Eat your vegetables and exercise. Seems simple and has been the so called secret to a long and healthy life. Last spring, I watched an interesting program on parts of the world where the most centenarians are located. Of course, I had assumed they were eating vegetables and exercising. They were…but there was more.
In Okinawa, Japan lives an incredibly high amount of people who are 100 years or older. Amazing! What is it about that part of the world? The climate? The water? I sat open mouthed and watched this program about many healthy active Okinawans 100 years or older, gardening, walking and chatting. I wanted in on the secret so I did some digging.
Their diet is important and probably a huge part of their health. They do not eat anything processed. So there goes that low fat sliced cheese I assumed was best for me because it was low in calories. They consume a plant based diet of plenty of vegetables and fruit, legumes and nuts. Fish and all the omega 3 it has to offer at least 3-4 times a week. Animal protein is limited or non-existent. They also do not indulge in alcohol very frequently (uh oh my wine may be in jeopardy). Exercise is an important part of their day. Technically, no big surprises. It’s almost as though we seem to know the keys to a long life, it’s just the practicing of it, can sometimes be the challenge. But…there’s more.
This is where things got interesting to me. There is more then just healthy eating. They practice “ikigai” basically that is the reason why you wake up in the morning. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should always have a role in life. It’s a reason for living. A reason for living…think about that. I think that’s amazing, everyone is important to someone. You are a wife or husband, father or mother, daughter or son. We all have a role. This brings me to Moai.
“Moai” is another area of Okinawan life. Pronounced “mo-eye”. This is a group of friends that you see or visit with on a regular basis. It could just be to talk or share or have tea with. It is an important group because it relieves stress and provides companionship. I thought this was fascinating. This social support network is established at a young age as Okinawans are placed in their Moai around the age of 5 by their parents. Often, they refer to their Moai as their Ikigai. They can go through life knowing that they have people who will always be there. An awesome concept, a group of people to share your concerns or stresses with rather then just relying on one or two friends or just one significant other which can place undue stress on them.
I think the idea is absolutely amazing, I kinda wish we had a similar process here in North America. Having said that there are probably cultures within North America that do have a similar set up. Then I considered it, and thought hey maybe we do have that key to longevity. When I look closely I think that perhaps we all have a group of sort, or several people that we may connect with on a regular basis. Maybe we all belong to a Moai and we don’t even know it.
Every month I meet up with a group of friends at a local place in town and we have dinner. We share stories, we give advice and we listen. It is honestly a wonderful time, if one of us can’t make it – no hard feelings, they catch us the next month! This is my Moai. The picture depicted of our hands was amusing to take, we had a good time and there were lots of laughs as they wondered “what the heck Maryse was up to now?”
I have another group, on my phone. We are spread out in different directions across the city but you would not even know it. We all group chat every single day. No lie. We have the best conversations, share advice, laughter, recipes or sometimes we just say hi. Both of these groups make me very happy, appreciated and loved. So, I understand the feeling that Okinawans must get when they meet up with their group. We may not all live to 100 but we sure can try. Eat well, exercise, and socialize. If you don’t belong to a group, start one, your Moai may be right in front of you. It’s a key to a healthy HAPPY long life. In the meantime,… I’ll work on the wine.