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Why the people of Okinawa live longer and healthier lives

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The power of five

Okinawa, an island off the coast of Japan, is considered one of the world’s five “blue zones”. In case you’re not familiar with the term, blue zones are regions of the world thought to have a higher than usual number of people that live much longer than average, identified by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain in 2004. The people of Okinawa are fascinating because it’s not only what they eat that keeps them well, or how active they are, it’s thought to be predominantly down to a unique social ritual which they’ve practiced for hundreds of years. They are each paired with five children from birth and form a “moai group” that connects and supports each other for the rest of their lives.

Lifelong friends

The people of Okinawa who belong to a moai claim to have a deep support and respect for one another. They not only have daily contact, meeting for meals or to share stories of the day, but they are also there for when things are less than rosy, if a spouse dies or you have a financial need, your maoi will step in and help you.

Friend forcefield

The longest running study of human behaviour, run out of Harvard, found that quality connections is the most protective factor for a long and healthy life. It’s no wonder that the people of Okinawa were found to develop far fewer chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression than their counterparts. They were also found to be at far lower risk of suffering from a stroke.

Why wouldn’t you want a friendship forcefield?

Here are three Welfy tips to mindfully boost your immunity through your connections:

1. Phase out drains

We have an exercise at Welfy called “Drains & Radiators” which helps people identify who is enhancing their lives and helping to build their wellbeing, and who is draining their energy and causing toxic stress on their system. Whilst we can’t phase out all drains, we can mindfully notice our energy around these people and try to limit our time and involvement with them. It’s not selfish, your physical and mental health is dependent upon it!

2. Find your tribe

Who are your nearest and dearest? Research shows that we mimic the behaviour of our closest friends and adopt a lot of the same habits, so ensure you’re surrounding yourself with the right people. The ones whose habits you admire (at least mostly!)

If you want to expand your circle of friends, get proactive. What are your passions? What do you love doing? Reading? Find a book club. Running? Try Park Run. Cooking? Hop along to a cooking class.

3. Give a little every day

In all five blue zones cultures, social connectedness is ingrained into the culture. While Okinawans have moais whom they try to check in with daily, Sardinians meet with friends each evening for happy hours and Adventists host weekly meals with their congregations. By finding the right tribe and being generous with your time and energy, you’ll not only add years to your life, but you’ll enjoy your time here just a little more.

It’s much easier to go through life knowing there is a safety net.

 Maoi Centenarian

This month’s Personal Wellbeing Report content has been supplied by Welfy, a workplace wellbeing training consultancy supporting individuals and businesses to redefine success. We specialise in workplace wellbeing workshops, wellbeing strategy consultancy and leadership development helping people to live happier, healthier and more productive lives.

To find out more, visit www.welfy.co.uk.


Using wellbeing solutions steeped in innovative technology, Govox provides data and insights that helps leaders in schools , sports clubs and the workplace spot at-risk individuals and give much-needed support.

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