The reason for being, the Why, who we are in relation to what we contribute, how we derive our sense of meaning from life, essentially, what will get us out of bed every day until we exceed the age of 100 and also, how to get there in the first place (according to Dan Buettler).
This month’s issue had us searching a lot more than just Google.
What we are, who we are and also conversely what and who we are not, are difficult things to tackle. They tend to be ever-changing. I am of the belief that we exist in a kind of transition state which can prove quite dangerous (but also adventurous). We hear so much banter about being present, present in the moment, present with your partner, present in order to appreciate. Yet our wiring, it seems, (based on the previous article’s Limbic System breakdown), is doing everything to derail us from achieving that goal. How is it, at least at first glance, that to be happy with who we are requires us to be in a constant war with what we are. That in order to find peace, we need to challenge the very components which makes us human, erratic, often it seems, barbaric.
In order to answer the question “who am I”, we started looking at answering some other philosophical questions, “who am I when I am at my best”, “who am I striving to be”, “who am I when I am alone versus when I am with others” (Disclaimer: this led us down a very intense and mountainous road which involved unpacking Karl Jung’s Shadow versus the Persona, highly recommended but proceed with caution). After much to and fro, we arrived at an answer, with no indication of it being The Answer but rather of it being an answer which, if applied correctly, could give us more than just present tense to reflect on but perhaps even a future-us to work towards.
Ikigai, a reason to be alive.
The Japanese have gifted the world many things, sushi (some may disagree), cherry blossoms, fascinating stories about the Yakuza and their distinct tattoo style and Ikigai, the last being our favourite. Dan Buettler, a National Geographic Scientist found that people lived longer in certain areas of the world. Resultantly, Buettler and his team of Doctors, Epidemiologists, Nutritionists, Anthropologists and Demographers “set in motion an exhaustive search in order to find out why. As the saying goes ‘look and you will find it’, and the team found four other regions that presented the same levels of longevity. So, what does Barbaglia have in common with Nicoya (Costa Rica), Okinawa (Japan), Ikaria (Greece) and Loma Linda (USA)? Their way of looking at life.” (1)
Not particularly far off the ideas expressed in our previous writings on wellness and a salutogenic approach to it, Ikigai further bolsters notions of perception and follow through, equating to fulfilment and longevity.
As we started to uncover more ideas and a few more medical articles, one specifically relating the idea of Ikigai as a solution to anxiety and stuttering came up. With it, the link between the two main questions of this publication, that being how what we are can be read in light of who we are, began to reveal itself.
Psychologically, Ikigai and physiologically, the prefrontal lobe, have common functions such as “ambition, regulating emotion, and integrating psychological events”. Ikigai contributes to a “decrease in anxiety influenced by a need for approval from others and stimulates pleasure and comfort, which may be related to the well-balanced secretion of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Thus, a stutterer feels stress, i.e., anxiety, caused by perceived failure when engaging in conversations with others, which may be related to an imbalanced secretion of serotonin and dopamine. Therefore, previous work has suggested that Ikigai may decrease anxiety in stutterers by decreasing the symptoms associated with stuttering.” (2)
With some relief and a lot more interest, we began to tie up loose ends.
If what we are can be explained physiologically, and who we are, can be assimilated from the perspective of what our individual purposes are, then does that mean that we are not in a constant war with what we are made up of (stars) but rather that the journey of Ikigai take us through meadows, mountains and across oceans? And that these meadows, mountains and oceans are created by our physiology and conquered or navigated through by our psychology?
As we continue to try untangle the colourful ball of ribbons we find ourselves in, psychologically, only to further untangle the intricate ball of neutrons we find ourselves to be physiologically, we hope to remind ourselves that this entanglement is in fact what and who we are.
- (1) 5 Blue Zones that Contain the Keys to Happiness and Longevity, UM Beach House, February 2019
- (2) Decreasing Anxiety in Stutterers through the Association between “Purpose in Life/Ikigai” and Emotions, Riichiro Ishida
- Dan Buettler: Longevity Expert
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