Have you discovered your ‘ikigai’? This Japanese concept, said to have orginated in Okinawa (which has the world’s largest population of centenarians), is all about finding an activity which fuels your passion, gives you energy, and provides a sense of contentment. It could be the reason why Okinawans live so long!
The word itself is made up of ‘iki’, meaning ‘life’, and ‘gai’, meaning ‘worth’. It’s something which gives you purpose, away from the daily minutiae of work, relationships, and everything else. If you’re a fellow plant geek, your ikigai could well be gardening.
How to find your ikigai
Although it’s so easy these days to get tied up in the work of work, it’s important for both mental and physical health to give time to yourself. Finding your ikigai is a step you can take towards improving your wellbeing – but how do you do this?
There are many ways to find your ikigai. You could start where it all began – your childhood. For me, a love of gardening started when I was a toddler, shadowing my grandparents as they tended to plants in their greenhouses. It then continued throughout adolescence and adulthood, and that’s one of the ways I knew it was my ikigai. However, even if you didn’t spend time around plants when you were little, there are other signs of a gardening ikigai; perhaps you liked to look after toys, animals or even other kids; maybe you liked to get your hands dirty with a good mud pie; maybe you just really loved spending time outside!
You should also look at what you’re good at. After all, although a challenge is nice, it’s an even better feeling to do what comes naturally to you. If you’re good with your hands and love to create things or help things grow and develop, then gardening could be for you.
Finally, think about the things you do even when you’re not prompted, or nobody asks you to do them. If you’re a plant geek, you’ll probably find yourself tending to your plants (or other people’s!) absentmindedly – even something as small as brushing the dust off your friend’s neglected Monstera could be a sign. If you see a particularly thirsty plant in someone’s bathroom, you might quickly give it a drink, or move it to a location where it’s better suited.
How gardening can help boost your happiness
As you may know, gardening is a great way to improve your mental health. The gentle exercise, fresh air and creativity that come with gardening are just a few ways it can make a positive impact on your life.
If you’ve discovered that gardening is your ikigai, make sure you utilise it. But not just when you’re feeling down! A little bit of your ikigai a day can help improve your wellbeing in the long term.
How about setting aside time to enjoy your gardening ikigai each day? Whether that’s a half hour watering your plants after getting home from work, walking around a garden centre and browsing exciting new plants at the weekend, or even just sitting outside enjoying your garden for a few minutes in the morning.
Do you think gardening is your ikigai? Have you found that it has improved your mental health and wellbeing?