January 13

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Ikigai: A Long Life Can Be A Satisfying Life

By Odyssa

January 13, 2021


Health is at the forefront of our minds today

Before or during the quarantine period, you have asked these questions to yourself:

Can I call myself truly healthy? Are my lifestyle choices supporting me now? What should I change in what I consume every day? What foods should I eat to help boost my immune system? 

Let's rethink our previous lifestyle choices to see what we can change for the better.

This book by Hector Garcia and Francesc Millares entitled  Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life has presented information out of their research interviews in Okinawa Prefecture in Japan. The goal of the research is to find the meaning of Ikigai — purpose in life — among those who live a long life. What makes a long life a purposeful one?

They find it in Ogimi, a village found within Okinawa. It is the village of longevity, recognized for having the highest proportion of elderly persons in Japan.

Based on the authors’ research, they have these things in common.

They eat right.

Residents of Ogimi eat a wide variety of food — an average of 18 foods each day and over 200 different types. They eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day.

Grains - noodles and rice - are the foundation of their diet. They like cane sugar, fish (3x a week) and a citrus fruit called shikuwasa. This fruit is part of almost every meal. They serve food in small plates and stop eating when they are 80% full. 

To live a long, healthy life, include fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. These are not only for side dish or deserts. 

If you want to track your progress, try using Daily Dozen app. Every day, you will go through a checklist of the foods you need to consume daily, with the recommended serving. 

They move every day.

There is constant movement. They keep themselves busy with volunteering, social activities, gardening, and dancing. Some other activities they do are tai chiqi gong, and radio taiso.

Vegetable gardening is one of their favorite activities. In fact, most of the supercentenarians interviewed by the researchers own a vegetable garden and work on them every day. Some sell their harvest at the local market.

They go from one location to another only by biking, driving or walking. Okinawa is the only Japanese province without trains.

The simple act of walking does wonders for the body. It can help you maintain your weight, a good mood, and prevent the risk of diseases. Squeeze in 15 to 30 minutes of walking daily if you don't have a regular workout. I also wrote about daily movement here

They maintain close social relationships with their families and community.

These are the three things they found out from the study:

  1. That social connections are great for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier. They’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.
  2. That it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.
  3. That good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.

This is a study done in America and appears to be consistent with the lifestyle of the residents of Ogimi.

Almost everyone in this village volunteers for some kind of cause or organization. They socialize — sing, dance, celebrate together. They smile a lot and seem to have caught that one thing that makes this life worthwhile: happiness.

Final words

Living longer doesn’t mean being stuck at home, living with a disease with nothing else to look forward to. It can be disease-, stress- and worry-free. But you have to strive for a healthier mind and body now. 

Look at these lovely Ogimi photos from photographer Stefanie Sinclair. I also found this fun blog about a young traveler’s visit to Ogimi.

The supercentenarians of Japan are living proof that a long life can be a satisfying life. One that others can only dream of. You can turn this dream into reality.

You can eat healthy every day, exercise regularly, maintain a good relationship with friends and family, and be an active member of the community. 

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Odyssa

About the author

Odyssa writes, practices Ashtanga Yoga and works remotely. She enjoys walking their dogs Peanut and Jackie, biking, and picking colorful fruits and vegetables at the market. She loves reading non-fiction, watching K-Drama, and thinks that making time for daily practice or ritual is the best gift to oneself.

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