10 rules of ikigai, from authors of the Japanese secret for longevity


One of the most popular books about longevity is “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,” written by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles.

Ikigai loosely translates to “the happiness of always being busy,” and is centered around a person’s true purpose in life. Finding your ikigai is said to make life more meaningful.

In Okinawa, Japan, a blue zone with the highest concentration of centenarians in the world, ikigai is a common theme, according to García and Miralles who interviewed some of the world’s oldest people.

A Japanese proverb states: “Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” And García and Miralles encourage you to stay active by immersing yourself in your ikigai.

Here are the 10 rules that they’ve found have made living in your purpose more seamless.

The 10 rules of ikigai

  1. Stay active; don’t retire. Many of the world’s longest-lived people work well into their 80’s and 90’s or don’t retire. Take for instance, Jayne Burns, a 100-year-old woman who works at a craft store in Ohio; Burns jokingly said her only birthday wish after turning 100 was “to keep working.”
  2. Take it slow. It may feel normal to rush through things and be in a hurry, but that can actually have negative effects on the quality of your life, according to García and Miralles. Instead, they recommend taking your time and seeing how it adds more meaning to your life.
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. Often, centenarians that the authors spoke to suggested eating only 80% of what’s on your plate. “The extra side dish, the snack we eat when we know in our hearts we don’t really need it, the apple pie after lunch—all these will give us pleasure in the short term, but not having them will make us happier in the long term.”
  4. Surround yourself with good friends. Having great relationships in your life has been linked to happiness and longevity, according to an 85-year Harvard study. Centenarians in Okinawa, whom García and Miralles interviewed, prioritized spending time together at community centers in their village and often competed in friendly sports games.
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday. Exercise is a huge component that contributes to longevity. Even if strenuous exercises aren’t your thing, there are five-minute movements like radio taiso that the oldest residents of Okinawa do daily.
  6. Smile. “It’s good to recognize the things that aren’t so great, but we should never forget what a privilege it is to be in the here and now in a world so full of possibilities,” wrote García and Miralles.
  7. Reconnect with nature. Find time to breathe in some fresh air and take a walk, even if you live in a city. Spending time in nature may seem like a waste of time, but it can boost your productivity, enhance your mood and improve your memory.
  8. Give thanks. Gratitude is a great way to remind yourself of all of the best things in your life. Take some time to share your appreciation for your loving family, wonderful friends or even yourself.
  9. Live in the moment. “Stop regretting the past and fearing the future. Today is all you have. Make the most of it. Make it worth remembering,” wrote García and Miralles.
  10. Follow your ikigai. Discover what your passion is and let it drive you. Having an ikigai adds purpose to your life and can lead to more happiness.

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