First there was hygge then lagom, and now there’s ikigai. The anglophone appetite for new lifestyles and concepts seems to know no bounds as we adopt yet another culture's word, and its corresponding meaning, into our hungry, hungry lexicon. But what exactly is behind the newest word we've been hearing?
The newest word cum lifestyle practice comes to us from Japan, where practitioners of ikigai are said to lead longer, fuller, more genuine lives. In a new book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, authors Héctor Garcia and Francesc Miralles extol the benefits of the East Asian lifestyle philosophy that position meaning and purpose as paramount. Ikigai translates roughly to a reason for living. Those with a strong sense of ikigai feel satiated in busy-ness, eager to welcome the day and its often active offerings.
Ikigai and its benefits are grounded in community and the art of connection. Social relations, and the feelings of fullness and collaboration they offer, are an essential element in the harnessing of one’s ikigai and the subsequent betterment of one’s life. It's the dedication required by relationship building that weaves purpose into all aspects of daily life and brings the practice of ikigai from an internal practice to an external one.
There's evidence to support that ikigai is a healthy and holistic lifestyle. Okinawa, a Japanese island where residents practice ikigai, is considered one of the world's Blue Zones, places with the highest rates of life longevity. So whether ikigai is poised to dethrone hygge and seize our momentary cultural fascination remains to be seen. But until then, maybe we can all try to incorporate a little purpose into our daily thinking.
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