IKIGAI: The art of staying young while growing old

They enjoy their work and get pleasure out of it
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KIGAI is the international best seller book by Hector Gargia and Frances Miralles. This book is basically an attempt to explore the secret behind Japan being the country with highest number of happy and healthy centenarians.

The authors extensively studied the lifestyle of people of Okinawa, a place in Japan, entitled as “ the village of longevity”. As they entered the village they felt the deep friendliness of its residents; who laugh and joke incessantly.

As they started conducting their interviews they realise that these people have a strong sense of coherence and community; they live by the principle of “Yuimaaru”( team work, helping one another).

They have realised the IKIGAI of their life. IKIGAI is a Japanese word which in English means “reason to live for,  a mission and passion, a reason to jump out of bed every morning”. They found a common pattern among these healthy and happy people that they always keep themselves busy but without any worry or hurry.

They live by the philosophy of unhurried life ;one time one work. People older than 90 years were seen waking up at 5.30am in morning to work in their fields. Every centenarian was found to have a kitchen garden which they look after themselves.

According to one of a centenarian “ As long as our fingers remain busy in doing work ,our mind will stay active and our body youthful and this is key to my long healthy and happy life”. They have the habit of working passionately and perseveringly.

They enjoy their work and get pleasure out of it as they do the work they love and know what they are best at. They were found to be dynamic , versatile and creative.

They always keep learning and upgrading their skills. According to the scientists; Collins Hemingway and Shlomo Breznitz; our neurons start aging after thirty but intellectual activity, mental training, desire to learn and curiosity slows down this process.

One of the Japense Baker learned the new way of making sushi in late 70s. Another artisan tried making 150 cups just to choose the best 15 cups to gift Steve Jobs. They meditate and have high self awareness.

They are the initiators of change and seek personal growth. They passionately persevere to give up bad habits and inculcate good ones. Islam also emphasises on initiating change.

They were found to work passionately, visit their neighbours and relatives, go for walk, even in buses they keep knitting or reading or praying or interacting or playing games.

This habit of being busy reflects in the character of our beloved prophet Muhammad (May Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him) also. He used to keep himself busy in praying, preaching, playing with his grandchildren and helping his wives in doing household work.

In Japan there is no concept of retirement, people work till their health allows them, irrespective of whether they have any financial need or not. They manage household responsibilities, take on grand -parenting roles and have literary and adventurous nature till death.

In contrast we in Kashmir usually  give old people  a  sick role , and their only job is to pray for others. If any old person shows youthful and lively nature he is mocked at.

Healthy and happy people live by the 80% principle that is they stop eating before they feel full. They keep 20% of their stomachs empty so that digestion can take place easily and they don’t accumulate fat. This has been taught by Prophet Muhammad( PBUH) also that fill only one-third of your stomach and eat only when you feel hungry.

Every morning they visit  markets to smile, greet and bless people. This too was a habit of our beloved prophet Muhammad(PBUH) as narrated by companion Abdullah ibn-umar that prophet would visit markets to greet people and to receive blessings in return.

Two  Anti aging attitudes were found among  the happy and healthy centenarians ; these include : A positive attitude and a stoic attitude.  Positive attitude means being hopeful and having a firm belief that problems will be solved and managed.

Our Almighty Allah also emphasised on having positive attitude ; like in Holy Quran ; verse no. 139 of Surah Aal-e-Imran, Allah said , “ Do not lose hope nor be sad”…Stoic attitude means being resilient enough in face of adversities and this can be equated with Sabr and Almighty Allah also underscored the rewards of Sabr in numerous verses in quran.  

In  verse no. 93 of Surah Ad Duha , Allah Said, “ Indeed what is to come will be better for you than what has gone by….Likewise in verse no. 10 of Surah Az Zumar  Allah said, indeed those who patiently persevere they will receive a reward without measure.

Regarding diet; they were found to eat more vegetables, fruits and less meat. They were found to make minimal use of sugar, processed baked goods and diary products. Our prophet also used to eat vegetables and fruit. He would take less calories so as to stay fit.

In Japanese culture, there is a system of moii (forming small knit circles who help each other financially and emotionally); happy people were found to be part of Moii; in Islamic system we also have a beautiful concept of Bait ul Maal ; a system for distribution of zakat and charity among needy; being part of this adds to the happiness.

Takeaway : After reading many self help books be that “How to stop worrying and start living, Life’s Amazing Secrets, Power of Positive thinking or IKIGAI”; my faith strengthened and I realised how lucky we as Muslims are. Every tip scientifically proven by recent mental health literature is already prescribed in holy Quran and prophetic teachings and if we act on them for sure our lives will shine with happiness, tranquillity and good health. We need to inculcate a habit of trying to know and understand our religion in real essence  and apply it in our own life.

Author is a doctoral fellow in the  Dept. of Psychology, University of Kashmir

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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