When developing a positive mental health routine for yourself, it’s worth looking to other cultures for inspiration. Japan has various philosophies that can help to make life brighter and more enjoyable. Whether it’s learning to appreciate small pleasures or choosing to be kinder to yourself, here are five Japanese concepts that promote positive mental health.
Yugen is an important part of Japanese aesthetics. It focuses on the profundity and mystery of the universe, of learning to be in the moment. It’s the curiosity of wanting to know more and choosing to be more aware of your surroundings.
In a mental health context, yugen can be applied through taking the time to be aware of where you are and what you’re doing. Have you just woken up on a sunny morning? Are you laughing with a friend who you’ve known for years?
Hold onto that feeling of lightness, even if it only lasts for a few moments. That is the essence of yugen.
Furusato translates to ‘hometown’ in Japanese. While feeling connected to the place you were born is a source of strength, furusato holds deeper connotations. It’s the idea of being connected to a place that you feel you can make a home of.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world or who you are with. If you feel a safe and at peace, then furusato is what you’re experiencing.
Some Japanese words are untranslatable, which is the case for komorebi. But it’s meaning is beautiful. Komorebi describes the dappled appearance of sunlight filtering through the trees. There’s the powerful contrast of shadows dancing with the light, of beauty mingling with darkness every few seconds.
In addition to being an inspiring nature metaphor, komorebi has mental health connotations as well. The interplay of light and dark represents the constant battle between feeling happy and sad. One minute you can be up, the next minute you can be down. And that’s okay. When the sun shines through the trees, it’s a sign of hope.
Chowa is the Japanese equivalent of harmony, of the constant pursuit of finding balance in life. While it’s important to live in harmony with others, chowa teaches that it shouldn’t be confused with passivity. Finding balance comes through hard work and standing your ground. It comes with following what you believe is right, while being mindful of the affect you have on others.
Oubaitori is a Japanese idiom that comes from the kanji for the four trees that bloom in spring: cherry, plum, apricot and peach. Each flower blooms in its own time and it’s a reminder that everyone is own their own journey through life.
Therefore, oubaitori is the acceptance of not comparing yourself to others and focusing on your own growth. There’s never any rush to get to where you think you need to be. There is no straight path through life and oubaitori is a helpful reminder of taking the pressure away.
Are there any other Japanese concepts that you think would be useful for promoting mental health? I’d love to hear your thoughts.