Longevity secrets?

What do you do in your life that gives you joy and meaning, and ultimately contributes to your longevity?

by Helena Dolny

My lovely daughter, art therapist and coach, asked that I buy her a book when I travelled recently. The title? Ikigai. She has green fingers so I thought it might be about flower arranging – but no – that is Ikebana. The title of Ikigai Chapter One is, ”The art of staying young while growing old”. The book, as a whole, reports back on international studies of where in the world people live significantly longer lives and what are the identifiable differentiators as to why.

As a younger woman, I attended one of Deepak Chopra’s seminars on well-being. As an older woman, I gained my accreditation as a Resilience coach. My bread and butter coaching conversations often touch on “salutogenesis” – what we can do pro-actively to support our well-being: mindfully eating, sleeping, exercising, breath work, taking care of our relationships and having clarity about our purpose in the world as to how we choose to live and work. These six basics of well-being, not rocket science, are acknowledged the world over.

The Japanese word Ikigai refers to purpose and the approximate translation into English is “the happiness of always being busy”. The Ikigai timeline? It is a continued happy busyness into your elderliness for as long as your health permits you to do what gives you joy, with focus and purpose. Such continuity of purpose, being active into advanced elderliness is regarded as essential to aging well. I was surprised to read that the English word “retirement” as “in the sense of ‘leaving the workforce for good’ has no translation into Japanese.

In Ikigai, the authors Garcia & Miralles, beautifully describe a very old woman whose work is to select and insert, one by one, the hairs used to make a superior brand of paintbrush. She is so focused, so immersed in her activity, that she is oblivious to visitors. She’s in that state of focus that Csikszentmihalyi describes in, ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.’

What do you do in your life that gives you joy and meaning, and ultimately contributes to your longevity?