Ikigai, the secret for a long and happy life that comes from Japan
Japan has one of the highest life expectancy in the world, counting with approximately 70.000 people that are over 100 in the country.
There are many reasons why the Nippon country has this world record, and one of them is that Japanese people keep very clearly in mind the concept of Ikigai throughout their lives.
What is Ikigai?
Ikigai could be translated as "reason of being" and it's a key concept in Japan: finding your passion and dedicating your life to it. Ikigai can be something you're good at, something that makes you happy when you do it or that inspire you, it could be your job, or something that can contribute to make the world a better place.
Having something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, something that you love and that you want to do every day, is the reason why Japanese people age better and, by consequence, have a longer life. In fact, in Japanese culture there's not a word equivalent of "retirement" the way we mean it in our language, when you stop doing your job forever. Japanese keep working and being active after leaving their jobs, thanks to their Ikigai.
It's also important that an Ikigai it's not only something we love doing, but it's also something that can give a contribution to the community and help others. In Japan the sense of community is one of the fundamental pillars in the culture, as indicated by the word yui-maru, the spirit of mutual cooperation.
How can having an Ikigai help us?
Having a purpose in our lives is one of the things that make us feel happy to live and keep on living. Human beings spend most of their lives looking for a passion and unfortunately in western culture it's more and more common to end up doing a job that it's not for us because we can't live by doing what we actually enjoy, especially in the case of creative jobs. Finding our Ikigai means understanding clearly our goal and what we love, and dedicating it our day-to-day life, even if we have to do it after our job.
During retirement, having an Ikigai is even more important: it gives us a reason to stay active, both physically and mentally, which is the key to age better. Many researches talk about how staying active reduces the risk of many medical conditions. That's exactly the reason why Japan has a very low rate of cardiovascular illnesses and dementia (and also thanks to the healthy Nippon diet).
How to find your Ikigai
It's possible that you think that you don't have an Ikigai. Don't lose hope, it's not always easy to find it, but every person has one. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is that you like so much doing that while you're doing it time flies by?
- What is that you were really good at doing when you were a kid?
- What makes you happy when you think about it?
- What is that comes very easy for you to do?
- What can you contribute to the world?
Write your answers on a paper, and think about it carefully. You'll see that little by little you will find what your Ikigai is.