to also remove your shoes upon entry, too. “We’ve found that 28 percent of shoes carry fecal bacteria,” Buettner explains, “and you don’t want to drag that into your home because you can get sick from it.”
Another reason to keep a shoe rack by the door is that its presence will encourage you to keep comfortable walking or running shoes close by, which will make you even more likely to put them to good, active use.
Eat with family members or roommates as often as you can
First, socializing is one of the most important aspects of life in Blue Zones regions, so making sure that you create many opportunities to socialize will benefit you. Second, if you share a meal with others, then you are probably going to interact with them while you eat. This leads you to eat more slowly, allowing adequate time for the fullness signal to reach the brain which prevents overeating.
Grow a vegetable or herb garden
“Gardening is something we see in every one of the Blue Zones, with people well into their nineties continuing to tend to plants and vegetables,” Buettner says. Gardening is an activity full of longevity-boosting benefits, such as encouraging you to spend more time in the fresh air, eat more freshly grown foods, and practice daily activity as weeding and watering require bending down and standing back up.
If you don’t have enough outdoor space to accommodate a garden, then an indoor herb garden will have a similar effect.
Bring elements of the outdoors into your home
Having houseplants around your home naturally reduces stress, so decorating with greenery will make it easier for you to relax. “If you can’t [maintain houseplants], even having pictures of natural landscapes or incorporating natural earthy and green colors into your home can help foster a positive and creativity-boosting environment,” says Ryan Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving360, a real-estate development firm that specializes in housing for healthy aging.
Having plants in the home will also encourage you to fill the space with natural light during the day by opening blinds and windows, should the weather allow.
Design spaces with low furniture and rugs
One of the leading causes of hospitalization for Americans older than 65 is accidental falls. Furnishing your home with low couches and chairs is one simple way to help lower the chances of an accidental fall.
Safeguard bathrooms against slips and trips
While we’re on the subject of falling, it’s worth mentioning that bathrooms rank high on the list of places where people tend to fall. To address this, lay slip-resistant mats on the floor or install slip-proof tiles if you can. You should also consider adding grab bars to the walls in the shower and perhaps even placing a bench in the shower itself.
Calm-ify your bedroom
Regularly getting enough good quality sleep offers us a bunch of longevity-boosting benefits, like improving cardiovascular health as well as cognition. To make sure that your bedroom is as relaxing and sleep-inducing as possible, Frederick suggests installing blackout curtains and investing in a white-noise machine. Be sure to dust and vacuum your bedroom and make your bed as this contributes to the tranquility of the environment.
Make your home welcoming to guests
As was mentioned earlier, socializing and cultivating meaningful relationships in your community plays a role in extending your lifespan. Don’t just rely on a central dining room or kitchen table but create little nooks for gathering with friends and family with tables and chairs throughout the home or even on your front porch or in your backyard.
“There’s certainly research to suggest that having close friends supports longevity, but we also know that loose ties, like you might have with neighbors or people in your community, can boost your overall health and wellbeing,” explains Frederick.