The Secrets of Longevity: Habits of Longest-Living People

Apart from a healthy diet and exercise, there are many other factors that lead to longevity of life. Keep reading to know what they are.

By URLife Team
29 Apr 2024

The pursuit of a long and healthy life has been the study of many for decades. With countless studies and theories emerging to uncover the secrets of longevity, there is always confusion about what’s true and what isn’t. Amidst the sea of information, it's easy to become overwhelmed by conflicting advice. To make this simple for you, we have collected information from the first-ranked blue zone, Okinawa, Japan. (the information below is inspired by the book Ikigai, written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles).


This place is renowned for its high concentration of centenarians and outgoing elderly population. In this unique corner of the world, the secrets of longevity are deeply embedded in the culture and lifestyle of its inhabitants. One of such is Ikigai. It breaks into “iki” meaning “alive” and “gai” meaning “worth”. These phrases together refer to what gives your life value, meaning, or purpose. Ikigai is the art of staying young while growing old or it can be defined as the happiness of always being busy.


In the Japanese province of Okinawa, an average of 24.55 people (for every 100,000) live over the age of 100. Amazing, isn’t it? And it’s been found that the Japanese concept of Ikigai might actually be the reason why.


It is a fact that people living on Okinawa Island, Japan, live the longest and happiest life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world’s highest life expectancy record is in their name, but what is their secret? Keep reading to know.


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Work on What You Love as Long As You Can

As per Japanese culture, having a purpose in life is so important that the concept of retirement merely does not exist. Conversely, in many other countries, there's a growing desire for early retirement. This stems from dissatisfaction with work, leading individuals to seek ways to escape it as soon as possible. When work feels like a burden or is solely driven by financial necessity, both the individual and the company suffer.


Genuine happiness in one's work is important for sustained productivity and fulfilment. Otherwise, if you are working just for your financial needs, you will consider your work a burden and will not be ever ready to do it. This will also make you long for retirement, However, when work becomes a source of joy and purpose, thoughts of retirement fade away, as the focus shifts from merely earning a living to finding genuine satisfaction in daily endeavours.


Related Post: 6 Viral Life Hacks To Help Sleep Better


Find Purpose in Life Through Logotherapy

Logotherapy is a form of psychotherapy developed by Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It focuses on finding meaning and purpose in life as a way to overcome psychological challenges and achieve personal fulfilment. Unlike other forms of therapy that might focus on past experiences or current emotions, logotherapy looks to the future and emphasises the importance of finding meaning in one's life circumstances, even in the face of suffering or adversity. It's about finding purpose, even in difficult times, and using that purpose as a source of strength and motivation.


One example of logotherapy in practice is the use of a technique called "paradoxical intention," where a therapist may encourage a person struggling with suicidal thoughts to consider the question: "Why would you not commit suicide?" By exploring reasons for choosing life over death, such as unfinished goals, meaningful relationships, or potential future joys, individuals can gain insight into their intrinsic motivations and discover sources of meaning that give them the strength to persevere through difficult times. This approach helps individuals reframe their perspective and find renewed purpose and hope in life.


Limit Food Intake to 80 Per Cent of Your Appetite

Feeling full but still want to eat? That might not be the best idea. Feeling full implies that you have eaten 80 per cent of your appetite and this is considered the ideal quantity to consume. The idea is to be still a little hungry when you finish. You can do this by skipping desserts or reducing the portion size. Try to avoid serving food in courses. Instead, serve everything at once on small plates. This is because eating more than required leads to longer digestive processes that accelerate cellular oxidation.


By stopping before feeling completely full, you give your body a chance to properly digest the food and avoid overloading your digestive system. Additionally, incorporating a variety of foods in smaller portions on one plate promotes balanced nutrition and prevents the temptation to overindulge in any one dish. This mindful approach to eating not only supports optimal digestion but also fosters a healthier relationship with food.


