A balanced, healthy lifestyle has been deeply integrated into the culture in Japan. For centuries, the Japanese have been cultivating mindfulness and self-care in their everyday activities, which can ultimately be life-changing. From cooking and bathing to drinking tea and arranging flowers, Japanese culture has perfected the art of turning everyday life into a meditation practice that promotes health and happiness.
These six wellness practices not only emphasize the mind-body connection but remind us to slow down and start enjoying the present moment. We hope these traditions inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and connect with the world around you!
1. Shojin Ryori – Food of Devotion
Shojin Ryori, or “food of devotion,” is a vegetarian cooking tradition that Buddhist monks have practiced for hundreds of years. Shojin cooking is based on simplicity and harmony. It involves using fresh ingredients and eating according to what foods are in season.
The tradition also places significant importance on avoiding waste. Every bit of food is somehow incorporated into the food. For the monks in the temples, the act of preparing and eating is an exercise in itself. They use it as a way to practice appreciation and mindfulness every day. For monks and non-monks alike, the recipes of Shojin Ryori are simple and easy to follow, making it achievable to bring this beautiful cooking tradition into your kitchen at home.
2. Ofuro – Bathing
In Japan, bathing is a sacred tradition that is believed to cleanse, heal and relax the body. Soaking in a steaming bath at the end of a long day can improve your state of well-being. The Japanese bathe daily, whether in their private bathroom, a public bathhouse, or a communal hot spring.
Instead of jumping in and out of the water, the tradition of Japanese “ofuro” is based on soothing and healing the body. Settling into warm water and simply being present and experiencing the sensations of the bath, which is the water, steam, heat, and fragrances that all work together to bring both the body and mind into a profound state of well-being.
3. Ikebana – Flower Arranging
Ikebana is the Japanese tradition of arranging flowers. This beautiful tradition dates back to ancient Buddhist flower offering ceremonies. Ikebana is a centuries-old art form and is based on the idea that the process of working with nature to create art can be meditative and healing.
Instead of buying pre-arranged flowers and throwing them in a vase, the ikebana tradition is about mindfully arranging flowers, stems, twigs, leaves, moss, and grasses into a unique piece of art that highlights their beauty. This process allows you to focus all your attention on the perfect harmony of nature and can often promote a meditative flow state in many people.
4. Shinrin-Yoku – Forest Bathing
Source: Penguin Books UK/Youtube
The Japanese tradition called Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” serves as a way to find peace and recovery. Taking a forest bath entails immersing yourself in a forest for several hours and soaking up all that nature has to offer. The sights, smells, and sounds can be extremely therapeutic for some people. Research has shown that being in a forest without distractions has shown mental and physical health benefits, including reduced stress levels, improved sleep, increased focus and creativity, accelerated recovery from illness, a strengthened immune system, and a higher sense of overall happiness.
While this practice is traditionally done in a forest, you can try simply going go for a walk around the neighborhood. Focus on calming your thoughts, and take big deep breaths of fresh air. Take time to admire the beauty of the trees, and try to focus on all five of your sense. Notice the color of the leaves and flowers and smell the air.
5. Chadō – Ceremonial Tea Drinking
Source: CTV Your Morning/Youtube
Japan’s ceremonial tea-drinking, known as chadō, is a practice that originates from Zen Buddhism. Tea ceremonies are still an important part of Japanese culture today. Chadō is more than boiling a cup of water. It is a meticulous and intentional ceremony of preparing and sharing a bowl of finely powdered green tea, called matcha, served with traditional Japanese desserts to contrast the green tea’s bitter taste. This tradition allows you to temporarily disconnect from the busy world and take a moment to be fully present in complete peace, serenity, and gratitude.
6. Shodo – The Way of Writing
Source: Rie Takeda/Youtube
Shodo, or “the way of writing,” is classical Japanese calligraphy. This ancient art form has been around for hundreds of years and is still widely practiced today. It is considered a meaningful way to foster a meditative state of mind by many people in Japan. This meticulous skill requires careful preparation, gentle brush strokes, and complete focus and tranquillity to master the art successfully. This practice is a helpful tool to feel more grounded and present. Shodo is also likely to promote a flow state, in which you may experience reduced stress and an overall sense of calmness.
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