I just finished reading a sweet little book called “Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.” In my continuing quest to find out how other countries and cultures are creating their authentic lives as they age, I have to say that this one certainly covered all of the bases that I personally believe lead us there.
So what is “Ikigai?” As the authors tells us:
“Having a strong sense of ikigai – the place where passion, mission, vocation, and profession intersect – means that each day is infused with meaning. It’s the reason we get up in the morning.”
The book covers all the different aspects that go into finding our ikigai and summarizes them all into these top 10 secrets to a long and happy life:
- Don’t retire – keep doing things of value, making a difference, helping others.
- Take it slow – ours is a “hurry up” culture. As the old saying goes: “Walk slowly and you’ll go far.” Life takes on new meaning when we stop to smell the roses.
- Don’t fill your stomach – this was an interesting one for me and definitely one for Westerners to take heed of. Japanese folks stop eating when they are 80% full, allowing their bodies to digest and nourish them more naturally and effectively.
- Surround yourself with good friends – I would have made this one at least #2 on my own Top Ten list. Friends are the best medicine – we need our playmates.
- Get in shape for your next birthday – commit to being a little bit better, a little bit stronger, and a little bit fitter as you move through life. Plus, exercise stimulates the hormones that make us feel happy.
- Smile – even when we don’t feel like it. You not only lift your own spirits, you lift the spirits of everyone you meet, even strangers passing on the street or in the grocery store (when I don’t feel like smiling, I call my 4-year-old great-grandson who always has something to say that changes my mood).
- Reconnect with nature – even if you live in the city, you can find a park or a piece of grass somewhere to sit or do some tree hugging. We come from nature and we need to return to it often to recharge our batteries.
- Give thanks – having an “attitude of gratitude” goes a long way. The more we are thankful for, the more we have to be thankful for.
- Live in the moment – the past is over and the future isn’t here yet. The only moment we have is now. Live it to the max.
- Follow you ikigai – whatever it is. Maybe it’s creative like painting or writing. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s volunteering for your church or some community need. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, then your mission is to find out what it is. Make finding your passion your ikigai.
By the way, the focus of this book was based on interviews with the older inhabitants of the island of Okinawa, in the village of Ogimi. It so happens that Okinawa ranked #1 on the list of Blue Zones, places where the number of folks 100 years old or older is the highest. There are 24.44 people over the age of 100 per 100,000 inhabitants there. Something tells me they might have something to teach all of us.
This week on the Home Page, our assignment is going to give us a chance to come up with our own ideas about living long and happy lives. I don’t have to tell you to have fun with this one – the fun is built into it. I will tell you, as always, to remember to just keep writing.
Peace and blessings.