This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
We are delighted to publish another article by Lesley Ann Greenwood, a guest contributor who understands and celebrates the nuances of women over 50.
The Japanese always seem to me too know a thing or two about life, and have a word for every part of it. I first came a cross the term IKIGAI about 10 years ago when studying Health Psychology. It was a term used in one of my favourite books called The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. It’s a book some of my regular readers will be familiar with. It is about longevity and healthy living in specific zones around the world.
Anyway I suppose you’re wondering what IKIGAI is?
Pronounced (ee-key-guy) it’s a Japanese concept that combines the terms iki, meaning “alive” or “life,” and gai, meaning “benefit” or “worth.”
When combined, these terms mean that which gives your life worth, meaning, or purpose.
Ikigai is similar to the French term “raison d’etre” or “reason for being.”
The concept of ikigai is said to have evolved from the basic health and wellness principles of traditional Japanese medicine. This medical tradition holds that physical wellbeing is affected by one’s mental–emotional health and sense of purpose in life.
Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano has said that ikigai is a state of wellbeing that arises from devotion to activities one enjoys, which also brings a sense of fulfillment.
Ikigai also resonates with Cognitive–Behavioural Therapy (CBT – a psychological therapy I’m sure many of you will of heard of.) It’s an emphasis on pursuing activities, hobbies or connections that produce enjoyment and a sense of mastery, specifically as a way to alleviate depressive disorder.
The Japanese believe that everyone has an ikigai – his or her particular mixture of passion, talent, and potential, which can benefit the individual and others. It is only a matter of finding it! (If you need help with that let me know!)
The journey to ikigai might require time, deep self-reflection and effort, but it is one we can all make.
It’s a combination of these four pillars:
- What you love
- What you are good at
- What the world needs
- What you can get paid for
Examples of Ikigai, could be:
Helping out at your local charity shop
Spending time with family and helping with childcare
Running a business from home that you are passionate about
Working on a physical challenge to improve your health
Working on an art or craft project ie being creative
Keeping connected with others
(Currently Covid 19 rules apply! However as with everything this will eventually pass).
Everybody’s IKIGAI will be as individual as they are.
However, working on and educating oneself on what makes you truly happy can lead to a sense of deep fulfilment. Very often in life it’s not the big things that bring us true happiness but the small collection of habits and activities that we pursue on a daily basis. Collections of habits that also help build resilience and strength into our mental wellbeing.
Self-reflection and pondering on one’s sense of being can be part of this process. So maybe stop and think about what truly makes you happy. I believe most definitely the way forward in the future with health will be an integrated process, with special emphasis on inner strengths and mental health.
Psychology has been my passion for many years and I often reflect on how much people will spend on their physical appearance, and neglect to spend time & money on their mental health. As with physical health it’s something that needs constant maintenance and upkeep. What you can’t see really is the important bit! However I think that’s really changing now.
Ikigai can be part of that process. I think it’s a concept you will hear a lot about in the future,
Remember , you heard it here first @Annabel&Grace!
Have a wonderful week you wonderful women over 50 … the sun is out, the sky is blue, Spring is on it’s way! Best wishes, Lesley
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