Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Ikigai: The Japanese Philosophy for a Healthy and Happy Life

By Esra Sahin Apr27,2024

If we assume that the tale of Aladdin’s magical lamp, known to all of us, is true, have you ever thought about the three wishes you would desire to fulfill in your imagination? Considering the billions of people on Earth, each individual undoubtedly harbors a diverse array of wishes in life. Perhaps it is possible to say that a common and popular desire throughout the centuries is “immortality.” But would immortality elixir alone suffice for humanity? Isn’t the elixir of happiness also necessary? Otherwise, a long life may seem like a hardship, but a long and happy life, undoubtedly, is the most precious treasure that adds a unique meaning to every moment, especially when shared with loved ones.

Unfortunately, humanity on Earth has not encountered an alchemist who would reveal the formula for the elixir of immortality to us for centuries. However, when looking at statistics, it seems that the average lifespan is low in some regions and quite high in others. The authors of the book “Ikigai,” Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, embark on a research adventure to find out the reasons behind these differences and guide us on how to apply the secrets of long and happy life in our own lives, drawing inspiration from the Japanese philosophy. With over 1.5 million copies sold worldwide in various languages, this book provides explanations and guidance on the roadmap to discovering your own Ikigai.

Every country has its own philosophy of life. One of Japan’s philosophies is Ikigai. The people living in the Okinawa archipelago of Japan are known to have the highest average lifespan in the world. What is the secret of the Okinawa people, whose average lifespan is high? What makes their adopted Ikigai philosophy so effective in their lives? Ikigai is a word that comes from Japanese; ‘iki’ means life, and ‘gai’ means purpose/goal. In short, we can define it as the “purpose of life.” Ikigai encompasses four essential elements: passions, skills, societal needs, and financial sustainability. In this regard, the Japanese believe that each individual has an Ikigai, and they guide them to find a reason to get out of their comfortable beds every morning. The philosophy of Ikigai conveys the message that if you do something you love, are good at, serves humanity, and makes money, you will reach your purpose of existence. The authors emphasize the importance of never giving up, searching for what you love, and finding the positive aspects of life even in the face of difficulties.

They stress that what matters is not the negative events in our lives but how we deal with those negatives. In this context, I want to share a meaningful story passed down from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who lived three thousand years ago. One day, a horse is stolen in the village. The villagers immediately decide that this event is a disaster. However, following the advice of the wise old man Lao Tzu, they go to him and tell him the situation. The wise man just smiles and says, “Maybe a disaster, maybe good luck! Who knows?” A few days later, the stolen horse returns, bringing with it a wild horse. The villagers go back to the wise man and share their joy. The wise man just smiles again and says, “Maybe luck, maybe a disaster! Who knows?” While his son is trying to train the new wild horse, he falls and breaks his leg. The villagers return to the wise man, expressing their concerns. The wise man smiles once more and says, “Maybe a disaster, maybe good luck! Who knows?” As in this story, sometimes when we move towards finding the purpose of our lives, our journey may be interrupted by some obstacles. Still, we must not allow ourselves to fall into the pit of deep despair and continue our lives with patience, so that we can see the hidden beauties behind them.

Life cannot be expected to be as rosy as in fairy tales, but if we look at life with the right perspective, it will be much easier to cope with the events we encounter. As Richard Feynman said, “Don’t regret anything in life! If it’s good, it’s wonderful, if it’s bad, it’s experience! When you win, you win. When you lose, you learn!” In short, the focus should be on how we handle the things in life that we cannot change rather than on those things themselves.

Let me now discuss the principles of Ikigai, which the indigenous people of Okinawa and some readers worldwide have embraced as their philosophy of life. Firstly, the concept of retirement is not prevalent in Japanese culture; they have a famous saying, “If you want to die, retire.” In this context, adopting an active lifestyle instead of retirement is important for sustaining our life energy. Japanese people often continue to seek a kind of “Ikigai” even after retirement, engaging in activities that give meaning to their lives. This perspective encourages a continuous search for purpose and passion, contributing to physical and mental well-being.

