The secret of Ikigai

How do you really live a happy life? Research journalist Dan Buettner of National Geographic set out to uncover the secret of eternal youth. He traveled the world to places where many people live to be a hundred years old. The areas were circled on a world map with a blue pen, thus creating the name blue zone. Here, the elderly remain vital, healthy and happy until old age. The blue zones are spread all over the world: the Ogliastra area in Sardinia, the Greek island of Ikaria, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Loma Linda in California and the Japanese island of Okinawa. Buettner examined the habits of the over-100s vital. He found that seniors have some similar habits that lead to longer, healthier, and happier lives.

Blue zones - inspiration for slow living 
The secret is a healthy, active lifestyle without stress. People contribute to society and feel useful. It is very similar to living a slow lifestyle. Live with more peace and more attention. We live in a time where we are always online and busy. As a result, we forget to enjoy life. While in the blue zones the inhabitants enjoy: 

  • Healthy food
  • Daily movement
  • Little stress
  • Reconnect with nature
  • Little use of pesticides and pesticides
  • Connectedness to each other. A good social life

How about this in Okinawa?

Studies show that residents of Okinawa, a Japanese archipelago about a thousand miles south of Tokyo, are the oldest of all people in the world. More healthy and active centenarians live there than anywhere else. The average resident is no less than 86 years old. How is this possible?

1. Healthy food 
In Okinawa people eat pure and healthy. Many residents have their own vegetable garden and sometimes eat a kilogram of vegetables a day, especially sweet potato, fruit, tubers, mushrooms, eggs, herbs and spices, fish, seaweed, shellfish, nuts, seeds and kernels. Okinawans adhere to the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra of 'Hara hachi bu', meaning small portions. So eat until you're 80 percent full.

2. Daily movement outside 
The people of Okinowa exercise a lot every day. Not so much in a gym, but more exercise as part of your day like walking, gardening, fishing or doing odd jobs. They spend a lot of time outdoors and therefore get a lot of vitamin D from sunlight.

3. Little stress 
Living slower means doing more things that help you to stand still. The inhabitants do not have a rushed life with a lot of stress. Even though they work hard, there is time for relaxation and rituals. An afternoon siesta, a daily chat, time to meditate, your own vegetable garden, going to bed early and taking a moment to remember ancestors.

4. Connectedness to each other
There is a rich social and family life in Okinawa. Deep relationships with children, parents and grandparents are cherished. Older relatives are often cared for in their relatives' homes. People enjoy good food with friends and family and take the time to do so. Research shows that having a positive, committed relationship can add six years to your life expectancy.

5. Reconnect with nature
Though most people live in cities these days, human beings are made to be part of the natural world. We should return to it often to recharge our batteries.

6. No use of pesticides and toxins
Dan Buettner discovered that sustainability and a natural environment at Okinawa are naturally intrigued by existence. There are few processed products and no pesticides, toxic substances in food, soap, clothing and household.

7. Ikigai a life purpose
In addition to dietary habits and living environment, "Ikigai" plays a major role in the health and vitality of the residents of Okinawa. The word has two parts: iki and gai. Iki means life and gai means value or worth. Ikigai is about joie de vivre. Both "the happiness of always being busy", but also as the "meaning of existence". It is your life purpose. In blue zones, having a life purpose is very important.

The secret of Ikigai
According to Japanese tradition, each of us has a reason for existence, an ikigai. Everyone has one or more ikigai: a passion that gets you out of bed in the morning and that is worth living for. The bestseller "Ikigai" by Francesc Miralles and Héctor García has been succeeded by "Do you like Ikigai," which goes further into the question of how you can actually find out what your own ikigai is. Here four components come together: what you love, what the world needs, you can get paid for it and you are good at it. When you have found your Ikigai, everything is just right and everything goes by itself. Then you enter a kind of flow. It could be anything. It makes you older, happier and healthier. What else do you want?

Knowing more? 
Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones. 
Héctor García & Frances Miralles. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.