026 – The Psychology of Ikigai with Dr. Katharina Stenger

How do you cope during challenging times?

Challenging situations can significantly affect our well-being. In such times, it is advisable to seek guidance from professionals who can support and guide you in overcoming these difficulties on your journey.

In this episode of the ikigai podcast, Nick discusses with Dr. Katharina Stenger the connection of Ikigai to mental health, and how she uses Ikigai as part of her mental health counselling.

Take the time to evaluate your life

"Try to be mindful and actively reflect on your life; take the time and think it through because we are not used to having long thoughts because our life is so fast and high-paced." - Katharina Stenger

Podcast highlights:

Dr. Katharina Stenger

Dr. Katharina Stenger

Dr. Katharina Stenger is a psychologist, author, stylist and professional photo model. In spring 2019, she started her own online practice where she supports clients from all over the world. She also has a strong connection to Japan that led her to discovering ikigai.

Her mission is to include the art of living ikigai into her work as a mental health counsellor. She’s also ambitious to research more about ikigai and teach others about it in her home country of Germany.

Dr. Katharina Stenger Instagram

Dr. Katharina Stenger Website

Ikigai Mindest Coaching

Rina Bambina Instagram

Dr. Katharina Stenger, is a psychologist, author, stylist, and professional model based in Germany. She received her doctorate in Psychology from Saarland University. She offers online counseling and has her own Ikigai coaching program called Ikigai Mindset Coaching. She’s also known as “Rina Bambina” on social media and has a huge number of followers.

As Rina Bambina

In 2011, Rina started working as a professional model in the vintage scene. She loves modelling the fashion of the 1920s up to the 1970s. She has worked with amazing artists and had the chance to travel to different countries doing various photoshoots which lead to her having a great number of followers on social media.

On becoming a doctor of psychology

A conversation with her mom about a young psychologist who aspired to help people and make the world a better place sparked Rina's interest in the field of psychology.

Growing up, she was a shy girl, but she held a deep fascination with observing people and learning from them. She was genuinely intrigued by their lives and the workings of their minds. She perceived the human mind as intricate and enigmatic, which led her to choose the path of studying psychology.

Rina’s online counseling

When Rina started her career as a psychologist back in 2019, she had the idea to offer online counseling services, which fit her lifestyle back then. It allowed her to work flexible hours from any part of the world.

Her online counseling focuses on supporting people dealing with existential crises. She helps people to find the beauty in life, to focus on the brighter side, rather than being consumed with negativity. For Rina, it is all about the mindset. She believes that if you make a conscious shift away from negativity, not only will you find more joy in your life, but you can also strengthen your mental health and resilience.

Having a positive outlook in life is not that easy, people tend to focus on negative things. Therefore, for Rina, it is her job to support her clients in overcoming apathy and finding the motivation and courage to take their first steps towards a happier life.

Life as a digital nomad

Before the pandemic, Rina was a digital nomad and traveled often doing conferences, workshops, events, and photoshoots.

She was able to incorporate her psychological work with her passion for photography. She coached other women from different countries like Japan and the US on how to feel confident about their bodies, how to find their unique style, how to dress in things that make them feel empowered, and how to create wonderful photographs. She was able to use her area of expertise with the things she’s passionate about.

But because of the restrictions caused by the pandemic, having this international digital nomad lifestyle became impossible for. But she’s definitely going to travel again once it’s safe. And, one of the places she would love to visit again is Japan.

Fascination with Japan

Rina’s love and fascination for Japan started when she got herself into the world of manga and anime during her teenage years. She even dreamt of becoming a mangaka, an illustrator for manga. Anime and manga became a place of retreat for her during the struggling times of her teenage years.


In 2017, Rina had a chance to work at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing. She worked there for three months and before heading back to Germany, she was given one week of vacation. That’s when she decided to visit Japan.

She went to Tokyo, which she considered a great milestone for her because it was her first solo trip. Being alone in a foreign country was kind of frightening but also exciting for her; she managed to get along very well on her own. Over the past years, she’s returned to Japan over and over again. She was able to make new friends and immersed herself even more into the Japanese culture.

Rina’s discovery of ikigai

Rina read about ikigai in a random magazine about personal development, that’s where her curiosity with the concept started. She wanted to know more about ikigai and started to research about it.

The first thing she encountered on the internet was this Venn Diagram based on the work of Andres Zuzunaga. Then she also started asking her Japanese friends about ikigai, but their definition was quite different from that of the Venn Diagram.

It seems to Rina that ikigai is something that is common to Japanese people. It amazed her that when she asked her Japanese friends, it wasn’t hard for them to talk about their ikigai. That’s when the thought came to her that there’s more to it than just this diagram.

Eager to learn more about ikigai, she decided to do more research, and that’s when she stumbled upon Nick’s podcast, and his website ikigaitribe.com, which helped her broaden her knowledge about ikigai. It gave her clarity on what ikigai really is, that it is a whole philosophy from Japan and not a diagram.

