Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life

What is your one reason to jump out of your bed each morning?

In our life, we all live with one purpose which is to have a long and happy life. But what is the secret to have that long and happy life?

Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life is a book that brings you the secrets on lasting health of body, mind and spirit.

What is Ikigai? Ikigai is a Japanese concept which means “the happiness of always being busy” This book brings you the secrets of Japan’s centenarians to you and give you the tools to find your own Ikigai.

According to the World Health Organization, Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world: 85 years for men and 87.3 years for women. Moreover, it has the highest ratio of centenarians in the world.

During World War II, Okinawa is one of the areas in Japan that was the most affected. As a result, there was lot of hunger and due to this the average life expectancy was not very high during the 1940’s and 1950s. But soon the Okinawans recovered from this destruction and became some of the country’s longest-living citizens.  

What secrets to long life do this Japanese hold? What is it about Okinawa that makes it the best of the best in terms of longest life expectancy?

Below are some of the rules of Ikigai from the wisdom of the long-living residents of Japan:

Stay Active; Don’t Retire.

Studies from the Blue Zones (the places where most centenarians live) suggest that the people who live longest are not the ones who do the most exercise but rather the ones who move the most.

The people there don’t do any strenuous exercise, but they do move every day, taking walks and working in their vegetable gardens.

People over there are passionate about everything they do; however insignificant it might seem. They are always busy, but they occupy themselves with tasks that allow them to relax.

“If you keep your mind and body busy, you’ll be around a long time.”

A centenarian from Okinawa.

Don’t fill your stomach.

Less is more when it comes to eating for a long life, too. In Japan, the secret to their longevity lies in a concept known as ‘hara hachi bu’ which means fill up your stomach up to 80 percent only.  

I know there is no way to know that if your stomach is at 80 percent capacity but the lesson to learn is that we should stop eating when we are starting to feel full. If you overeat, it may give you pleasure in the short term but not having them will make you happier in the longer term. How do you do this? By having meals on many small plates, you tend to feel like you are eating a lot.

An alternative to following the 80 percent rule on a daily basis is to go for fasting for one or two days each week. The 5:2 (or fasting) diet recommends two days of fasting (consuming fewer than five hundred calories) every week and eating normally on the other five days.

Among its many benefits, fasting helps cleanse the digestive system

Take it slow.

Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, “Walk slowly and you’ll go far.” When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.

“My secret to a long life is always saying to myself, ‘Slow down,’ and ‘Relax.’ You live much longer if you’re not in a hurry.”

People in Okinawa always seemed very busy with important tasks but upon close inspection, they did everything with a sense of calm. They were always pursuing their ikigai, but they were never in a rush.

Surround yourself with good friends.

Scientists who have studied the five blue zones (5 places where most centenarians in the world live) found that the key to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (an ikigai), and forming a broad circle of friends and good family relations.

Friends are the best medicine, there for confiding worries over a good chat, sharing stories that brighten your day, getting advice, having fun, dreaming … in other words, living.

Nurture your friendships every day.

“Talking each day with the people you love, that’s the secret to a long life.”

In life, you should have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.

Live in the moment.

Stress is a known enemy of longevity and has shown the cause of premature aging in lot of research studies. Several studies have also shown that most health problems are caused by stress.

The secret to a long life is not to worry. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future. Today is all you have. Make the most of it. Make it worth remembering.

The best way to avoid anxiety is to go out in the street and say hello to people, make new friends, smile a lot as it helps in relaxing, spend a moment everyday giving thanks and reconnect with nature to recharge yourself.

Follow your ikigai.

There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your Ikigai is yet, go and discover it.