Welcome to Methusalem: Why living in a Blue Zone makes you live longer
For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed about living a simple life close to nature and the ocean. In 2016 I packed my most important belongings and left Germany to create myself a new home in Costa Rica. I was ready to start from zero and to ground myself at a very special place: The Nicoya Peninsula, one of only five Blue Zones on earth and the area where Alegria River Hideaway & Retreats is located.
What’s so special about this 80-mile peninsula just south of the Nicaraguan border? Many of the people living here turn older than 95 years, so their life expectancy is much higher than in the US or in European countries. So you will probably ask yourself: What’s their secret? In this first blog article, I want to tell you more about the Blue Zone in Costa Rica, how my life changed since I have lived here and I will give you tips that you can try to implement in your everyday life.
What makes an area a blue zone?
The term ‘Blue Zones’ comes from National Geographic’s David Buettner and a team of scientists who wanted to discover why people in some areas live longer, healthier and happier than in other regions of the world. In their research - which results were summarized in a best-selling book - they declared five regions as ‘Blue Zones’. All of them in different countries and all with different factors for the longevity of its locals. Costa Rica’s Blue Zone is the Nicoya Peninsula, the largest on earth. It includes the districts of Hojancha, Nandayure, Carrillo, Santa Cruz and Nicoya.
I feel very lucky to live in a Blue Zone surrounded by untouched rainforest and non-touristic beaches and that I’m able to realize our dream project Alegria River Hideaway & Retreats with my husband Kesh in such a special place.
What’s the secret to living longer and happier in the Nicoya Peninsula?
The region of Guanacaste is considered one of low income and rural living, at the same time one in which their citizens are the happiest. When I visited for the first time in 2014 I still saw lots of men riding their horses instead of cars or motorbikes. That was the first time I experienced the Pura Vida lifestyle. Pura Vida means ‘pure life’ and it is defined as living a simple life in deep appreciation of your surroundings: family, nature and community. Ticos, the Costa Rican citizens, are embodying this lifestyle. Here it’s all about Pura Vida.
PURA VIDA (phr) lit. "pure life"; to live a peaceful, simple, uncluttered life with deep appreciation of nature, family and friends; a "real living" that reflects happiness, well-being and satisfaction.
But besides this overall concept there are different factors and principles that contribute to longer and happier life in the Nicoya Peninsula:
Living together with different generations: Nicoyan centenarians often live with their families, children and grandchildren. They provide support and give a sense of purpose and belonging. Everybody has their role in daily life.
Sense of community: This complements the first point. The Nicoyans are close to their neighbors and the people around them. They laugh, talk and dance together. They appreciate what they have. This strong connection keeps them active and many of them contribute to the community even when they are old.
Drinking good water and eating non-processed food: The people eat traditional, non-processed food. From my experience, it’s mainly rice and beans, fish or chicken and salad. Much of the food is homegrown and homemade.
Living with the rhythm of nature: Day and night times don’t change much, more or less 1 hour throughout the year. So people develop a rhythm synchronized with nature. They get up early and go to bed early, plus there is a collective rest time.
Soaking up the sunshine: The people in the Nicoya Peninsula live an outdoor lifestyle. They work, eat and relax outside and regularly soak up the sunshine. Even though there are TVs and smartphones, the amount of time spent on them is much less than in other places. This is in strong contrast to daily life in the US or in European countries.
How my routine changed in the Blue Zone and which tips you should try to implement in your life
Living in Costa Rica, in the intimacy of the jungle, definitely changed my life and how I approach things. For this article I have reflected on my habits that I have developed over the years in this Blue Zone and summarized them in a short list for you.
I sleep long and regularly: I’m sleeping around 9 hours every night. I wake up and fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle, which means I’m aligned with the rhythm of nature.
I do ‘extreme earthing’: I want to feel a deep connection with the earth and my surroundings. To be one with nature, I put my hands and feet into the dirt and grow my own food (partially) - just to name an example.
I learned how to reach out for help and receive it: We can’t always be strong and brave. We all need support from loved ones and the people around us. I learned how to reach out for help and receive it without any guilt or negative feeling.
I feel good with solitude and nothingness: For many of us, being alone without any distractions can be a scary feeling - and back then it was also for me. Today I totally enjoy being in the present moment, also with solitude and nothingness.
I accept what is and make it work: Sometimes it is hard and frustrating when you realize you have no control over things, especially for me as a German. In Costa Rica I have learned to accept what is. If it doesn’t get done today, we will make it work tomorrow.
There is a frequency of healing and spirituality: Everything is energy. What we think, feel, do, eat - everything creates a frequency, a vibration we are sending out which gets amplified by others who emit the same. For example, joy, love, passion, and happiness are some of the highest-frequency emotions on this scale. Fear, anger, grief, guilt, and jealousy are some of the lowest-frequency emotions. The higher the frequency of your energy or vibration, the lighter you feel in your physical, emotional, and mental bodies. And this for sure contributes to our health. Since I have been living in Costa Rica, I can feel this lightness. I feel healthier overall.
Dive into the Blue Zone of Costa Rica
Even though some of these lessons are quite ‘exotic’ and hard to implement in a ‘normal’ life, I hope that there are some takeaways that you can use to invite the Pura Vida spirit into your daily life. And if you want to dive into the local culture and explore the long-life secrets of the Nicoya Peninsula, you are welcome to join us at Alegria River Hideaway & Retreats.