Incorporate Techniques like Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese idea that finds beauty in imperfection and simplicity. It's about appreciating things that are natural, even if they're not perfect, and seeing the beauty in the passing of time. So, it's like finding charm in things that are a bit rough around the edges. Ichi-go ichi-e" is a Japanese concept that reminds us to cherish each moment because it's unique and will never happen again. It encourages us to be fully present and appreciate the fleeting nature of experiences, whether it's a conversation with a friend or a special event.


Also, keep yourself in the habit of practising negative visualisation. Negative visualisation is a technique used in Stoic philosophy where you imagine the loss or absence of something valuable in order to appreciate it more fully. By contemplating what could go wrong or what we might lose, we can cultivate gratitude for what we have in the present moment.


Related Post: The Many Powerful Benefits Of Walking Every Day


Build Exercises Into Daily Life

Exercise does not always have to be going and hitting the gym and even the residents of blue zones believe in this ideology. Residents of Okinawa suggest that you don't need to engage in structured sports or intense running to stay healthy. Instead, you can incorporate simple activities into your daily routine at your own pace.


Okinawans emphasise simplicity in their approach to exercise, preferring activities like light jogging, gardening, or singing for enjoyment. Consistency is key, so they focus on easy-to-maintain forms of physical activity. Additionally, a Japanese radio program called Radio Tasso has been a long-standing source of exercise inspiration for Okinawans. By playing energetic tunes and providing exercise instructions, it encourages movement and vitality.


Stay Connected With Community

It is a custom in Okinawa to form close bonds with local communities. It is essential for building strong bonds and supporting one another. Also, people in Japan form informal groups named ‘moai’ with common interests, where they look for each other and support each other in adverse times. They also contribute a fixed amount that allows monthly meetings, arrangements for playing games and dinners. After using the amount collected for activities, if there is money left over one member (decided on a rotating basis) receives a fixed amount from the surplus.


Whether it's through volunteering, attending local events, or simply reaching out to neighbours, staying connected fosters a sense of belonging and collective well-being. Additionally, giving back to the community through acts of kindness, support, or service not only enriches the lives of others but also brings a sense of fulfillment and purpose to our own lives. It's a reciprocal relationship where everyone benefits from the strength and support of the community.


Need all your wellness solutions in one place? A whole new world awaits just a click away.


Reduce Meat and Gravitate Towards A Plant-based Diet

In a 2014 study analysing 150 dietary surveys from Blue Zones spanning 80 years, it was discovered that over 90 per cent of their food intake consists of complex carbohydrates from whole plant-based sources. 95 per cent of centenarians consumed plant-based diets rich in beans, which are affordable, high in fibre and protein, and packed with nutrients. 


Additionally, they consumed carbohydrates primarily from whole grains and sourdough breads, rather than yeast-leavened breads.The traditional Okinawa diet consists of vegetables and soy products, with occasional and modest servings of noodles, rice, pork, and fish, all low in calories and fat but high in carbs.


Prioritise Sleep

In Blue Zones, people value good sleep for its many benefits. Quality sleep refreshes the brain, repairs skin, and strengthens the body's major systems like the immune and nervous systems. Napping is common, with experts suggesting a short nap around 20 minutes before 3 p.m. to boost mood and energy in lieu of coffee. Consistent bedtime routines, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, also promote better health.


In hot climates, people in Okinawa often stay awake until late at night, even past midnight, enjoying social activities. Because they wake up later, taking a mid-afternoon nap, or siesta, makes sense. Additionally, Blue Zone residents prioritise creating a conducive sleep environment. They ensure their sleeping space is comfortable, quiet, and dark, promoting deeper and more restful sleep. Limiting exposure to screens before bedtime and engaging in relaxing activities like reading or gentle stretching further aid aids in winding down for the night.


The longevity secrets of Okinawa offer invaluable insights into living a longer, more fulfilling life. From embracing ikigai to incorporating mindful eating and staying connected to the community, these practices emphasise purpose, simplicity, and meaningful relationships. By adopting these habits, we can cultivate a healthier and happier existence, enriching our lives and those around us. Let's embark on this journey towards longevity and well-being with renewed inspiration and determination.



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