Ikigai and Mental Health

There are plenty of books written on the subject of ikigai. However, most of them focus on relating ikigai to work or entrepreneurship. Good thing that some professionals study ikigai in-depth -- exploring how this concept affects our mental health.

Dr. Dean Fido shares why they chose to relate ikigai to mental health.

Nick: When people think of mental health, it's generally this concept of depression. And now we have this new, I guess, phrase of positive psychology. I think most people would relate ikigai to positive psychology, they wouldn't relate it to mental health.

Dean: That's an extremely good point, actually, and ironically, it is the antithesis of the way that we were going.

So because this was the first sort of Western, especially UK paper on ikigai, and we wanted to frame the outcome measures, which were general mental well-being stress, anxiety and depression.

The reason that we chose those kinds of four indicators is because that's what people, laypeople at least, and people that read media, social media, they're kind of buzzwords almost that people can buy into and people will understand. 

Whereas if we started talking about elements of positive psychology, such as mental resilience, or even physical resilience, these are terms which are difficult to understand and it's harder for laypeople to kind of interact with our research.

One of the most important things for both Yasu and myself is that when we do any piece of research, we publish it freely, so we make our research available to everyone. We make sure that we write it in a way where anyone can pick it up.

Before I send a paper interview published, I always send it to my dad to read it. I make him circle anything that he doesn't understand. Because for me, as a researcher, if somebody doesn't understand something that's relatively small, then that kind of blocks their access to understanding the key terms of your research.

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Ikigai is a greatly misunderstood concept outside of Japan. It’s not a word from Okinawa. It’s not the Japanese secret to longevity. It’s not an entrepreneurial Venn diagram framework.

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