Reading: Ikigai

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I needed something light but interesting to read during my winter holidays last week and was happy to discover the Finnish translation of Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles is already available. The English version of the book (Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life ) will be out later this year.

According to the Japanese concept everyone has their own ikigai, a reason for living, a reason to wake up in the morning. Finding our own ikigai means learning to know ourselves by asking the four important questions: what is what we love to do, what is what we are good at, what we can be paid for and what the world needs us to do, ikigai being in the intersection of our passion, profession, vocation and mission.

According to older studies people living in so called Blue Zones (a term loosely used to describe the areas with the longest lifetime expectancy in the world) have many similarities in their life style. Staying active and having a sense of purpose in life throughout the senior years is one of them.

In their book Garcia and Miralles focus on the residents of the Japanese village Okinawa, describe the local life style and explain how finding a purpose and remaining active, maybe not even retiring at all, can lead to a long, happy and satisfying life.

Like all Blue Zone people also the residents of Okinawa follow a healthy diet. The food is nutritious and mainly vegetarian but most importantly, people eat only until they are 80 % full. They exercise regularly but not too much and walk and garden daily.

During their visit to Okinawa Garcia and Miralles interviewed more than a hundred local seniors trying to find out their secrets. The answers make sense and sound rational. Don’t worry too much. Have routines in your life. Cherish important relationships. Be mindful, be optimistic. Smile. Celebrate. Be passionate and find your purpose. Don’t take life too seriously.

In Okinawa music, singing and dancing is a part of people’s normal daily life. As one of the leading factors for longevity Garcia and Miralles mention social support groups known as moais. People help and support each other socially and even financially. For many senior citizens voluntary work becomes a new ikigai.

Sounds tempting, doesn’t it. Finding and maintaining an active life style that can help us to live a long and happy life.

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