Scandinavian home and lifestyle trends have been all the rage in 2017. What first began as a hygge takeover (AKA the Danish word for a cozy or charming feeling) has now become even more widespread, with offshoots like friluftsliv and lagom gaining in popularity on Pinterest and Instagram. But the latest good-for-you trend doesn’t come from Scandinavia. In fact, the secret to a long and happy life according to the latest “it” wellness craze comes from a tiny island in Japan.
After a long discussion of the philosophical questions of life one rainy night in Tokyo, researchers Héctor García and Francesc Miralles recalled the Japanese concept of Ikigai. What a French philosopher might call someone’s raison d’être, the concept roughly translates to “the happiness of always being busy.” According to experts, every person has an Ikigai — although they also warn that it may take a lot of patient soul-searching to find it. While there are many unique variations, it’s generally believed that finding balance between your passion, mission, profession, and vocation is the key (as seen in the graph below).
It was this discussion of the roots of Ikigai that led García and Miralles on an intellectual scavenger hunt that led to over a year of research and took them all the way to the Japanese island of Okinawa — specifically to Ogimi, which boasts the highest life expectancy in the world. Here, they lived among the locals to learn all their secrets to living a long and happy life, most of which they claim had to do with finding their Ikigai.
They documented their findings, along with various other reputable research done on the subject, in their new book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life ($20), set to hit stores this August in an effort to help Westerners learn to channel the ancient wisdom found on the island (and to help us live happier and longer, of course). Along with detailing the heart-healthy Okinawa diet and proven science-based exercises from the East that promote health and longevity, the authors created a master list of 10 rules to help beginners find their Ikigai based on real practices in Okinawa.
The 10 Rules of Ikigai
1. Stay active and don’t retire. Once García and Miralles arrived in Okinawa, they were shocked to find out how many people simply do not retire — in fact, they even note the lack of a Japanese word for the concept. In order to do what you love for as long as you can, the authors suggest that you make it a priority to stay active in all stages of life.
2. Take it slow. “When you leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning,” the authors advise. So instead of rushing your daily tasks, try to savor and enjoy them for the sake of your Ikigai.
3. Don’t fill your stomach. “Less is more when it comes to a long life. Eat a little less than your hunger demands.” According to García and Miralles, one of the most popular phrases in Japan is “Hara hachi bu,” which means something akin to “fill your belly to 80 percent.”
4. Surround yourself with good friends. “Friends are the best medicine, there for confiding, sharing stories, getting advice, having fun, dreaming… in other words, living.” Basically, it’s a great excuse to gather your girl squad for drinks more often. Hey, it’s for your health!
5. Get in shape for your next birthday. “The body you move through life needs a bit of gentle daily maintenance.” While the folks on the Japanese island of Okinawa do not perform rigorous exercise, they do regularly get up and move their muscles. Try setting an alarm on your phone every hour to remind yourself to get out of your office chair and move around.
6. Smile. “It’s a privilege to be in the here and now — and in a world so full of possibilities,” say García and Miralles. Do your best to stay positive no matter what life throws your way, lady.
7. Reconnect with nature. “Human beings are made to be part of the natural world. Return to it as often as you can,” the authors say. In other words, do your best to make time in your busy schedule to get back to nature, whether that’s a weekend hike with friends or a summer goal to bike to work once a week.
8. Give thanks. “Give thanks for everything that brightens your day and makes you feel lucky to be alive.” Whether it’s committing to writing in a gratitude journal or simply being more conscious of voicing your gratefulness to the Starbucks barista who saves your morning, do your best to give more thanks throughout the day.
9. Live in the moment. We all have those moments where looking ahead at our busy schedule leaves us feeling mega overwhelmed and stressed. “Today is all we have,” the authors note. “Make it worth remembering.”
10. Find 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.” You heard it — go get ’em, lady!
Do you think Ikigai is the next trendy feel-good movement? Tweet us your thoughts @BritandCo.
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(Graph via Mark Winn)