March 04, 2021

There are three fundamental notions. A long life, a sense of purpose, and deep happiness. This secret can be found on a small island in southern Japan, Okinawa, home to the highest concentration of centenarians in the world. They use a term ‘IKIGAI’, which roughly translates to “your reason for living.”

Do you know your ikigai? What motivates you to get out of the bed in the morning?

Okinawans typically attain an extremely high degree of specialization and attention to detail in their daily work. It’s also a key factor to longevity, so if your Ikigai is a hobby that brings you meaning and joy, don’t ever give it up!

Medical studies done on Okinawan centenarians have found extremely low rates of both heart disease and dementia. An active and healthy mind is just as important to long life as your physical health. It is important to exercise your mind in different ways. One can prevent losing brain flexibility by trying out new activities and changing set patterns and routines. Give your brain a workout.

The best exercise for your brain… getting out of the house, meeting other people and experiencing social interactions. The next best thing you can do for your brain is to avoid stress. Stress can cause a rise in antibodies in the blood just like viruses and bacteria can - and it can attack the healthy cells of the body - leading you to age faster than you should. Try practicing mindfulness, doing yoga or taking time to exercise.

But what if you already have stress? Try Morita Therapy. Pay attention to and accept the feelings you have without attempting to change them. There are three fundamental components; solitude, routine and creativity. And then you re-enter the world.

And here, on return you need Ikagai again. The presence of Ikagai in your life allows you to develop a state of flow. Think total immersion. Achieving such a state of flow regularly can keep you young. These experiences should be prioritized over hedonistic ones. Learning a new skill at any stage of life can help create a state of flow.

Recommendations from Okinawan centenarians.

Worry as little as possible. Greet others, even strangers with a smile and an open heart - you will maintain plenty of friendships this way. Enjoy what you have. Cultivate good habits. Grow your own vegetables and cook your own food. Eat a garden to table diet, with lots of variety in small portions, using small plates. Eat all the colors of rainbow. Stop eating when you are 80% full. Hara hachi bu. Small portions reduce IGF-1. Use anti-oxidants like green tea. Add jasmine to green tea for greater benefit.

Movement, simple and regular, can be as basic as walking around the neighborhood. The key to the Okinawans activity isn’t its intensity but the fact that it never stops. New research reveals that sitting for even half an hour in chair slows down your metabolism and that sitting for over two hours decreases your levels of good cholesterol. Getting up for even five minutes every half hour is sufficient to offset these effects!

And in the final analysis, remember what the Okinawans believe. Only imperfect objects can be truly beautiful, embrace wabi-sabi.