Given a choice, we would all like to live a long and happy life, but sometimes it doesn’t feel as though it’s particularly easy. The Japanese life expectancy is fantastic, and it isn’t unusual to live past 100. In fact, many of the world’s oldest people live in Japan! Here are some of the tips that help the Japanese live to such ripe old ages.
A well-known philosophy in Japanese culture is ‘ikagai’, which is essentially ‘the reason you get up in the morning’. It’s the theory that by finding a passion or purpose in life and focusing on this, you can get better quality sleep, a lower chance of chronic illness, and even add up to seven years on to your life. This ikigai can be anything from family and relationships, to work or friendship.
An onsen is a natural spring where the temperature ranges between 25°C and 42°C. Japanese residents will regularly bathe in these waters and soak up the minerals that are in there, each with different health benefits. Not only that, but hot baths have been shown to be beneficial to your heart and circulatory health, and those who take at least five hot baths in a week really see the difference.
Community is a big focus for the Japanese, and it seems that this can help prolong your life. On the island of Okinawa (which is known as the “land of the immortals”), there are over 1,000 people aged 100 and above, and they form tight-knit friendship groups known as moai – a word which means ‘meeting for a common purpose’. It seems that these groups are beneficial to the centenarians, as social isolation can cause high cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as increase the chance of developing depression and Alzheimers.
Hara, Hachi, bu
In Japan, food is an integral part of the culture, but instead of eating passively while concentrating on other things such as what’s on TV, the Japanese really focus on their food and therefore tend not to overeat. ‘Hara, Hachi, bu’ translates to ‘eat until you are eight parts full’, and aims to remind people to be aware of their fullness levels. It takes around half an hour to realize you are full after a meal, so slow eating is the key to these. The use of chopsticks helps to slow the process down (even for those who are chopstick experts!), and most of the time food is served in a similar way to tapas, on smaller plates to share, which slows eating down and also helps avoid piling your plate full and overindulging. Inflammatory stress on the digestive system can really age your body internally, so eating slowly and mindfully can really help with this.
The Japanese shun chairs, and instead of the sedentary lifestyle that we tend to lead in the west, they will sit in a position called ‘seiza’, which is an active kneeling pose where the weight is spread out equally across your shins and the tops of your feet. This position can increase your strength and maintain flexibility in your legs, hips, and back and keep you fitter for longer.
So, why not take a leaf out of the Japanese book of health and philosophy and see if you can enrich your life – and maybe even make it longer, too!