Updated: Sep 4
The Japanese have a word for a sense of purpose "ikigai." (pronounced ick-ee-guy). The meaning is 'that which gives your life purpose.' Okinowa is one of the regions in the world known as the Blue Zones. (The name came about when researchers starting putting blue dots on the map where people were living to be over 100). One of the factors that contributes to longevity of life for the Japanese is ikigai. One must know that he is contributing to the world around him, that he is needed. This drives the inhabitants of Okinowa to work and be useful right up to the time they are in their hundreds. In fact, they have no word comparable to retirement. Ikigai is so important to them that they believe without it they would die.
In the blue zones, the elderly are valued citizens. They continue to pass down their values to next generations. They claim that by having a purpose that drives what they do during the day is a key component to leading a fuitful life.
In these regions, some of them desolate, cut off from the rest of the world, the living conditions are harsh, with no modern conveniences. Women in their hundreds can be seen chopping wood.
It is said that in our country we are suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, which, by the way, reduces our life expectancy. Because we are a culture based on the value of individuality, we seek personal goals and ways to make our lives easier. We rely on machines to do our work, the internet to give us answers, so where can we contribute to the betterment of our society?
Some of the ways we can solve the problem of loneliness and at the same time give us a sense of purpose. Volunteeering is a great way of doing both! And did you know, it also adds years to your life? What a great way of giving to those around you! Also reaching out to others in need. The people in Okanowa create moais - create social networks, friends who help their neighbors in need, meet regular to dance, to sing, to spread joy among themselves .They share every aspect of their lives together.
By learning more about the Blue Zones, I am galvanized to do my part in helping those around me. After all, I have nothing but time on my hands, right? I do believe that we all need to know that we belong, that we make a difference to others.
Please take the time out of your schedule and watch "Live to be 100 - Secrets of the Blue Zones" on Netflix. You will not be disappointed!