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Ikigai | How finding purpose increases your lifespan

27 July, 2018

What is the meaning of Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese word meaning ‘reason for being’. The principle behind the term is ‘what I live for’, or ‘what makes living worthwhile’.

It is the philosophy of purpose.

Examples of Ikigai

What gives purpose or makes life worthwhile is unique to each person. More broadly, these Ikigai might fall into one of several broader categories like:

  • Family
  • Work
  • Health
  • Passions and hobbies
  • Sport
  • Pleasure

Ikigai is associated with increased lifespan

The Japanese province of Okinawa (one of the Blue Zones) holds some of the longest-living people in the world.

This has been attributed to their diet, exercise, community involvement, and their cultural attitudes towards Ikigai.

A study of 73,272 Japanese men and women found that those who self-reported having an Ikigai had decreased risks of mortality from all causes.

Further, the risk of cardiovascular disease is greater for those who don’t find a sense of Ikigai in their lives. Men benefit more heavily in this regard, while both men and women have reduced risk of external causes.

Is it important to have an Ikigai?

Having a purpose in life gives you something to look forward to, enjoy, and strive towards. There are corollary benefits to having an Ikigai as well – sport, for instance, will help your physical and mental health. Indulging in your hobbies and passions can relieve stress and involve you in communities.

Finding your Ikigai

Your purpose and reason for being is going to be unique and special to you. For some, their Ikigai is obvious. It’s a passion or work that they embrace and throw themselves into every day. Others might be searching for their purpose, still trying to determine what it is they value.

If you’re still searching, here’s some ways you can try to determine your purpose in life.

Keep a diary – journaling when and why you felt you’ve felt contentment or accomplishment can help identify what’s important to you.

Think about what you’re grateful for – before you go to sleep, say aloud five things that made you feel grateful that day. Look for common threads between these events.

Give up things – take a week or longer without certain things in your life. Start with those you think might be a waste of time, like TV or social media. What you naturally gravitate to when you aren’t provided with quick entertainment fixes is probably special to you.

Talk to those who know you best – your friends and family might know you better than you know yourself. Ask their opinion on what they think your Ikigai could be. You’d be surprised at what they might say.


Pursuit of Psychological Well-Being (Ikigai) and the Evolution of Self-Understanding in the Context of Caregiving in Japan

Effects of social activities on the concept of “life worth living (ikigai) ” in Japanese older adults

Sense of Life Worth Living (Ikigai) and Mortality in Japan: Osaka Study

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All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies.

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