Moais Are Good for Your Health. So Join, or Start, One

Don’t know what a moai is?

Neither did I until I saw them mentioned in a New York Times story, The Power of Positive People, by Tara Parker-Pope.

According to Wikipedia, moais are social support groups that form in order to provide varying support from social, financial, health, or spiritual interests. Moai means “meeting for a common purpose” in Japanese and originated from the social support groups in Okinawa, Japan. The concept of Moais have gained contemporary attention due to the Blue Zone research popularized by Dan Buettner. According to research, Moais are considered one of the leading factors of the longevity of lifespan of the Okinawan people, making the region among the highest concentration of centenarians in the world.

Parker-Pope notes that while many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that our social networks can influence obesity, anxiety and overall happiness.

Buettner adds that “friends can exert a measurable and ongoing influence on your health behaviors in a way that a diet never can.” He argues that “the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network.”

So the research points to the power of a moai, and Buettner is working with federal and state health officials, including the former United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, to create moais in two dozen cities around the country. The key to building a successful moai is to start with people who have similar interests, passions and values. Such moais consist of five to eight people.

Obviously Buettner can’t go around the entire country forming moais; at some point people need to form their own. So that got me thinking of who might be part of the moai I would be in?

To be honest, I’m not sure. It would be awkward to ask people to be part of a moai, and have them respond that they are already in one. Who wants to bring back that old high school feeling of rejection?

I like the way it is done in Japan; you are put into a moai when you are born, and as a result you have a chance to form lifelong friendships. By the time you reach 60, you will have shared a lot of life’s ups and downs with the members of your moai. And I can see what positive impact that would have on one’s well being.

So I’ve missed out on 60 years of bonding with a group of friends, but there’s nothing to stop me from forming such bonds today; 20 years from now, those could be powerful relationships.

So are there any 60 year old juggling vegans out there who like to exercise, read, travel, and are fans of Bruce Springsteen? If so, let’s form our own moai.

*P.S. I don’t know any of those guys in the picture at the top of this post, but they look like they might be having a good time. Maybe I can ask them if they would like to be part of my moai…

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