An underwhelming survey. Could probably just have been a meaty article or a light Netflix documentary. An easy read, but it skipped across umpteen difficult topics in an order that made little sense. The concept of Ikigai itself can actually just be found in a succinct diagram on the back of the hardback, mostly voiding the point of the inside of the book anyway.
Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. Of course, you've got to have Ikigai in the first place. It's a combination of four distinct areas of your life:
Doing something that only meets one or two of these is fine, but all four is where the benefits supposedly lie.
If you're going to follow your Ikigai, you don't ever really retire—you are always at work. The western concept of 'retirement' is, allegedly, not common in Japan.
There are five so-called 'Blue Zones' in the world, places where people seem to exhibit unusually long life expectancy. They are as follows:
All of these places apparently have some unique combination of diet, exercise, purpose and strong social ties that combine to give greater longevity.
The old saying says 'healthy body, healthy mind' but the core of Ikigai also suggest that it is equally as important the other way around. Keep your mind active, and you will remain in good health for longer.
A local song: 'To keep healthy and have a long life, / eat just a little of everything with relish, / go to bed early, get up early, and then go out for a walk. / We live each day with serenity and we enjoy the journey. / To keep healthy and have a long life, / we get on well with all of our friends. / Spring, summer, fall, winter, / we happily enjoy all the seasons. / The secret is to not get distracted by how old the fingers are; / from the fingers to the head and back once again. / If you keep moving with your fingers working, 100 years / will come to you.'
Keeping your mind active requires some level of challenge, or stress. Too much stress, all the time? You'll crack under the strain. Not enough stress, ever? You'll turn into an amorphous blob.
A goldilocks amount of *just enough* stress? You're onto a winner.
Being sedentary leads to a huge number of problems and illnesses. At the very least, aim to walk 20+ minutes a day and do things in an active way wherever you can. Walk there, take the stairs, avoid transport if you can.
Get your 7-9 every day without fail - melatonin is supposed to be a dealbreaker.
Cut out alcohol, caffeine, drugs, smoking.
Lower room temperature, make sure it's entirely dark and remove electronic devices.
Positivity, stoicism and emotional awareness are all beneficial.
The authors provide a summary of Logotherapy (you can read more on my notes about this here).
We must actively search for our meaning and discover for it ourselves. It will not be shown to us automatically, it's something that we have to work for.
They also provide a summary of 'Morita' therapy, which essentially sounds like a very nice 3 week Zen holiday:
Mostly conducted in silence.
'Flow' is a state in which we achieve immersion in a task, creative or otherwise. We can lose hours at a time because it is an intoxicating mix of something that is enjoyable, satisfying, challenging and interesting.
Strategies for achieving flow:
Key questions to ask yourself to find a good activity to get flowing in:
'The best way to avoid anxiety is to go out in the street and say hello to people. I do it every day. I go out there and say, 'Hello!" and 'See you later!' Then I go home and care for my vegetable garden. In the afternoon, I spend time with friends.'
'The key to staying sharp in old age is in your fingers. From your fingers to your brain, and back again. If you keep your fingers busy, you'll live to see one hundred.'
'To live a long time you need to do three things: exercise to stay healthy, eat well, and spend time with people.'
'I wake up at five every morning, leave the house, and walk to the sea. Then I go to a friend's house and we have tea together. That's the secret to long life: getting together with people, and going from place to place.'
'The secret to long life is going to bed early, waking up early, and going for a walk. Living peacefully and enjoying the little things. Getting along with your friends. Spring, summer, fall, winter... enjoying each season, happily.'
'Every day I say to myself, "Today will be full of health and energy. Live it to the fullest."'
Our authors collated the main differences in diet that the residents of Okinawa seem to have:
They also eat with the phrase 'hara hachi bu' in mind; that is, to only eat until you are 80% full. It helps to have smaller plates, smaller portions.
They also drink a lot of 'sanpin cha', a sort of jasmine green tea.
Exercise probably isn't the right word for it, but rather movement is the most important thing. Not sitting still or remaining sedentary doesn't require a gym membership or a Peloton, it just needs us to walk and move throughout our days.
There's no train system on Okinawa and most people walk where they need to go. In addition, about 30% of the population in Japan do something every day called 'Radio Taiso'. Radio Taiso is something of an institution in Japan—it's a form of daily communal calisthenics to encourage flexibility and good circulation. (I tried it out, too, and it's certainly invigorating.)
Other popular forms of exercise are Tai Chi, Yoga and Qi Gong.
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