How To Tweak Your Environment To Live Longer and Healthier

The critical information derived from studying the Blue Zones is that not one of the people living in these places was actively trying to get old. It is their environment that provokes a lifestyle that has amazing longevity as a consequence. However, you, me and the rest of the 99.9% of the world population, do not live there.

According to statistics published by the United Nations in 2015, 54% of the world population lives in an urban environment. In more developed regions this is actually 78.3%. This means that your habitat most likely consists of concrete, noise, pollution, and hopefully a park a couple of blocks away.

At the same time, the current state of affairs about health revolve around signing up for

rowingmachine
90% of the people have quit 3 years after joining a gym

a gym membership and starting a new diet. According to health trends, that is what a healthy lifestyle consists of. Nevertheless, none of these work in the long term. In the United States 90% of the people starting a diet will have quit after 7 months tops. Similarly, of all the people that signed up for a gym membership, 90% quit within three years.

Interestingly we tend to look for a solution with the same means that we have created the problem initially. First, we construct buildings, chairs, and cubicles to sit in. Then, when problems occur, we solve them not by getting rid of the chairs and buildings, but by designating another building to move the body.

Another example of this phenomenon is the rise in traffic. Every year there are cheaper cars available. Therefore, an increasing amount of people buy one. Between the years 2000 and 2014 almost 55 million cars were sold worldwide. Then in 2017 alone, 79 million cars were sold worldwide. Consequently, the roads are ever fuller with more people stuck in traffic. The solution for this problem? Build more roads.

Both in the case of going to the gym to solve the sedentary lifestyle, and the problems occurring from increased car possession, there is nobody questioning the presence of buildings, cubicles, chairs, and cars by itself. We are so far down the rabbit hole that our biases, the entangled economic interests, and governmental policies keep us there.

I believe that roads are not the solution for our traffic issues, just like gym memberships are not a fix for our sedentary lifestyle.

Now we know that we cannot necessarily trust our urban, work, and home environment by itself to be provocative of a healthy lifestyle. It is up to you however, to make changes within and around that will induce positive lifestyle choices. As learned from the Blue Zones, one habit will not do the trick, however a variety of habits together will.

Underneath I sum up tips that I have given to my clients as well as incorporated in my own life. I divide them as follows; internal environment (mindset, physical capacity), external environment (home, work), and social environment (family, friends).

External Environment
balconyplants
Add more plants to your home
  • Park further from work, get off the bus earlier, and use the toilet farthest away from you
  • Reorganize your house for it to be more inviting to move; hang a bar in the living room (to hang on), lay out an exercise mat, or put a fitness ball in sight. Once it’s there it is more likely you will use it
  • Put more plants in your house
  • Buy more fruits and vegetables, once they are there it is more likely you will eat them
Internal Environment
  • Sleep longer (sleep around 8 hours)
  • Take 15 minutes of quite time every day (without phone, laptop etc.)
  • Drink sufficient water
Social Environment
  • If you are ready to change something about yourself, talk about it, this way friends and family can support you

    stairs
    The stairs I walk down/hang every day
  • Join an online community for support in your lifestyle change, a strength training forum, a runners forum, or track your activities with myfitnesspal, Strava, or something equal, and exchange

Above is a list of mostly minor and little glamorous interventions. However, these basics will positively influence your life. The most recent ones I incorporated myself are: 20 minute daily meditation, hanging from the stairs I walk down, walk everything within 1 kilometer from my house, and I revalued the way the living room was furnished. There seemed to be space to do yoga after all.

Ready for Level 2?

Welcome to another level of Quest for Authenticity (qfa). Over the previous weeks, I have invested a lot of time in rethinking qfa in order to use these perspectives to redo the website and give it a new sense of direction. Underneath, I will explain how this came in to being.

I am back at home. A different home this time. I left home 3 years ago in The Netherlands, a year ago in Switzerland and subsequently I left home again in the Netherlands. After leaving home so many times, it is good to be back. This time, I am in Brazil though.

Traffic in Curitiba
Curitiba, Brazil

After traveling for 8 months, learning two languages, meeting a lot of people, getting familiar with different customs, food, and having hitchhiked over 4000 kilometers in 5 different countries, it is now time to continue my quest for authenticity. Since this quest does not define a where or a how, I will continue it here at home. A little less hitchhiking and weird adventures I suppose, but nothing less exciting from my perspective. As things go, the beautiful thing of all I experienced, is that I have a better idea of what I do not want. Coming closer to what I do want to invest my time in.

This quest all started with the idea of getting more of myself out of me. In this I’ve looked to redefine environmental and societal norms and values, so I could figure out what holds true to me. Rediscovering my love for everything that moves body, mind, and behavior, and getting back to working with people, was worth a lot. At least for half a year there was nothing but criticism on my mind, towards my former job, but most of all towards the system I had to function in. The latter influenced the previous so much, that I had stopped valuing my formal profession entirely.

At the same time, traveling triggered so many other things in me that that there were actually moments where I imagined myself hitchhiking all around the world. To use little or no money, sell all my possessions, reduce my belongings to the contents of a backpack, and to go totally off the grid. However, I have mentioned before that I have a tendency to be obsessive with everything new I start. Therefore, going off traveling and encountering so many new things gave me a lot of opportunities to become obsessive.

Nevertheless, it is not just the traveling, but also the period before that allowed me to form into what I am. The amount of change and shifts I went through in these 8 months could have never had the effect they had, if it was not for all that went on before. I was fully engaged in a working environment I liked, and criticized at the same time. I enjoyed the support of family and friends whom always offered authentic and useful feedback, allowing me to flourish into a me, I am more content with than ever.

This process is an ongoing cycle, that sometimes throws me back to places I have already been. This used to be an annoyance of the first degree. Now, I recognize the value of redefining experiences. Even though, there is a red line that will continue whatever happens. I maintain to have a strong wish to live according to my terms. At the same time, I realize my fortune of coming from a place with education, materialistic welfare of the highest standard, and a home that the majority of the population in our world does not enjoy.

This gratitude and awareness only intensifies my motivation to keep going along the aforementioned line. It would be a waste to throw away all of these advantages and go sit in a cubicle. I intend to keep redefining myself, I intend to keep looking for discomfort, and I intend to not make this just about me.

With all these experiences and a renewed purpose fresh in mind, I decided to give this blog more direction. Where it first was more of an outlet, I now believe it to be a valuable tool to convey the message of the inevitable connection between self love, a healthy lifestyle, and the capacity to change any aspect of life. At the same I will try to offer insights about the things that drive the relation between our behavior and our environment. This combination, I believe, might encourage you to go live your own authentic lifestyle.

From now on, health and longevity related articles you will find in My Blue Zone. Articles on awareness, the twists in reality, and fairy tales constructed within our society that silently drive our behavior are posted in Wake Up! To read the personal reflections that I offer, look under Authenticity. If you want to receive my latest blog instantly in your mailbox, don’t hesitate to hit the YES! button down below. Also, if you have any questions or feedback, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Thank you and see you around,

Joël