In the game of life, the Japanese stand tall. With one of the highest life expectancies in the world, Japan sets an example on living a life that is not just long, but also fulfilling and purposeful. While healthy lifestyle choices, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, have a huge rule to play, many philosophies that the Japanese live by are known to contribute to the country’s impressive health outcomes.
Over the years, these concepts have found takers around the world for their well-being and personal growth benefits. Closer home, Trove Experiences, an initiative promoting enriching travel experiences, conducted forest bathing in Delhi’s Sanjay Van earlier this month, inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’. Raunak Munot, founder, tells us, “With a growing interest in wellness, Japanese concepts are gaining momentum. That’s why we organised shinrin-yoku or forest bathing in Pune and Delhi, and received a great response.”
A leaf from the Japanese book of life
Speaking from experience, Rajas, a 30-year-old physiotherapist, shares, “I’ve been practising shinrin-yoku since 2018. It has given me so much clarity about life. I even recommend it to my patients. It presses the refresh button in a taxing schedule and helps on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.” Actor Deepika Padukone, too, is known to follow these principles. Earlier this year, she took to Instagram to share a post on ikigai (reason of being) and kaizen (continuous improvement).
We decode some of these Japanese concepts:
Kaizen: Embodying the one-step-at-a-time approach, this business philosophy can serve as a blueprint for achievement and improvement with minimum stress. Focusing on smaller, incremental steps eliminates or reduces the maddening rush and tendency to seek immediate and radical results or gratification. It boost self appreciation, gratitude and mindfulness.
Wabi-sabi: Transience and imperfections are central to this philosophy. It is a way to get rid of unnecessary thoughts and accept oneself and the people around us unconditionally. At its core are the beliefs that no situation or bad news is permanent and change is inevitable. An important tenet of Zen philosophy, Wabi-sabi can help one move on from negative thoughts and emotions.
Oubaitori: Based on the belief that each individual’s journey is unique and everyone grows at their own pace, this ancient idiom dissuades one from making self-harming comparisons. Focusing on things that matter, daily gratitude and feeling motivated by others’ progress are ways one can embrace it.
Ikigai: One of the most popular Japanese concepts, ikigai translates to “reason of being”. This ancient Japanese concept deconstructs life and its goals. Finding purpose in the smaller things around you and prioritising them, learning to live in the moment, finding good company and gratitude are essential ingredients. To discover your ikigai, look for answers to the questions mentioned in the diagram above. Following this can help one de-stress and make one’s aspirations simpler, achievable and far more gratifying.
Hara Hachi Bu: One of the crucial contributors to the high life expectancy in Japan, Hara Hachi Bu involves eating up to only the 80% capacity of your stomach. The idea is to feel satiated and quell the hunger, without being full. Typically, this way, you can keep your daily calorie intake somewhere between 1800-1900. You end up having a very healthy BMI and a long disease-free life. The concept is believed to have originated in the southernmost Japanese island of Okinawa. Not surprisingly, the island’s inhabitants are considered to have one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
(With inputs from Dr Paramjeet Singh, consultant psychiatrist, PSRI Hospital and Dr Aarushi Dewan, Clinical Psychologist at Aakash Healthcare)