Have you heard of the Japanese concept Ikigai?



Written By Valerie Clark

Have you heard of the Japanese concept Ikigai?

We go to the GP with our ailments but never go to the GP about our mind, so start looking after your mindful wellbeing. You may even love it….

What is Ikigai?

It is a combination of the Japanese words “iki” (生き), which translates to “life,” and “gai” (甲斐), which is used to describe value or worth, ikigai is all about finding joy in life through purpose.

In other words, your ikigai (purpose) is what gets you up every morning and keeps you going.

Famous Japanese proverb

七転び八起き (nana korobi ya oki) – English Translation: “Fall seven times, get up eight.”

English version: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.”

It’s another phrase that means “don’t give up!”

How can Ikigai benefit us?

Its benefits are becoming increasingly evident when combined with positive psychology (see resource on positive psychology).

There is a lot of research on Ikigai, and it is found to be a useful measure of both physical and psychological wellbeing.

Indeed, the positive effects of ikigai are observed in many aspects of life, including (Fido et al., 2019):

  • Physical health in the elderly
  • Psychological wellbeing of carers
  • Reduced incidence of strokes and cardiovascular disease
  • Mental health

Finding your Ikigai

Ikigai (a reason for being) is a Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living and there are 10 rules/habits that you can use to improve your health and well-being.

1. Stay active, don’t retire early unless you need to
2. Take it slow and ease the stress from your life
3. Don’t fill your stomach (80% rule), this we know!
4. Be sociable and surround yourself with good friends, get rid of the toxic ones
5. Set a goal to get in shape for your next birthday
6. Smile both inside and out
7. Get outdoors and reconnect with nature, take a brisk walk
8. Show gratitude (see resource on gratitude),
9. Live in the moment, stop living in the past (see resource on wellbeing)
10. Follow your Ikigai, trust your gut instinct and be your true self

Ideas for finding your Ikigai

  • Do what you love
  • What did you enjoy doing as a child or in your early adult years?
  • What do you do now in your spare time that makes you happy?
  • Do what you are good at
  • Do you know your strengths and skills?
  • What are they?
  • What do people ask you to help them with?
  • Do something the world needs
  • What and who inspires you?
  • What makes you annoyed or frustrated?
  • Do something you can be paid for – what service or product could you sell (what would people pay you for)?
  • What job could you do instead?

Finding your purpose in life

We spend so much of our day running around and on autopilot, we often don’t stop to think about the present moment, listen to the trees rustling, birds chirping, we just put our heads down and get with our day, only stopping to crash in front of the TV or get into bed at the end of the day.

Start looking after your mind and body, practicing Ikigai is a good way to start.

If you would like my FREE therapy worksheet to help you start practicing Ikigai, click here