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The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

By Hector Garcia Puigcerver and Francesc Miralles
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Ikigai by Hector Garcia Puigcerver and Francesc Miralles

Ikigai (2016) is your guide to living a long, happy life through the wisdom of Japanese culture. These blinks delve into every area of Japanese life to uncover their secrets of longevity and to explain why so many Japanese, especially those on one island in particular, live well past 100 years of age.

Key idea 1 of 9

A deep purpose in life is the secret to longevity.

Are you interested in living a long, healthy and fulfilling life? Who isn’t?

The secret to doing so just may be found on the island of Okinawa, in southern Japan, home to the highest concentration of centenarians in the world.

And these island dwellers’ secret to longevity may boil down to just one word: ikigai, which roughly translates to your reason for living – or your inner motivation for a specific professional activity.

It can also be described as an intersection between four different elements: what you’re passionate about, where your skills lie, how you can earn a living and what the world needs. Many Japanese believe that everyone has an ikigai, or destiny, that they were born to fulfill.

However, while some people find their ikigai quickly, others must seek it out over time. If you fall into this latter category, it’s important to persist; after all, ikigai will ultimately be what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning.

That’s why Okinawans often attain a high degree of specialization and attention to detail in their daily work. For instance, in an Okinawan paintbrush factory, the authors met a skilled craftswoman who had spent her entire life perfecting the art of attaching individual hairs to a brush. At this stage in her career, she was able to do her job with stunning dexterity and skill.

What’s more, ikigai is also the key to longevity. So, if your ikigai is your job, you should never retire. And if your ikigai is a hobby that brings you meaning and joy, don’t ever give it up.

Okinawans abide by these rules and, as a result, remain active late into their lives. If they’re forced into retirement, they still find ways to remain active, such as by doing gardening or other work in their communities.

The benefits of this commitment are clear. Medical studies conducted on Okinawan centenarians have found extremely low rates of both heart disease and dementia.

In the next blink, you’ll learn how exactly an engaged mind enables a long life.

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