Ikigai co-author Francesc Miralles explains how and why you need to find your raison d'être

07:15 AM Feb 09, 2020 |

The National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-2016, found that around 150 million people were in need of mental health care (both in the short and long term), from kids to older people, both men and women, across ages.

The chapter on ‘Suicides in India’ on the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) website states that in India, every year, more than 1,00,000 people take the extreme step. “There are various causes of suicides like professional/ career problems, sense of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, mental disorders, addiction to alcohol, financial loss, chronic pain etc.,” states the chapter. “A total of 1,34,516 suicides were reported in the country during 2018 showing an increase of 3.6% in comparison to 2017 and the rate of suicides has increased by 0.3 during 2018 over 2017,” further details the chapter.


Actresses like Deepika Padukone have spoken openly about having suffered from depression. Depression is what you feel when getting out of bed has become increasingly difficult, finding purpose is hard, and engaging in ordinary activities a task. A book called Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life, on stands now, at various bookstores in the city, might be one way people battling depression can deal with it. It aims to help you find your reason for being. It attempts to help you solve any existential crises you might be battling with, if any. What do you love doing? What does the world require? What can generate money for you? And what are you good at? The book asks. Miralles and Garcia say in the book that to find one’s Ikigai, one might want to gravitate towards activities that one enjoys and avoid those that one doesn’t quite like doing. Examples of sushi makers in Japan who do the same thing for years, and women who spend their lives choosing bristles for make-up brushes, in the country, are given. They are never bored, because doing exactly that every day is their ikigai, they have found. That’s what they ‘dig’.


“It is not very fruitful to look at things in a negative way all the time. For example, by saying things to yourself like ‘People did this to me, the world is crap’. One must find something of value to do. Move towards doing projects one cherishes. A sense of positivity will change the chemicals in your system. One must learn to alter one’s life-hampering habits, step by step, and the more you do that, newer and better habits will deepen,” Francesc Miralles tells us.

The book also advises that it is not sensible to control one’s mind and emotions but to let them flow very naturally (the Shoma Morita method). It offers exercises and teaches readers how to do them, for example sun salutations and Tai Chi (the book gives us the steps of Tai Chi’s Wave Hands Like Clouds movement). Ikigai is hence full of little tips and guidelines that one can incorporate in one’s lifestyle to live a healthy, long and meaningful life like the Japanese, especially the Okinawans do. The Okinawans are some of the longest livers and they have certain secrets to why they go on and on. And happily so. One of their secrets is resilience. Says Miralles, “Resilient people keep moving forward even if they suffer a big trauma in life.” The book also examines a notion called Antifragility. Antifragility is a concept where even though people have suffered misfortune, they get better after it. The misfortunes have made them better.

Fragility in contrast is when “people, things, and organisations are weakened when harmed.” So what would we like to be? There are certain people and mindless habits that might be affecting us negatively. By getting rid of them, we are making ourselves more and more anti-fragile say the authors. Making ourselves such involves setting goals called “good riddance goals”. The book lists a few goals of these...

1) Stop snacking between meals

2) Eat sweets only once a week

3) Gradually pay off all debt

4) Avoid spending time with toxic people

5) Avoid spending time doing things we don’t enjoy, simply because we feel obligated to do them

6) Spend no more than 20 minutes on Facebook per day

The book gives advice for durability and endurance, right from the Japanese way of socialising, the Japanese way of eating (i.e. the ikigai diet), all based on interviews with some of the oldest residents of Okinawa. “Methods like the Shoma Morita method, the theory of finding flow while you pursue your passions are there in the book to help you. Today people have a lot of superficial relationships, but can you spend two hours in a café with your friend not looking at your phone? And if you want to get over heartbreak and thereafter develop successful relationships in the future, focus on doing that which will bring value to you, that which will add to your self-esteem. Focus on work assignments that you are passionate about,” shares Miralles.

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