In a recent post on Instagram, my buddy Dan Buettner breaks down the lessons of Blue Zones into 4 suggestions.  To live a longer and fuller live, it can be as simple as:

  1. Eat whole plant-based diet
  2. Live your Purpose daily
  3. Make walking your #1 means of transportation
  4. Build a social network of 3 healthy friends who care about you

This is a shorthand version of the Power 9 commonalities discovered in the original Blue Zones Study, but it tracks the four categories listed of Move, Right Outlook, Eat Wisely and Connect.

It seems like every week brings new studies on the declining mental health and rising levels of anxiety and depression.  A large factor in many of the studies is isolation, not having that healthy social network Dan mentions as #4 above.  The pandemic and the rise of social media apps definitely hasn’t helped.  To those of us who are introverts, it can be especially daunting to create those connections.

When Francie and I built a house and moved to Bend 5 years ago, we had the advantage of moving into a neighborhood designed around connection.  There are alleys, so the fronts of houses are inviting porches instead of garage doors.  There is a small ‘village center’ that has restaurants, hair stylists, small markets, doctors’ offices, that place many activities within walking distance.  As you can see from the photo, we went even further, and designed a house without a fence blocking our door from the alley.  Our layout invites neighbors walking in the alley to come knock on our sliding door, and they often do.  You can also see the layout of chairs on the patio, again with no gate barring entry.  This means that on Thursdays, anyone can wander down with a beer or Kombucha and join the ‘Growler Thursday’ gatherings.  In the summer, evenings often find us on the front porch, and it’s not uncommon to have neighbors (friends or strangers) who happen to be walking by, join us on the porch for a glass of wine.  Other intentional things I’ve done to connect:

  • Get a part-time dishwashing job at a local bakery.
  • Join a local church.
  • Join a group of men who meets Wednesdays at 6 am at a local coffee shop.
  • Talk to people while waiting in line – we’ve added a number of friends this way.
  • Created a weekly task to call someone from my contacts.

What are your favorite hacks for designing a life that includes connections to others?

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  1. One of our favorite ways to build connections to host dinners for 6. This started at our church as a way to help people who wanted a longer opportunity to interact with others. We had a standing set of people willing to host. We would randomly assign people to groups with a target of 6-8 people. Over the years we have seen a number of deep friendships form. 6 is ideal, more than that and you often end up with multiple conversations going at the same time.

    A variant of this is every couple of weeks we identify 4 people that we think would enjoy each others company, and invite them for dinner. Sometimes they are friends with each other. Sometimes they had been friends years ago but lost touch with each other… dinner is a bit like a reunion. Sometime’s they were strangers to each other… or were, but that changed by the end of the evening.

    1. Love this! We are nowhere near as intentional as you, but we sometimes do invite two other couples over who we think would enjoy meeting each other. We invited two couples who had both done extensive cruising in sailboats, even though we haven’t cruised. It’s also a great way to get neighbors to get to know each other. We are currently experimenting with a Taco Tuesday, using every Tuesday we are in town to discover a different Mexican restaurant with neighbors.

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