Postdate: 12 September 2018
Ikigai is known as the Japanese philosophy for a long and happy life. It is already centuries old but is still an example for many. The philosophy is at odds with today’s Western society, which is aimed at performance, speed and always being ‘switched on’.
The meaning of Ikigai
Iki stands for life and kai for value. So, you can say that Ikigai is a formula for finding your life’s purpose, happiness or the meaning of life. It is sometimes described as ‘your reason for getting out of bed in the morning’. This reason can be different for everyone, but the central core is the same: it is mainly the small pleasures that add this value. The best thing about this story? In the end, everyone, including you, has an Ikigai. Consciously or unconsciously.
There is much research about the Blue Zones, the regions of the world where people grow the oldest. The Japanese island of Okinawa for example. The elderly in these regions indicate that they remain active mentally, and that they consider it important to surround themselves with family and friends. In addition, they have a varied diet and only to 80%, so they never eat to the point where they are completely full. Their way of life is mostly vegetable based, with a small piece of meat on the menu sometimes. Many elderly people have a vegetable garden in which they work every day, which provides them with active movement. They are especially active in nature. This helps to combat a hurried lifestyle.
The four pillars of a long and happy life
To find your Ikigai, you do not necessarily need to live in a Blue Zone region, or even in Japan. One aspect of Ikigai is to also learn how to live in the moment. For some, happiness seems to be an endless search, but it doesn't have to be that way. There are four major pillars that contribute to a long and happy life:
1. A healthy diet. Especially vegetables, with minimal sugar, varied and made up of multiple small meals a day.
2. A rich social network. In Okinawa, these groups are called ‘moais’. Good friends and close family ties enrich your life. You support each other in difficult times, but also share joys with each other.
3. Remain active. For the rest of your life, both mentally and physically. This ranges from learning something new to gardening, or any other form of moderately intensive exercise.
4. Limit stress. Everyone suffers from stress at times, including the people living in the Blue Zones. Practice to consciously be in the moment, limits being worried, and allows you to enjoy more of every day. For one person, it helps to have an afternoon nap, while someone else shakes off stress by regular meditation or reflection.
In short, we can learn a lot from this Japanese concept. In the next blog, you can read more about finding your own Ikigai.