In 2012, Dan Buettner, an explorer and National Geographic fellow, traveled worldwide to answer an age-old (no pun intended) question: why makes some people enjoy long lives?
This expedition took him across many countries where he eventually discovered regions called the Blue Zones. In these places, living at least 80 years old is the norm. Most people are also free from chronic diseases such as heart disorders or cancers.
Buettner and his team also learned that these places seem to follow similar principles. One of these is ikigai.
What Is Ikigai?
One of the Blue Zones regions is Okinawa, Japan, an island about 2 hours away from Tokyo by plane. Here, men and women follow a healthy diet consisting mainly of vegetables, fermented foods, and tofu. They enjoy long walks too, especially in the mornings.
But they also practice ikigai, which translates to “a reason for being” or life’s purpose. And they may not be wrong with this philosophy.
According to a 2014 study by the Association for Psychological Science (APS), finding a purpose can add more years to your life regardless of when you “found” it.
In 2009, the researchers of Rush University Medical Center revealed that purpose also helps reduce the risk of mortality among older adults. After adjusting other factors like age, those whose lives seem to have more meaning outlived those with low purpose by 50%.
How can ikigai help with longevity? Experts say that knowing one’s purpose can significantly improve life satisfaction and boost one’s relationships with others. In fact, the Okinawans believed they have long lifespans because they have to thrive for their neighbors or communities.
Because Okinawa is hundreds of miles away from the mainland, the resources can be basic and scarce. Thus, the people form small groups called moai, whose individual task is to look out for one another. In turn, it provides the members support and reduces the odds of anxiety and depression.
Ikigai can also help decrease stress and burnout. Stress can be a chronic killer because of the many changes it does to the body. For instance, it can raise cortisol for prolonged periods. When it becomes dysfunctional, this hormone can increase your blood sugar levels that may likely lead to diabetes.
How to Find the Ikigai
Finding one’s ikigai may be one of the answers to longevity. However, knowing what it is, is easier said than done. Australians who want to know their life’s purpose may benefit from a private mental health clinic that offers life coaching.
How can a life coach assist a person in discovering their ikigai? First, they can help one answer the questions that lay the foundation for the philosophy:
• What do you enjoy doing?
• What are you good at?
• What can help change the world?
• Based on your answers to the previous three questions, can you make a living from it?
The answer that overlaps all three questions is your ikigai.
Further, while the APS’s 2014 study shared that one can find their ikigai at any time, it may help if they discover it early. This way, they can enjoy its benefits, including longevity, for a longer period.
The concept of ikigai has been around for hundreds of years. Although it seems to be a secret of longevity for the Okinawans, its impact on lifespan still needs further investigation.
One thing is clear, however. When a person knows their life’s meaning, they can enjoy a better quality of life. Moreover, it is never too late to discover this purpose, although, with a life coach’s help, one may learn about it before they hit their forties.