How One Book Changed My Whole Outlook On Life
"The secret to a long life is not to worry. And to keep your heart young - don't let it grow old. Open your heart to people with a nice smile on your face."
'Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life' written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles is the book that changed how I look at life, and existence itself. The term 'Ikigai' is a Japanese term, loosely translating to your 'reason for being' or 'reason for getting out of bed each morning', and prior to reading this book, I had never heard of this concept but something about the title drew me towards it. Those of you who follow me on my Instagram will know that this is not the first time I'm fan-girling over this book, and probably won't be the last, but a blog post about this was a must!
I'm at a point in my life where I often feel confused, both in my personal and professional life. In my early twenties, I have a lot of thoughts running through my mind. Am I doing the right thing? Should I do this instead of that? Am I in the right job? Will I ever use my two university degrees in anything? Do I have enough friends? Are my friends doing better than me? Do people like me? I mean...you get the gist. This book gave me comfort, knowledge, inspiration, and some kind of purpose all in one. Before I delve into it more, let me explain what Ikigai entails. Your Ikigai should be made up of four different elements, these being, what you love, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you are good at. So, after reading it, I instantly asked myself whether what I was doing in my daily life was truly my ikigai, or whether I was just doing it for the sake of doing something.
Those who know me, know that I am such a big stress-pot, like massive. I tend to stress over the smaller details of life rather than the bigger things that others may stress about, and this book speaks widely on the issue of stress, and how it can actually affect how long we live. "Our neurons start to age while we are still in our twenties. This process is slowed, however, by intellectual activity, curiosity, and a desire to learn. A more positive outlook in this regard will yield greater mental benefits." (22) Shocking right? Who knew that our neurons starts ageing in our twenties? We seem to go about life in a negative way, spurting out comments such as, 'I don't have enough time', 'I'm getting too fat', 'I'm too old to change my career plans', 'life isn't fun', 'I hate this world', 'I hate people', etc. What if, for once, we said something positive? Instead of scrutinizing ourselves and everything around us, we should instead make an effort to appreciate the beauty that we are existing with. Page 23 talks about how the more we stress, the more negative effect it has on our cells. So, maybe we're stressing about the wrong things, or maybe we are stressing when we shouldn't be doing so at all.
"These days, people live at a frantic pace and in a nearly constant state of competition. [...] Its secondary effects include irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and high blood pressure." (23-25) THIS. This is what I'm here to talk about. I knew that stressing over things I have no control over was having a negative effect on me, but I had no idea just how bad it could get. Irritability, insomnia, and anxiety are all things which I've experienced due to stress and it was about time I stopped. I'm not bragging or saying that I'm now this completely stress-free person who sees life through rose-tinted glasses everyday, but what I am saying is that this book has allowed me to implement a lot more positivity into my life than I ever did before, and see beauty in the things I once used to ignore. Right now as I'm writing this, Kasey Musgraves 'Rainbow' is playing, teaching me once again to not stress, and to see the light, the light that is always around me.
For the past few years, I've researched the country of Japan a lot, through books, online resources, music, the news, and various television shows, and some may find it borderline weird, but I am in awe of the country. The Japanese culture, food, way of talking, level of respect, philosophy, the fact that they are literally known to be a country with the kindest people compared to elsewhere, along with so much more. Discovering this book, and simultaneously beginning to discover my own Ikigai, were the cherry on top. Ever since reading this book, I have aimed to implement some changes in my daily life:
- Find happiness in the simple things (e.g. making breakfast, stretching, staring at the sky)
- Questioning whether what I am doing is for me or for somebody else
- Writing down my emotions, fears, feelings, and goals down on paper
- Learning about new cultures through documentaries
- Listening to my mind and body when it is tired
- Looking in the mirror and saying different daily affirmations
- Telling myself not to stress about the future, because tomorrow is not guaranteed
I leave you with this quote from the book.
"The secret to a long life is going to bed early, waking up early, and going for a walk. Living peacefully and enjoying the little things. Getting along with your friends. Spring, summer, fall, winter...enjoying each season, happily." (116)
I hope you find your Ikigai. Stay safe and take care.