AROUND THE WORLD IN 8O YEARS
HOW OTHER CULTURES LIVE LONG AND PROSPER
THE NEW RAISON D’ÊTRE
Forget hygge and lagom. When it comes to transatlantic aspirational living, it’s now all about Japan’s ikigai, pronounced ick-ee-guy, meaning ‘a reason for being’, and the supposed source of Japanese people’s long life (83.7 years, to be precise*). So, how do you find your ikigai, your purpose for living? ‘In Japanese culture, there is an emphasis on the values of childhood,’ says Ken Mogi, author of The Little Book of Ikigai. ‘The appreciation of the values of being young has given birth to excellent anime, manga and game works. In Japan, the knack of beautiful ageing is equated with keeping your inner child alive. That is the great secret of the Japanese culture.’ Here, Ken explains the five pillars of ikigai and how you can find yours.
PILLAR 1: START SMALL
People tend to think in big terms, but everything actually starts small. You can discover your ikigai by finding little things that you like to do. Doing something, even if it’s small, activates the brain’s motor circuits, reinforcing the synaptic connections between neurons, which keeps your brain robust and young.
PILLAR 2: RELEASE YOURSELF
If you have too much stress, you can’t live a long and happy life. The majority of stress comes from the relationship with other people; if you’re concerned about yourself too much, you’ll be disappointed when other people don’t behave according to your expectations. Sometimes, things don’t turn out as you would expect. The adhesion to the ‘self’, therefore, will cause stress. Releasing yourself will dramatically reduce your stress levels, and enhance your performance, since you can get into the flow state in which you forget yourself and concentrate on what you’re doing.
PILLAR 3: HAVE SUSTAINABILITY
Happiness depends on many factors, so it’s essential to find a harmonious relationship between them. Achieving harmony makes your life sustainable. Harmony means that you’re able to rely on a spectrum of things as sources of joys. If one source fails for some reason, you can shift to another, thus making your good life sustainable.
PILLAR 4: FIND THE JOY IN LITTLE THINGS
This is a creative process, and Japan has traditionally put focus on this aspect of human cognition. Rather than deriving everything from a central goal, you should appreciate the little joys in life, without necessarily asking what the organisational relations between them are. This will make your life more free, flexible and robust.
PILLAR 5: STAY IN THE MOMENT
In the tradition of Zen Buddhism, appreciation of the here and now has been a central theme. In a contemporary context, it can be related to the concept of mindfulness, which is practised by companies as a means to promote creativity.
BEIJING’S DANCING GRANNIES
As a way to keep fit and socialise, retired women in Beijing take to the city’s parks and break into synchronised dance routines set to loud pop music. It seems to be working: the United Nations say that by 2030, there will be 360 million Chinese people over the age of 60.
THE PIOPPI DIET
Originating from a tiny fishing village in southern Italy often cited as the healthiest in the world, the 21-day Pioppi diet (consisting fish, nuts, no sugars or refined carbs, and a small glass of wine a day) was the subject of a bestselling wellness book. The Pioppi residents have a life expectancy of 87, too.
TINDER FOR OVER-FIFTIES
Google ‘Tinder for seniors’ and up comes Stitch. A ‘companionship’ app with the tagline ‘because everyone needs company’, it aims to connect over-fifties who are looking to make friends and share experiences.
HANGOVERS AND HEARING AIDS
Holland has started housing students looking for accommodation with old people in care homes. Humanitas, the nursing home in Deventer, an hour east of Amsterdam, holds wheelchair races, Snapchat tutorials and even beer pong.
IRIS APFEL: A LEGEND FOR OUR TIME