Emotional Health

Social Wealth, Part Two:
The Power of Positive People

When making new friends, of course, be aware from the start that positive people are usually the most rewarding. The type of friends you have can be as important as the quantity, if not more so. Dan Buettner, the author of Blue Zones, and numerous studies examining the behavior of happy and healthy people, says that surrounding yourself with the right kind of people can have a more influence on your health than any other factor.

In Okinawa, Japan, one of the areas he has studied, life expectancy for women is around 90–the oldest in the world. There, social networks called moais are common: purposely formed groups of women offering each other social, logistic, emotional (and even financial) support.

Significantly, a woman’s moai is meant to last a lifetime. Buettner explains, “It’s a very powerful idea…Traditionally, their parents put them into moais when they are born, and they take a lifelong journey together.”

The members of a moai share the wealth when things are going well, and when they aren’t, everyone pitches in. They adopt similar lifestyles, including influencing the group’s health behaviors.

Now working with American health officials, Buettner is creating moais in two dozen cities around the country and studying their impact. For example, in Fort Worth, Texas, several residents have formed walking moais — groups that combine the healthy behaviors of exercise and socializing.

Buettner and his colleagues find that moais work best when an attempt is made to bring like-minded people together—women with similar values and tastes. The best ones are meant to endure, after all, and the more compatible the group is, the greater the chances of that happening. He says, “We have created moais that are now several years old, and they are still exerting a healthy influence on members’ lives…You stack the deck in favor of a long-term relationship,” he says.

The Blue Zone team has created a quiz is designed to help assess the positivity of your own social network. The idea is meant to help maximize the potential of spending time with your most positive friends. Buettner says, “I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network.” He says to look for the kind of friend that when “You can call them on a bad day and they will care. Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”





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  • Trish August 16, 2018 at 10:00 am

    This article is spot on. I am an optimist and I subconsciously tend to surround myself with like minded people. However I strongly believe in the power of persuasion and when done correctly we do have the ability to influence the way others see things. I once had a friend who believed that every time someone was talking quietly away from her or not returning a call etc. they were infact talking about her or ignoring her. She was so caught up in herself, yet not in a diva way that she often was not seeing the larger picture. After discussing some possible reasons for others behavior and saying, “Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s not always about you.” I did say it politely and with love, yes, years later we are still friends. But she got it and refers to this conversation often as a turning point in her outlook. I am not telling this to pat myself on the back. But it really can be that simple. Speak with love and kindness, listen with your heart and lead by example. We all have the power to influence and it is important to make if for the better. Thank you for writing this. I hope others take it to heart as well.