What a beach clean-up taught me about well-being
I love to run marathons. (There’s nothing like an open road, good music and great scenery.) I also enjoy reinventing meals with less fat and fewer calories. I replace ground turkey for ground beef and substitute veggies for white rice. I have a mean spaghetti squash recipe. And ask anyone who knows me: They’ll tell you I have an obsession with beans.
In short, I live a healthy life and try to make good lifestyle choices. I’m always on the look out for healthy alternatives.
So a few months back, when I was asked if I had heard of the Blue Zones project, I knew I needed to do more research.
What is Blue Zones?
Here’s what I found: In 2004, a man by the name of Dan Buettner worked with National Geographic researchers to find areas in the world where people live longer — up to and over the age of 100 years of age. The team concluded that the secret to living into your 90s and beyond could be found in nine lifestyle characteristics. Things like moving naturally throughout your day, finding purpose (and pursuing it with passion) and eating a diet with lots of veggies and not a lot of meat or processed foods.
On the Blue Zones website, I took a test called the Vitality Compass that is based on the nine healthy lifestyle characteristics and is designed to estimate life expectancy. I figured with years of exercising and eating right, time was on my side.
Do you eat fruits, vegetables and exercise on a daily basis? Yes. Do you have a good support system? Yes. Do you have pets? Yes. I was on a roll! Do you know your neighbors? No. Are you involved in your community? No. Yikes. What just happened?
When reviewing my results, I noticed I was seriously lacking in one category: the “Right Outlook,” or being part of a community.
Getting out of my comfort zone
I was born and raised in two major California cities — Los Angeles and Sacramento. Living in large cities, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. I never really felt connected to my community; therefore I never donated my time.
In 2010, my family and I moved to Hawaii and to a much smaller city. I loved being part of my newfound, tight-knit community. I wanted to show pride for my new home, but I wasn’t sure how. The Blue Zones’ Vitality test was a reminder for me to take action.
I am a working wife and mother. It’s hard for me to find time for myself, much less for a volunteering opportunity. Still, I was committed. I struggled for a couple weeks trying to decide where to volunteer for first. There were lots of opportunities, but they were mainly based in Urban Honolulu. I really wanted to stay close to home to show my support and appreciation for my community.
One day, it just so happened I was reading MidWeek, and was pleasantly surprised to see a volunteer opportunity just down the street from my house. I registered immediately for the beach clean-up, and invited my 5-year-old son, Davis, to join me. I did this for two reasons. I really wanted him to experience a community coming together. I also knew he would remind me about the clean-up every single day, several times a day, until the day of the event. His actions would prevent me from forgetting or opting out due to lack of time. I wasn’t about to let him down.
What I learned by giving time
On the day of the clean-up, Davis and I arrived full of excitement. We both agreed that two hours of picking up trash was just enough time, but we had so much fun we stayed for over three.
Once the clean-up was done, we sat down to enjoy lunch and shaved ice. It was nice to meet my neighbors and to do something special for my community. It felt good to share my time with others.
I can truly say the Vitality test recognized parts of my daily life that needed extra attention. Both Davis and I agreed to continue our volunteer efforts each month. I’m proud of Davis and proud of myself. As Davis would say, “Sharing is caring.”
Charisma Taylor is a customer relations representative at HMSA. When she’s not at the beach hanging out with her husband and young son or training for a run, you’ll find her in the kitchen cooking Mexican food. Words she lives by: “A body in motion will stay in motion, while a body at rest will remain at rest.”