The Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Every once in awhile you come across a small book that has a big message. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago.

My mom Frieda and I are both voracious readers, and oftentimes we give recommendations to each other when we find a jewel. I was visiting her, and she handed me this small blue book with the title Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. 

The cover touts the book as an International Bestseller, yet I had never heard of it. Mom said, “The message is very interesting.” And if my mom, who is 96 years old, says a book on the secret to a long and happy life is interesting, then I figured it was worth a read. It felt like Yoda was talking to me.

The authors, two practicing therapists—one from Barcelona and one from Japan—who had read each other’s work but had never met, were put in touch by a mutual acquaintance. They spoke about trends in Western psychology and specifically logotherapy, which helps people find their purpose in life.

The opening page features this quote: “Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years.” —Japanese proverb

And that is the essence of the 185-page book. The chapters are simple and short, with titles like: “Ikigai: The art of staying young while growing old;” “Antiaging Secrets: Little things that add up to a long and happy life;” and “Find Flow: How to turn work and free time into spaces for growth.” There are chapters about “gentle movements”—exercises that promote health and long life (such as yoga, tai chi and qigong) and the “Ikigai Diet” highlighting the Okinawa purple sweet potato-based “miracle diet”—the way the residents of Okinawa eat that gives them the largest population of centenarians in the world!

In essence, we all have our own life’s purpose, our personal ikigai. The book is filled with suggestions on how to make space in your mind and your heart to help you find your purpose. “There is no perfect strategy to connecting with your ikigai. But what they learned from the Okinawans is that we should not worry too much about finding it.”

The book concludes with the 10 rules of ikigai:

  1. Stay active; don’t retire. Do things you love.
  2. Take it slow.
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. Less is more when it comes to eating for a long life.
  4. Surround yourself with good friends.
  5. Get in shape for your next birthday. Exercise releases hormones that make us feel happy.
  6. Smile.
  7. Reconnect with nature.
  8. Give thanks.
  9. Live in the moment. Stop regretting the past and fearing the future.
  10. 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.

As we enter that holiday season which seems to be about giving thanks and sharing love, it is a perfect time to start reflecting on what truly makes you happy.  Physically, mentally, socially, professionally.

After reading the book, I was able to pause and reflect on the importance of loving your life, those who you spend time with and what you want your legacy to be.

This book would be an excellent gift to share with someone you love. I know many professional coaches who buy them by the dozen and give them to their clients! Why not share the book with your friends and loved ones?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Karen