Is This Japanese Philosophy the Secret to Staying Happy?

When it comes to the key to being and staying happy, there a million different theories floating around out there, from lifestyle changes, to dietary restrictions, to altering your way of thinking. Who knows if one single “secret to happiness” actually exists, but the newest theory might be a step in the right direction.

According to the Japanese, the actual secret to happiness is, believe it or not, staying busy (and here you thought all those things you were juggling were stressing you out).

In Japan, the concept of “ikigai” means finding your purpose, or your reason to get up in the morning. It comes from the word ‘iki,’ meaning life, and ‘kai,’ meaning the realization of hopes and expectations. The philosophy basically links happiness to staying busy, but not just by filling your day up with random activities (okay, so your to-do list probably is stressing you out); instead, you need to dedicate your day to things that fit into you greater purpose.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. “Oh, so all you have to do is find your purpose in life? Sounds super easy and not deep or complicated at all.” Well, there’s more to it than that. The idea behind ikigai isn’t just about finding your “purpose,” it’s about figuring out what you’re passionate about, and staying busy by dedicating your time to those things.

The big thing here, again, is that ikigai draws a line between being busy and being stressed. Overloading yourself with too many responsibilities, especially if you aren’t passionate or even interested in the work you’re taking on, will leave you feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and definitely not happier. Ikigai tells us to avoid stress by making sure all our time is spent doing things we enjoy. That way, a full day will leave you feeling fulfilled, instead of overwhelmed.

It may sound like a pretty general concept, but there’s actually science behind ikigai, too, in case you still need some convincing. A study surveyed over 43,000 adults over a period of seven years and found that people who claimed to have their Ikigai were more likely to live longer, despite other factors, like exercise, disease and smoking. (We’ll take it.)

When it comes to finding your ikigai, a good place to start is by looking at your work, hobbies, or relationships. If you’re lacking inspiration in any or all of those areas, here are some questions to ask yourself that might be helpful: What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What does the world need from you?

It may require a little soul searching when all is said and done, but the main thing to take away from our Japanese friends is to fill your schedule with thing you enjoy doing, so buy yourself a brand new planner, and start living your life the ikigai way.



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