9 Ways to Add 12 Years to Your Life



“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around every once in a while, you might miss it.” — Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

You can add up to 12 years to your life, and look and feel younger along the way.   Research shows that genes only account for 10% of our longevity and the rest is our lifestyle.

The Blue Zones teach us a lot about how to live longer, healthier, happier lives.   Dan Buettner and the National Geographic team of explorers studied the Blue Zones to identify the keys to adding years to your life, and life to your years.

By adopting the patterns and practices from the world’s healthiest spots, you too can add years to your life, and life to your years.

9 Ways to Add Years to Your Life

Dan Buettner shares 9 ways to add life to your years, and years to your life:

  1. Move Naturally
  2. Know Your Purpose
  3. Down Shift
  4. 80% Rule
  5. Plant Slant
  6. Wine at 5
  7. Family First
  8. Belong
  9. Right Tribe

Buettner refers to these 9 habits as the Power 9.    His simple frame for adding years is that moving naturally adds 4 years, having the right outlook adds 4 years, eating wisely adds 8 years, and connecting adds 4 years. (That’s a total of 20 years, but I guess you only get to keep up to 12.)

Here are some ideas on how to turn this insight into action …

1. Move Naturally

Find a way to move it, move it.  Walking is a great example.  Regular, low-intensity physical activity can add years to your life.  In the places where people live the longest, people are constantly nudged into activity.  It’s part of their daily life.  If they do an intentional activity, then it’s something they enjoy.

2. Know Your Purpose

Find your ikigai.  Ikigai is a word in Okinawan that roughly means, “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”  If you know your purpose, you can add years to your life.  In fact, people that know their purpose live up to seven years long than those who don’t.   If you need help finding your purpose, check out Discover Your Why and explore the Purpose Pack.

3. Down Shift

Stop and smell the roses.  In a world that’s always on, you need to find your way to turn it off.  Research shows that chronic inflammation from stress is related to every major age-related disease.  One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is to learn the relaxation response.  Rather than respond with a stress response, you can teach your body to respond with a  relaxation response.  It’s something you can learn, and then practice for life.  See Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief.

4. 80% Rule

Eat until you are 80% full.  According to Buettner, Okinawas, begin every meal by saying, “Hara hachi bu!” The saying translates to “Eat until you’re 80% full.” In addition, Buettner also recommends eating slowly off smaller plates to make smaller meals more satisfying.  See Hara hachi bu (Wikipedia.)

5. Plant Slant

Eat mostly a plant-based diet.  The diet should be heavy on beans, nuts and green plants.  This is consistent with Dr. Joel Fuhrman who focuses on nutritional density for health and he reverses disease through nutrition.  See Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

6. Wine at 5

Drink two glasses of wine per day if you want to live longer.  Buettner says that the research shows drinkers out-live non-drinkers.  In Sardinia, Italy, one of the “Blue Zones,” the men live the longest in the world, and they have ten times more centenarians than in America.  A key factor may be that their Wine has three times the level of polyphenal antioxidants than any type of wine in the world.

7. Family First

Put your family first.  Buettner says that a thriving family can add up to six years.  In Okinawa, the older you get, the more equity you have.  The more wisdom you’re celebrated for.  This is good for aging parents.  It’s also good for the children of those families.  They have lower rates of mortality and lower rates of disease.  It’s called — “The grandmother effect.”

8. Belong

Connect.  Buettner says that people who show up to their faith community four times a month live an extra 4-14 years.  In America’s Blue Zone, Loma Unco, California, the Adventists community celebrate their Sabbath from Sunset on Friday to Sunset on Saturday.  It’s their 24 hour sanctuary sanctuary in time.

9. Right Tribe

Thrive with your tribe.  Your social circle can add security and social networking.  According to Buettner, five years ago the average American had three good friends.  There’s strength in numbers and it helps to know someone has your back.

Additional Resources


  1. Hi JD!

    This is a very nice list.

    I am doing all of these, except for the wine part. Believe it or not, I have never had wine. Hmmm, maybe I should. 🙂

    Take care,


  2. What a catchy title. This is amazingly rich information, JD! There’s a lot here to ruminate on and shift into. Thank you!

  3. […] has made be introspective. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to have a good quality of life. To me, it means being happy with what I have, taking the time to find meaning in everyday life, […]

  4. Hi JD .. I’ve seen a few Buettner articles and TED talks recently – so thanks for summarising his ideas here – and they make so much sense .. and that link to the TED talk.

    Cheers – Hilary

  5. Hi JD,

    These are some great points you have put together to add years to our lives.

    Indeed having purpose makes me want to wake up each day so that I can take action to reach my goals. When I have an all-consuming purpose, I can work without rest or pause because I know what I must do. A life without purpose is unbearable and not really worth living.

    Having family and loved ones by your side is another reason for living. Again, it is all about purpose and the reason for your existence. I believe that having purpose will give you a reason to keep on living. And following the rest of the steps you shared will ensure it is for a long time.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

  6. @ Evelyn — It sounds like you’re on path. You might try your hand at the tests they have at the Blue Zones site to check out your score.

    @ Sandra — Thank you. I’m impressed with Dan and the National Geographic team. I’m also passionate about helping people lead longer, happier lives.

    @ Hilary — I wanted to really boil it down and make it as actionable as possible. I think this information is key for life.

    @ Ivring — Our thoughts shape our feelings, and purpose is one of the most powerful and empowering thoughts we can have.

  7. I love the many creative ways people in the happiness field both add new concepts and come up with new ways to frame ideas, because each new approach has the potential to reach a different group of folks (and help them make their lives better). Buettner’s “Down Shift” seems to be basically the same idea as Sonya Lyubomirsky’s “Savoring.” Savoring might intrigue some people, and leave others uninterested. Same with down shifting. Lots of ways to spread these ideas!

    So glad I found your site this afternoon!


  8. @ Ginny — So true. Whether it’s old wine in a new bottle, re-thinks of old ideas, or new ideas, it’s all good. When we have a cornucopia of tools to draw from, we can choose the best tool for the job.

  9. Wine at 5 is easy and works great for me 😉
    Tried 14 Hands? Great blend and inexpensive. Avail in Costco too.

  10. Definitely enjoy the list, especially #7, I think a lot of people get too wrapped up in their work or business and lose touch with the value behind family (and friends). Great write up, JD!

  11. Im fascinated by this, and every time I come across it I think, damn, I really ought to memorize this. Fortunately, this time around, I’m amazed at how many I already do.

    Dare I say I am going to live forever!

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