I have moved a fair amount in my life. While I love change, the reality is that transition is always uncomfortable. So, whenever I am in a new place, I try to focus my extra time getting involved in the activities I like to do. Invariably something sporty - playing tennis, doing yoga, surfing and so on. Beyond the immediate gratification of having some fun and easing the transition to my new home, I have discovered that choosing a new peer group based on a shared mutual interest lends a richness to my life that I might not have otherwise enjoyed. Likeminded community of pals brings motivation, nudges my performance improvement, supports my healthy habits, fills me with inspiration and fuels my wanderlust.
It turns out that I am not alone in discovering the power of some social networks to support happiness and well being. In his research on The Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner found that among the 9 healthy habits that contribute to longevity, “The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life”.
I now live the Blue Zone Lifestyle and my experience bears this out. As a foreigner, my perception is further defined by the ability to compare the nature of communities in my two ‘homes’. Tribes here in the jungle reinforce healthier behaviour in large part because people bond over what they do and love. The sense of belonging, then, is derived from a shared set of values and purpose.
In contrast, the pace of life and abundance of life in the developed world dictate that people self-group based on a variety of practical and superficial reasons. Where you live, where your kids go to school, what you do for a living and so on. There is an abundance of choice and distraction leaving far less time and opportunity to curate groups based solely on interest. The demands of a life with more actually provides less space to connect at the most fundamental level.
A friend recently asked what I would try to hold on to most in transitioning between my two lives. While it is hard to pick apart details from a pretty seismic shift in perspective, this appreciation of a tribe and identity rooted in shared values and interests is fundamental.
I also don’t think it need be exclusive to a remote place. Even amid the hectic pace of life in a big city. How we spend our personal time, remains one of the few areas where meaningful connections based on mutual interests can be forged well into adulthood. Fitness as a way of life offers a great opportunity to build your own tribe that supports and encourages healthy habits, positive, forward thinking, focused mindset.
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