Similarities of logotherapy and Gestalt therapy to Ikigai

Both logotherapy and Gestalt therapy are part of the humanistic psychology school. The person is the center of the therapy, not the mental disorder like it is in clinical psychology.

Rina states that in Gestalt therapy, the human being is always seen in connection with its surroundings. It postulates that you are the creator, “the gestalter” in German, of your own life. You have control of your surroundings. You are able to heal yourself if you become conscious of your thoughts and your feelings in the present moment. You are conscious of the things that impact you from the outside world.

You are able to heal yourself if you become conscious of your thoughts and your feelings in the present moment. - Katharina Stenger

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ikigai psychology

If you’re able to make sense of these special connections between your past experiences, the person you are right now, and your goals, you will find purpose in the here and now. And you will feel Ikigai. That’s how Rina sees it, you are the creator of your own life, you can become the source of your ikigai.

Rina defines logotherapy as having a similar meaning to Ikigai. “Logos” means purpose or meaning. In logotherapy, everyone is free on the inside, free to make revisions, to change something in their lives, and to grow as an individual every day. The therapy is about becoming conscious of this freedom and also taking responsibility for it. It’s about finding your true values, which for Rina is similar to ikigai, and acting according to them. Both ikigai and logotherapy explain that pain and suffering are part of life that we have to accept rather than push away or suppress.

One example that Rina gave was Viktor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy and a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust. Even though he was successful in his job, he was tormented by existential crises and apathy. However, he used all of this negative energy he experienced in his life to create something so beautiful to help the world heal.

A personal mission

There is this beauty of having a personal mission which doesn’t have to be this big life goal. The sense of purpose that you have can be very small, you can find your purpose on a day-to-day basis, you can find it in the small things.

Ikigai is an example that you don’t always have to be an ambitious person trying to change the world. Everyone can find a sense of purpose starting with the small things.

A sense of purpose

One’s purpose doesn’t have to be something big or impactful. You can also find purpose in doing simple things, things that make you feel alive, things that give you satisfaction.

You can also find purpose in doing simple things, things that make you feel alive, things that give you satisfaction. - Nick Kemp

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As a professional counselor, Rina encounters a lot of people coming to her because of issues such as loneliness and lack of purpose and connection with others, especially during the pandemic. People feel lonely, lost, or even stuck inside their four walls. She believes that Ikigai can be of big help for those people who are suffering from loneliness — it can help them get another perspective on their lives.

An Ikigai mindset makes you more active. It can draw you out of a passive state of suffering, boredom, and indifference. It trains your awareness, your imagination, and optimism.

Dr. Katharina’s pieces of advice

On her advice as a psychologist for all the people suffering from loneliness, Rina says that what they can do is try to be mindful and actively reflect on their lives, to take the time and think things through. 

According to Rina, here are some important questions you can ask yourself and reflect on to find new creative ways to bring back joy into your life.

  • What would I like to achieve and experience in my life?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What brought me joy when I was in a better place?
  • What are the small things that I’m grateful for?
  • What is it that really matters to me?

Another piece of advice that she gave is to reconnect with being human. The outer world often tells you to do your best, reach your goals, achieve them, and make money.  Though those are certainly important to some extent, Rina thinks that it’s more important to find a way back to your natural being, away from the digital world you’re living in. 

 Reconnect with being human

She would often tell her clients to do some social media detox. She would tell them that sometimes it’s important to take a step back and spend some time in nature or take a day off without feeling guilty.

Rituals and habits

The last piece of advice she gave is for them to try to establish some rituals because for her that will help them to go through their day, especially when they’re having a bad one. Having these good habits that bring them positivity throughout the day, will strengthen their mindset. Having this idea of habits and rituals is so important.

The power of a habit or doing something everyday, it makes you present.” - Nicholas Kemp

The power of a habit

Ikigai mindset coaching

Rina believes that ikigai is all about mindset. She has an ikigai psychology mindset coaching program, where she connects ikigai to mental health. She does include ikigai practices in her regular online coaching sessions, but she developed her own ikigai mindset coaching program for small groups and individual coaching.

She has also published a workbook on ikigai philosophy and mental health practices to help people get a better sleep routine. She has her own ikigai related website, Einfach Wertvoll Ieben, which means living with value. Dr. Katharina is also part of the Ikigai tribe and is now the German head coach of the Ikigai tribe.


For psychologists like Dr. Katharina, prioritizing mental health is essential. Loneliness has long been a struggle, even pre-pandemic. Seeking professional help aids in coping during challenging times. As Dr. Katharina emphasizes, it all starts with mindset. Establishing daily habits and rituals is crucial for navigating each day. Engaging in something that brings a sense of presence, even in small moments, helps discover personal ikigai.