Secondly, it advises not to forget to smile even in our bad moments. Remember that “Smile is the best medicine in the world.” Bringing a positive perspective to difficulties can give us a more positive outlook on life.

Thirdly, continuing to exercise is crucial; regular exercise strengthens our physical and mental health, supporting our Ikigai. This generally enhances our overall quality of life. Just as we prioritize the maintenance of our car or home according to the season, we should also give importance to sports activities in our lives without waiting for our body to give us an alarm. Considering the differences in everyone’s body structure and life conditions, dedicating at least two hours a week to a nature walk can undoubtedly contribute significantly to our health. Additionally, in the process of finding Ikigai, choosing to keep our stomach 80% full to preserve our life energy and avoiding overeating is essential. Keeping in mind the saying “Eat less, live longer!” will be beneficial from all aspects for us. This approach not only affects our physical health but also makes us feel lighter mentally. Overfilling the stomach can negatively impact our energy levels and slow us down in our Ikigai pursuit. Therefore, adopting a balanced and measured approach can support Ikigai as a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle.

The authors also emphasize another important aspect: making an effort to acquire good people and good friends. Positive and supportive relationships add a special meaning to our lives. Good friendships, where support is given unconditionally and values are shared without any expectations, can not only multiply the joys we experience but also help each other in difficult times. This thought highlights the importance of environmental relationships in the Ikigai search, explaining how healthy social connections contribute to personal development.

In addition to these, the book suggests that there are many benefits of nature in human life and considers nature to play a key role in the pursuit of Ikigai. The author explains that a connection with nature has a positive impact on an individual’s internal peace. For example, regularly spending time in nature, taking forest walks, or spending time outdoors can reduce stress levels and provide mental relaxation. Learning to slow down occasionally to cope with the stress brought by the fast pace of life is crucial. This way, appreciating the moment and noticing the beauty of life can strengthen our Ikigai. Integrating with nature can help a person seeking Ikigai increase their internal peace and better define their personal goals. In this context, connecting with nature for someone in the pursuit of Ikigai can help increase inner peace, allowing them to see their life’s purpose more clearly. This principle in the book highlights that a connection with nature not only affects physical health but also contributes positively to mental and emotional health, providing significant guidance for an individual’s Ikigai pursuit.

The book, by emphasizing that the things that give meaning to our lives are generally activities we enjoy, underlines the importance of allocating time to these activities. This is also one of the fundamental principles of the Ikigai philosophy. Focusing on activities we enjoy can not only increase our internal peace but also guide us towards a more satisfying life.

Furthermore, according to the Ikigai philosophy, it is important to be aware of why you wake up every morning. This involves determining a purpose that gives meaning to our lives. In this regard, the book encourages being conscious of why you wake up every morning, focusing on personal goals, and keeping motivation alive by making your life more meaningful and purposeful.

Another important principle highlighted in the book is knowing how to express gratitude and developing a sense of gratitude. Feeling grateful for small things can increase overall life satisfaction and stands out as a way to develop a positive perspective in the pursuit of Ikigai. The book suggests that even after finding your Ikigai, continuous effort to express gratitude and track progress is essential. This ongoing effort can contribute to maintaining consistency and motivation in the personal development process.

In conclusion, based on various research results, it has been concluded that people living in the Okinawa islands in Japan, one of the five blue zones, have a longer, healthier, and happier life. Among the factors that form the basis of this long and happy life are living according to a healthy life philosophy, adopting a balanced diet, regular exercise, and enjoying one’s work without boredom. The Japanese believe that finding the meaning of life is crucial for a long and peaceful life. If you are old, sick, or tired, the Japanese suggest keeping yourself busy by focusing on small tasks, which can help you stay alert and active. Not retiring, maintaining an active social life, adopting healthy eating habits, regular exercise, appreciating the beauty in our surroundings and lives, and connecting with nature are steps that can support our Ikigai, making our lives more meaningful and progressing step by step towards a longer, healthier, and happier life.

Esra Sahin

Related Post