Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles explores the secrets of the world’s Blue Zones. A Blue Zone is an anthropological concept that describes the characteristic lifestyles of the world’s longest living people and Okinawa holds first place among the world’s Blue Zones. This book examines the reasons for their longevity.

Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years. —Japanese proverb

Factors that lead to their longevity includes: nurturing friendships, eating light, getting enough rest, and doing regular, moderate exercise. The researchers discovered the key factor at the heart of the joie de vivre that inspires these centenarians to keep celebrating birthdays and cherishing each day is their ikigai. In Japanese, ikigai is written as 生き甲斐, combining 生き, which means “life,” with 甲斐, which means “to be worthwhile.” The following diagram shows the sweet spot of ikigai in one’s life,

Scientists who have studied the world’s Blue Zones, see these common factors to longevity: diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (an ikigai), and forming strong social ties—that is, having a broad circle of friends and good family relations.

The authors point out, “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.” Those who experience longevity have incorporated physical activity into their daily routine, “Spending too much time seated at work or at home not only reduces muscular and respiratory fitness but also increases appetite and curbs the desire to participate in activities. Being sedentary can lead to hypertension, imbalanced eating, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and even certain kinds of cancer.” Our fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle seems to work against healthy living, “Science has shown that sleep is a key anti-aging tool, because when we sleep we generate melatonin, a hormone that occurs naturally in our bodies.”

This book points out the dangers of stress and incorporates wisdom from psychology and philosophy, “Worrying about things that are beyond our control accomplishes nothing. We should have a clear sense of what we can change and what we can’t, which in turn will allow us to resist giving in to negative emotions. In the words of Epictetus, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.'”

The authors encourage us to live in the moment and stop regretting the past and fearing the future. They encourage us to, “Follow your ikigai. There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end. If you don’t know what your ikigai is yet, then your mission is to discover it. Jesus enables us to discover our ultimate purpose as He points us to God,

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

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