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Creating Your Own “Blue Zone”

Written by: Doreen Bridgman MS,CCC,SLP, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Several years ago, as I was approaching my 50th birthday, I thought it would be interesting to read “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. I had never really paid much attention to my age, but it seemed like a good time to start to ensure I could live long and strong.

I was struck by how opposite our current lifestyles contrasted with those people living in the “Blue Zones.”

Coincidentally at that time, more research was being published regarding brain health. This information was particularly interesting to me as I have been a Speech-Language Pathologist in the field of Traumatic Brain Injury for the past 30 years.

I have witnessed people make remarkable recoveries, as well increase their functioning for years following their injuries. These people debunked the old theories that recovery stopped after a year or two and that once a person’s brain developed in their early twenties, that was it.

That is good news for us all! One of the greatest advantages to our lives in the last thirty years has been the advancement of technology.

Technology brings with it advantages and disadvantages as our lives have become easier in many ways, but it has also made us more sedentary. With each advancement, we seem to be more tightly tied to our desks. Back in the day, we had to walk to the fax machine; now we fax through an app or e-fax.

I have several clients whose companies use Slack and other messaging systems and their response time to messages is measured.

It makes it very difficult to take a short break away from your desk when you are constantly being messaged and timed on your responsiveness. Then there are those rabbit holes you find yourself going down when you open a social media post or respond to a post. Contrary to us, many people in the Blue Zones have limited to no access to modern technology. So, what can you do to create your own Blue Zone and live longer and stronger?

Below are a few suggestions.

1. Engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week at moderate intensity (80% of your maximum heart rate). Be sure to get medical clearance before starting to exercise. Aerobic exercise has been found to increase blood flow to the hippocampus and improve memory function as well as decrease depression and blood pressure.

2. Eat a balanced diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and high in antioxidants. Avoid diets high in saturated fats which are known to decrease cognitive function and increase the risk of neurological issues.

3. Maintain social and physical contact. Give and receive frequent 10-second hugs to family members, friends, and pets. Touch stimulates the love hormone Oxytocin. Oxytocin decreases cortisol, lowers blood pressure, decreases depression, and improves the immune system.

4. Limit stress. Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to illness and a decrease in the size of the hippocampus which can lead to decreased memory function. Avoid toxic relationships and work environments whenever possible.

5. Practice meditation daily. Identify a consistent time each day so that it becomes part of your daily routine. There are free apps and YouTube channels you can try.

6. Sleep consistently. Adults require 7-9 hours per night; adolescents 10 hours. Memory consolidation, removal of waste and toxins from your brain, muscle repair and organ repair occur while you sleep. Creating a sleep routine can improve your quality of sleep and help to ensure you get the hours you need.

7. Engage in “play.” A life without play can be at increased risk for depression. Play also provides the opportunity for new neural connections.

8. Spend time in nature. Time in nature has been found to “fire up the brain” and release endorphins. Add plants and nature sounds to your office environment and get outside whenever possible.

9. Learn something new and get out of your comfort zone. New learning creates new neural pathways. You can participate in either a formal class or self-directed learning.

10. Listen to music. Your brain is primed to process sound and music from birth. Music helps improve attention, enhances learning, and helps regulate stress-related hormones.

If you would like more information about how to create your own personal blue zone or additional information on brain health and cognition, please contact me on my website or contact me at 732-977-7381.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Doreen Bridgman MS,CCC,SLP, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Doreen Bridgman is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Executive Function Coach, specializing in cognitive functioning and interpersonal communication skills. She has developed several programs including COPE-Cognitive Optimization and Performance Enhancement and Building Your Toolbox. Doreen enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering and participating in outdoor sports.


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