Ikigai – Héctor García and Francesc Miralles

Book at a glance…

This book explores Ikigai which is the Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose in life, a reason for living (a raison d’être) bringing satisfaction, happiness and meaning.

Image extracted from Forbes.com

One of the most profound questions this book highlights is ‘why do some people know what they want and have a passion for life, while others languish in confusion?’

Highlights

  • Medical studies of centenarians from Okinawa and ‘Blue Zones’ – geographical areas where people live the longest.
  • The art of staying young while growing old – strong sense of community is just as significant as a healthy Japanese diet.
  • Little things add up to a long and happy life.  
  • Spending too much time seated at work or home reduces muscular and respiratory fitness, increases appetite and limits the desire to participate in activities (sedentary leading to other health problems).
  • Antiaging attitudes – stoic attitudes/serenity in the face of adversity, adopting a positive outlook (common traits found in longest living people).
  • Finding a flow in everything you do– focusing on tasks/hobbies in a distraction free environment and immersing yourself in the experience, dissolves your ego and you become part of what you do while losing your sense of time (Csikszentmihalyi’s research).
  • Never stop learning and cultivate beneficial habits.

Actionable messages

  • 80 percent secret (Hara Hachi bu) – ancient wisdom advises against eating until we are full so Okinawans stop eating at 80 percent full rather than overeating and propelling the body to have long digestive processes that accelerates cellular oxidation.
  • Brain stimulation is important to prevent neuron and neural connection to deteriorate so anti-aging strategies for the mind may help. Intellectual activity, curiosity, and a desire to learn may slow the process e.g playing games, interacting with people, dealing with new situations.
  • Stress – causes of premature aging which wears body down (as per studies). Suggested solutions – meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and body scans. However, the book also argues that a small dose of stress is a positive thing.
  • Get adequate sleep – recommended seven to nine hours.
  • Diet – Recommend ‘eating the rainbow’ which means a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, less sugar, more grains, natural antioxidants, green tea and jasmine tea!
  • Choose to use your feet instead of elevator/escalator – emphasis on being MORE active
  • Mediation – exercises mental muscles and generates alpha and theta brain waves.
  • Live an unhurried life and LAUGH!

Favourite Quotes

The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.

We finally land our dream job, but after a little while we are already hunting for a better one. We win the lottery and buy a nice car but then decide we can’t live without a sailboat. We finally win the heart of the man or woman we’ve been pining for and suddenly find we have a wandering eye. People can be insatiable.

The objective of the virtuous person is to reach a state of tranquillity (apatheia): the absence of negative feelings such as anxiety, fear, shame, vanity, and anger, and the presence of positive feelings such as happiness, love, serenity, and gratitude.

Questions to ask yourself:

What makes you enjoy doing something so much that you forget about all your worries that you have while you do it?

When are you the happiest?

Hope you have a great weekend!

Benefits of Reading

“More than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination,” one that “causes you to enter an altered state of consciousness.”

– Dr David Lewis
  • Boosts knowledge

This should be no surprise that reading encourages knowledge. In todays world, majority aim to know about a broad range of topics and genres, in keeping up with conversations and reading is always the way to go.

  • Enhances imagination and gives inspiration.

Most readers are great dreamers as reading allows them to delve into their imagination simultaneously boosting it. It also inspires to create.

  • Expands vocabulary and improves speech

Over the years, many studies have showed a strong link between reading and a richer vocabulary. For instance, a study showed gradual improvement of students’ vocabulary and reading skills through reading English newspapers.

  • Promotes mental health and prevents cognitive decline

In one study, participants were asked to read “Pompeii” and as the plot grew more intense, increasing regions of the brain showed enhanced activity. Brain scans revealed that reading stories not only strengthens language processing areas but also affects the reader through embodied semantics in sensorimotor regions by enhancing long-term connectivity. Another study even suggested that individuals that read, have a lower chance of developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

  • Develops empathy

According to researchers from the University of Toronto, reading may change certain personality traits of readers. Some results indicate that fictional literature may facilitate empathy.

  • Improves sleep

Another strain of neuroscience by the University of Sussex showed that even six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68%, even helping people with Insomnia.