a chart that describes the principles of ikigai
Illustration by Sarah Shin, George Washington University

‘Ikigai’ Is the Japanese Secret to a Happy and Full Life

In a relatively recent self-help book, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles’ describe a particular mindset that can offer people a sense of peace.

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a chart that describes the principles of ikigai
Illustration by Sarah Shin, George Washington University

In a relatively recent self-help book, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles’ describe a particular mindset that can offer people a sense of peace.

Ikigai” is a Japanese concept that means “reason for living.” It combines the Japanese words “iki,” which means life or living, and “kai,” which means effect, outcome or value. Ikigai is what gives you a deep sense of purpose and passion in your life that ultimately contributes to your happiness. Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia’s insightful 2017 self-help book, “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,” explains the art of finding the thing that sparks your joy and pushes you to live a full and meaningful life that you can look back on with a smile. Miralles and Garcia interviewed Japanese supercentenarians in the village of Ogimi in northern Okinawa to enlighten readers about real people who live out their ikigai. But to find your true ikigai, you must first learn when you “flow.”

The Power of Flow

One key ingredient to living according to your ikigai is reaching a state of “flow.” Flowing means spending time on activities that you genuinely enjoy and feel completely immersed in. When you’re in a state of flow, the past and future do not exist. All that you have is the present. Those distracting thoughts, worries and even your sense of time go out the window because you are actively engaged in an experience that brings you pure joy. You become one with the thing that you are doing simply because you love it.

Whether you’re an athlete training for a game, a violinist practicing for a concert or a creative storyteller writing your next big story, anyone can experience being “in the zone.” So, how can you achieve this state of flow? According to Owen Schaffer, a researcher from DePaul University, to reach flow, you must know what to do, know how to do it, know how well you are doing, know where to go, perceive significant challenges, perceive significant skills and be free from distractions.

According to Miralles and Garcia, instead of multitasking like people tend to do, readers should concentrate on a single task, which increases their chances of achieving flow. Some of the many advantages of flow include having a focused mind, living in the present, being free from worry and feeling in control and more confident about what you’re doing. If you do this, your ikigai will be born.

Live the Ogimi Lifestyle

Miralles and Garcia recommend living the “Ogimi lifestyle.” In conducted interviews, the equally serene and spirited supercentenarians of the village of Ogimi reveal the five life-giving secrets of longevity, which stem from their own ikigai.

1. Don’t worry

“The secret to a long life is not to worry. And to keep your heart young — don’t let it grow old. Open your heart to people with a nice smile on your face. If you smile and open your heart, your grandchildren and everyone else will want to see you.”

It seems rather simple. Maybe even easier said than done. But according to this Japanese supercentenarian, adopting a joyful attitude not only gives you peace that lasts a lifetime but also makes life incredibly exciting to live. Maintaining your inner child can keep you young as you continue to grow. Because you can’t change what life throws at you, you can only change your mindset. So, decide to be carefree, playful and not take life too seriously. Just see how much lighter and happier you will be in all areas of your life. And don’t forget to smile your dazzling smile because people want to see it.

2. Cultivate good habits

“To live a long time you need to do three things: exercise to stay healthy, eat well, and spend time with people.”

Your physical and mental health should always be the top priorities in your life. When you replace your bad habits with good habits, the overall quality of your life increases. Adopting a more active lifestyle instead of a sedentary one takes a lot of effort and discipline. But it is not impossible. If you’re not into intensive workouts, incorporating a light exercise routine — like walking or running — is just as beneficial. Also, eating the right food is key to staying healthy. As for your mental health, companionship increases your sense of belonging and boosts your overall happiness. Make sure to get in some social time when you’re feeling stressed out.

3. Nurture your friendships every day

“Getting together with my friends is my most important ‘ikigai.’ We all get together here and talk — it’s very important. I always know I’ll see them all here tomorrow, and that’s one of my favorite things in life.”

Nobody is meant to go through this life alone. After all, as people often say, humans are social creatures. It is important to invest in friendships that make you feel content and build you up as a person. It’s not always easy to find true friends but once you find your people, you can lean on them when life gets too tough. Being a part of a community of people who love you and have your best interests in mind is one of life’s sweetest treasures. Plus, it’s always a fun time when your friends are by your side. Remember to nurture your friendships and keep your friends close throughout your life.

4. Live an unhurried life

“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.”

You don’t always need to be in a hurry. It doesn’t make you any less productive to take some downtime for yourself and unwind. Rest and recuperation are just as important as hard work and keeping busy. Ultimately, it’s about finding the balance between the two. Besides, taking a moment to slow down and just breathe make things feel a little less overwhelming. Know when to take a break because your body needs its rest from time to time. It will make the work that you put in feel even more rewarding. Take it easy; you’ve got time.

5. Be optimistic

“Laugh. Laughter is the most important thing. I laugh wherever I go.”

Laughter is the best medicine. A strong sense of humor makes you feel happier and promotes positivity in the people around you. It also strengthens your connection with others and helps you live longer. Laughter eases anxieties, relaxes your body and makes it easier to cope with challenging times. So, go watch a funny movie, tell a goofy joke to your friends or bust out a silly move at a party. And also, just laugh at yourself. It will not only take your confidence to new heights, but it will also make you feel completely comfortable in your own skin.

Establishing your ikigai is a worthwhile pursuit that has a fruitful and lasting reward. Discover what makes you “flow” and consider living out the “Ogimi lifestyle.” Once you find your ikigai, a life full of happiness, good habits and meaning is sure to follow.

 

 

 

Writer Profile

Megan Garcia

Arizona State University
Film and Media Studies

Megan is a film and media studies major at Arizona State University. With a passion for storytelling, she hopes to reach others through her writing, and of course, have fun while doing so.

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