by Marna Winter

1. A group of friends committed to each other for life
2. A social support group that forms in order to provide support
—The Blue Zones

Life challenges are inevitable and can come in various forms, such as personal setbacks, health struggles, relationship difficulties, and career obstacles. These challenges often test our resilience, problem-solving skills, and ability to adapt to new circumstances. While they can be overwhelming, overcoming life challenges can lead to personal growth, increased self-awareness, and a stronger sense of resilience. Friendships can provide invaluable support during times of stress, offering support, understanding, and empathy. Their presence and encouragement can help alleviate stress, promote a sense of belonging, and provide a much-needed outlet for emotional expression. In fact, research shows that social networks are a necessary part of our longevity.

One specific social network that has been studied is the concept of moai, originating from Okinawa, Japan (Buettner & Skemp, 2010). A moai refers to a small group of individuals who provide each other with social, emotional, and financial support throughout their lives. The Blue Zones research recognizes five areas around the world with the greatest longevity (Buettner D., 2012), and provides in-depth analysis of the cultures, identifying common practices that are believed to enhance one’s overall well-being leading to a healthier and happy life. One specific concept practiced by the Okinawans is the practice of ”moais”–groups of friends that are committed to each other for life. These social networks have shaped positive health behaviors and often consist of friends, neighbors, or relatives who regularly gather for shared activities, meals, and fellowship. The social supports provide a sense of community and are considered to be essential to the Okinawans contributing to their health and wellness (Buettner, 2012).

While research on the impact of moais on mental health is limited, the underlying principles align with factors that support mental well-being. The sense of community and connection that comes from being part of a moai-like group may contribute to reduced stress, increased resilience (Ozbay et al., 2007 ), improved self-esteem (Harris, M. A., & Orth, U. 2020), and a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life (Feeney, B. C., & Collins, N. L. 2014)—all of which are important for mental health. Building and nurturing social connections is an important aspect of overall well-being and can have a significant positive impact.

How does a moai support overall mental health and wellness?

Having a supportive social network significantly influences our mental health and wellness in various ways. First, social connections act as a vital support system, as you navigate life’s challenges. The availability of trusted individuals for emotional support diminishes feelings of loneliness and isolation and can lessen the burden of facing difficulties alone. Sharing thoughts and experiences within a close network fosters a sense of validation, understanding, and empathy, enhancing emotional well-being and resilience. Secondly, social connections contribute substantially to our sense of belonging and purpose, crucial elements for mental health. Being a part of a social network provides identity, acceptance, and a positive sense of self-worth, fostering self-esteem. Engaging in reciprocal relationships adds purpose and meaning, promoting positive emotions. In essence, a strong social network enhances overall mental health by providing emotional support, reducing loneliness, fostering belonging and purpose, and boosting emotional well-being and resilience. Investing in meaningful relationships yields positive effects, leading to improved mental health outcomes and an elevated quality of life.

Discovering Moia – How Health Coaches can Support Clients Examining Current Social Networks

Health coaches can play a pivotal role in assisting clients with the self-assessment of their current social network and support systems. By encouraging reflective practices and open communication, health coaches can provide support during the exploration of the quality and depth of their social connections and networks. This involves exploring the nature of relationships, assessing the level of emotional support available, and identifying areas for improvement. Through the use of intentional questioning and active listening, a health coach can facilitate clients in gaining insights into the impact of their social interactions on their overall well-being. This process enables clients to recognize the strengths and potential gaps in their social network. The next step is to empower clients to take proactive steps towards cultivating a more supportive and fulfilling social environment.

Exploring Passions, Abilities and Interests

A health coach can assist clients in identifying their interests, skills, and talents as well as leveraging these to build new social connections. Through thoughtful exploration and self-reflection exercises, the health coach can guide clients in recognizing their passions and strengths. By understanding what brings them joy and fulfillment, clients can be directed towards activities or groups that align with their interests. The health coach can also suggest skill assessments to help clients identify unique abilities that can be shared with others. Once identified, collaborative plans in the form of goals can be developed suggesting avenues such as community classes, workshops, or social events where clients can meet like-minded individuals. Additionally, health coaches may provide guidance on effective communication skills and strategies for initiating connections, ensuring that clients feel empowered to engage with others in meaningful ways. This process not only promotes the development of a supportive social network but also fosters personal growth and a sense of belonging.

The Health Coach – A Supportive Community

Health coaches serve as a valuable part of a client’s social network, offering unwavering support and guidance throughout the client’s journey to goal attainment. Through regular interactions, the health coach becomes a trusted ally, providing encouragement and accountability that reinforces the client’s commitment to their wellness goals. This collaborative relationship ensures that the client has a dedicated partner in their journey of well-being, fostering a sense of connection and motivation for sustained successes. However, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal of health coaching is to guide clients towards automaticity, where healthy habits naturally sustainable, often without continued support from a coach. Achieving this transformation involves not only individual effort but also the fostering of supportive environments. By assisting clients in seeking out or creating like-minded social networks, health coaches contribute to the reinforcement of positive behaviors, making healthy choices an integral and natural part of their daily lives.

Thriving within a Moia

Life inevitably presents various challenges, personal setbacks, health struggles, and career obstacles. While overcoming such challenges can be overwhelming, it often leads to profound growth. Research highlights the invaluable role of social networks in promoting longevity, with a specific focus on the Okinawan practice of moais—small groups committed to lifelong mutual support. The creation of like-minded social networks, an essential aspect of longevity, good health, and sustained happiness (Buettner D., 2012). Health coaches naturally emerge as one form of a social network, providing support and accountability to clients on the journey to achieving their overall wellness goals. As Health coaches, we can further encourage clients to build supportive networks, harnessing the power of a moai-like social network, with the ultimate goal of fostering an environment where healthy choices are not only individual but the group norm. This sense of community enhances the journey toward automaticity, making healthy living a shared experience with shared values which all in the moia are able to thrive.

Marna Winter is a certified Board Certified Holistic Health Coach who partners with clients to restore balance to their lives by establishing healthy sustainable habits. She graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in July of 2022, earned a Gut Health specialization in January of 2023, and became an Autoimmune Paleo Certified Coaching in May of 2023. In December of 2023, she became a Nationally Board Certified Holistic Health Coach.



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Harris, M. A., & Orth, U. (2020). The link between self-esteem and social relationships: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 119(6), 1459–1477.

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