The Reason for Which You Wake up in the Morning

Ikigai essentially means the reason for which you wake up in the morning

In an earlier article, I detailed ways to live healthier and extend both the quantity and quality of your life. There is evidence to support the positive impact of adopting a healthy lifestyle and following certain definitive, scientific, time-tested methods.

Hiking Silly Mountain Park near Apache Junction in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Japan, the secret to living a longer, happier, and more fulfilled life can be summed up in one word: Ikigai. In Japanese, iki means “to live” and gai means “reason”—in other words, your reason to live. This ideology dates to the Heian period (A.D. 794 to 1185), but only in the past decade has it gained attention from millions around the world.

Woven together, these simple life values give clues as to what constitutes the very essence of ikigai: A sense of purpose, meaning, and motivation in life.

On a scenic drive near Hemet in California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For years, researchers have tried to find the reasons behind a long and healthy life. While the answer is likely a mix of good genes, diet, and exercise, studies have suggested that finding meaning in life is also a key component.

There’s no single way to find your ikigai but you can start by asking a few simple questions: What makes you happy? What are you good at? What (and who) do you value? What motivates you to get up in the morning?

Related: Getting Back to Nature: How Forest Bathing Can Make Us Feel Better

Hiking near Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Finding joy in the small things—the morning air, a cup of coffee, or the ray of sunshine—should be part of what motivates you to get up each morning.

Recent data reveals that people in the U.S. can expect to live an average of 78.7 years.

Bird watching at Crystal River in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These days, screen-addicted Americans are more stressed out and distracted than ever. And there’s no app for that. But there is a radically simple remedy: get outside.

Nature can lower your blood pressure, fight off depression—and even prevent cancer.

Hiking Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Japan’s scientists are in the vanguard of knowing how green spaces soothe the body and brain. While a small but impressive shelf of psychological research in recent decades suggests that spending time in nature improves cognition, relieves anxiety, and depression, and even boosts empathy, scientists in Japan are measuring what’s actually happening to our cells and neurons.

According to Nicholas Carr’s 2010 book The Shallows, the average American spends at least eight hours a day looking at some sort of electronic screen. Then we try to relax by watching TV. Bad idea.

How to have a healthier, happier old age and how to apply it to their own lives

Enjoying nature at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exercise in green space

Trees produce phytoncides which help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and boost immunity. The microbes in forest soil have been found to reduce depression and may contribute to the health of our microbiome. A 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the benefits, but researchers have found that a weekend in the woods improves immunity for up to a month while a short afternoon run or walk somewhere green means better sleep at night.

Related: Best Parks and Gardens to Connect with Nature

Wawasee Lake near Syracuse in Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Read books

Although reading is sedentary and solitary, frequent reading has been linked to a longer, healthier life. A Yale study of 3,600 over-50s found that reading increased longevity by almost two years; readers of books outlived readers of newspapers and magazines. While those who read for more than 3.5 hours a week lived longest, the researchers said: “30 minutes a day was still beneficial”. Meanwhile, every expert seems to recommend reading as a means of getting to sleep.

Hiking lava fields in Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep learning

Old brains are just as equipped to build new neurons and synapses as young ones. But this process works best when we repeatedly force ourselves to learn new things. The brain loves novelty: crafts, games, even cooking from a new recipe trigger the creation of neurons but the more complex and more difficult the new activity the greater the rewards. Choose something that also involves social interaction and a bit of movement.

The beauty of the Cherohala Skyway in North Caro;ina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cultivate optimism

Studies have found that older people with a negative attitude to aging have worse functional health, slower walking speeds, and lower cognitive abilities than those with a more positive attitude. Negativity, unsurprisingly, puts stress on the body elevating cortisol levels which in the long term can impact heart health, sleep quality, weight, and cognition. You really are as old as you feel, it seems.

Worth Pondering…

Never forget your dreams.

—Corczak