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Fitness & Wellness

Ikigai: The secret Japanese lifestyle to living healthy

Ikigai: The secret Japanese lifestyle to living healthy


Published: 21 Aug 2020 3:22 AM GMT

Finding purpose and passion in life has been the subject of some movies and the many self-help books available today. We are no strangers to it. Do you recall being asked this inevitable question as a kid - “What do you want to become when you grow up?”

That moment right there sparks interest and passion in our five-year-old minds and this goes a long way when nurtured the right way. It brings about ambitions and hopes of doing what you love for a career one day. But for many of us, this is only a fairytale concept to life and we are all aware of the existential crises that we endure through the ages in pursuit of searching for our passion. “Follow your passion and everything else will fall in place” is a modern anecdote which is heard often but misunderstood.

In today’s spirit of breaking away from the engineering and medical career stereotypes, most of us are often confused as to how do you follow your dreams and be rewarded for it professionally when you don’t know what your passion is? The answer to this lies in the Japanese concept of Ikigai.

Ikigai is the Japanese concept of living a long and healthy life, a major factor alongside a good diet that plays a role in many Okinawa natives living for over 100 years. It is the reason for you getting out of bed every day and these four questions will help you search for your true purpose and passion in life.

Ikigai Zymrat Source: Zymrat

The Four Key Questions

Are you doing something that you love?

Is it something that the world needs?

Is it something you are good at?

Is it something that you can get paid for?

Though answering these four questions is not the only way to live a long and healthy life. Here is a complete guide to Ikigai and how you can implement these changes to your life.


Okinawa natives consume food in a manner where you’re only full up to 80% of your total food capacity. How do you find out 80% of yours? It is simple, just stop eating when you’re full. Don’t push for dessert when you’re done with your meal. It is one of the reasons why Japanese people have a slimmer look compared to the rest of the world. Eating only as much as needed makes you feel energetic and boosts productivity, preventing the lethargy that comes after a heavy lunch.


Retirement is a western concept which may suit some who wish to enjoy the rest of their lives free from any professional pressures. But Ikigai puts a slight twist on it. It focuses on a community well being, which means that even when you have stopped working, you can make a difference in the lives of the next generation by teaching them skills and helping them out. This form of increased activity not only reduces the risk of commonly known old-age ailments like dementia and heart disease but also helps you be part of an engaging community and social life into your later years.

Listen to the old

Yes, it is that simple. Folks who live to be 100 or over know what they are doing and they could help you out in that regard. This may seem difficult today, but according to the concept of Ikigai, engaging in a community brings about this knowledge which can help you grow old and live healthily.

Source: Zymrat


The urban commute leaves us so stressed out that we barely have time to catch a breath. From the minute we wake up we are constantly worried about the future and making amends for the past.

However today we pick up our phones at the ping of every notification which is also unnecessary stress that can reduce our chances of a long life. Sometimes it is okay to shut off your devices and let go of all the problems of the world.


The brainchild of Viktor Frankl, Logotherapy is a school of psychology which deals with the theory that human nature’s true pursuit lies in finding their purpose in life. Here are the principles of Logotherapy you can apply to your life.

  • We don’t create the meaning of our life, as Sartre claimed—we discover it.
  • We each have a unique reason for being, which can be adjusted or transformed many times over the years.
  • Just as worry often brings about precisely the thing that was feared, excessive attention to a desire (or “hyper-intention”) can keep that desire from being fulfilled.
  • Humour can help break negative cycles and reduce anxiety.
  • We all have the capacity to do noble or terrible things. The side of the equation we end up on depends on our decisions, not on the condition in which we find ourselves.

Healthy Mind = Healthy Body

Another way to live long is to keep learning. Much like the body, neurons wired throughout our body need stimulation, especially in the brain. Learning new information, light exercise and stepping out of your comfort zone despite that little bout of anxiety when trying something new can help you add more years to your life. Stimulating the mind and body has shown to reduce signs of diseases usually associated with old age. Last, but not least is -

Go With The Flow

“Be water, my friend” is the infamous quote by Bruce Lee that made him even more well known outside martial arts and film communities. This simple yet effective proverb focuses on staying present and flow with the activity. A boxer or chess player is completely focused with every second being planned against their opponents. Factors like the past, future, ego mean nothing during this flow as the only aim is to win. Today we often lose focus while doing tasks, so here are a few steps Ikigai mentions to develop flow.

  1. Choose the right task: Do not go to the extent of pushing yourself too hard or too little. The key is to find an experience that is well within your skills but also provides a bit of a challenge. If you are a dancer, add new moves to your routine. Mastered a programming language? Try coding in a different one. The key is to challenge yourself a little extra to achieve flow.
  2. Have a clear objective: The first step is to always have a clear objective. Without a goal, we are not motivated to push for becoming better, like a sailor letting the waves of the ocean pilot his ship. Olympic athletes train every single day for the quadrennial event with hopes of scoring an Olympic medal someday - the most prestigious award in sports that is recognized worldwide. Even if you do not have a long term goal, ask yourself what is your goal for the day when you wake up. It is a start.
  3. Concentrate on a single task: Unlike smartphones today, humans have always been able to multitask. But here is something we are all familiar with. We are listening to music while reading or writing something. A text pops up and we attend to it. Now we have lost a short amount of time attending to notifications in what could bring progress for our writing or reading activity. Focusing on completing a single task with all your efforts can help you move on to the next one without any compromise on the former.

Ikigai is a concept that is not just focused on adding years to your life but living healthy and providing satisfaction to yourself and the world. It focuses on principles that enhance physical, mental, emotional and social well being. It can be adopted into your lifestyle with ease and boost your personal and professional creativity aside from living long.

Excerpts and source - Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life - A Book by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia

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