Find your Ikigai

The key to happiness and the 'reason for being' is just a find away, writes Pooja Prabbhan
Last Updated : 17 August 2020, 19:25 IST

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The Japanese philosophy of Ikigai — largely described as finding your ‘reason of being’ — is a lucid concept to imbibe, and it holds more relevance today than ever before when the world takes an unexpected pause.

But, while it’s completely understandable to experience periodic bouts of anxiety and a quarantine lull of sorts, putting considerable thought into finding your passion and how exactly to find happiness is worth contemplating, suggest therapists, psychologists and life coaches.

Incorporating the ‘333 rule’ is a great way to deal with anxiety suggests Dr Girishchandra, a senior consultant in psychiatry.

“The next time you are anxious, look around and name 3 things, 3 sounds you hear and move 3 of your body parts. This exercise, when coupled with learning to listen activity, of trying and listening to every sound around you, is a great way to consciously bring the mind into the present.”

Suggesting how feeling good is a sure-fire way to find Ikigai, he adds, “Children are good at finding happiness. Simple things make them happy. As we grow, we get entangled and buried under so many expectations that we forget what would make us happy. Simple things like listening to music, reading a book, playing an instrument, enjoying a craft, learning something new, playing with kids, spending time with family, have immense potential to lift our spirits. When we are feeling good we think with more clarity which helps us to work out our Ikigai.”

Be grateful

Happiness coach Aastha Tatia opines that practising an attitude of gratitude can be a real game-changer and help one steer closer towards leading a more fulfilling life.

“Being grateful gets you to focus on things that matter — on the good stuff, pushing you to help others, and channelling your energy into what you like.”

On the other hand, passion is a journey of discovery, but needs to be sustained by nurturing it, believes Tatia.

Reflection or witness

“When you watch your actions, circumstances or situations as an outsider (or Sakshi Bhav), you detach and feel a sense of calm,” says Dr Anita Chitkara, an emotional wellness coach and alternate therapy expert. She lists down ways to calm an overworked mind during stressful times like these.

“Anxiety doesn’t come from circumstances. People can respond differently to the same situations. Some people can remain calm, angry, restless, or anxious.”

“So it isn’t a situation but your thoughts about the situation that creates anxiety. Fear, anxiety, and panic come to us when we’re too attached to the outcome of our actions. We need to keep our expectations realistic and understand that we are not always playing to win. We need to understand that learning and growth happen mostly in failure or crisis. This is because, during such times, we introspect more about where we went wrong,” adds Anita.

While there is no short cut to therapy, one can practice healthier ways to self-heal.

“Start to create boundaries, secondly, be aware of your patterns so one is aware where one is operating from,” avers Japneet Anand, a counselling psychologist.

Dr Puja Kapoor, a paediatric neurologist says, “All those who believe in Ikigai, follow a stoic attitude/ resilience: Serenity in the face of adversity. Don’t get bothered about the things, that are not managed by you. Pursue your passion, no matter what the circumstances are, and try to cultivate anti-fragility.”

Puja also infers that in order to maintain a “microflow,” or an element of passion to their everyday mundane work, one must live an unhurried life.

“Do many different things every day, always stay busy, but do one thing at a time, without getting overwhelmed.”

Happiness is self-made

“When we focus on what best we can do, what are we good at, and what gives us pleasure, it leads to positive self-esteem and self-worth,” advises Akanksha Pandey, a clinical psychologist. “One can also curb anxiety by resorting to the Grounding/Counter-stimulation method (4D technique). Whenever you experience distress/anxiety, you can try this relaxation technique. Distance yourself from the triggering situation, drink water and deep breathe (abdominal breathing) for a minute and divert yourself by trying to focus on the various natural sensory inputs in the vicinity in the form of sounds/voices/smell/touch which can be an effective strategy to counter-stimulate the brain and distract it from the stress signals,” she adds.

A simple yet powerful way to shift your focus is making a list of things you like.

“Start with first finding out what makes you smile. Make an extensive list of 20-30 things that bring a smile to your face. It can be big or small like having a good cup of coffee or accomplishing something. Try to incorporate one of these activities in a day and make time for yourself and your happiness,” states Jasdeep Mago, a neuropsychologist and counselling therapist.

She adds that, “Lastly, always remember that happiness is a relative emotion and also a fleeting one. One cannot expect to be and stay happy all the time. Realistically we can aim to stay grateful and positive which in turn may bring us happiness.”

Mind exercises

Meditate on your breath: Meditation techniques can improve your mood, calm your mind and help you relax.

Build your environment: Your circle is a reflection of you, therefore choose your friends and environment wisely. Spend time with those who push you towards achieving your highest potential.

Self-talk: How your life turns out is based on the way in which you think, and you have the power to shape your thoughts. One way to do this is through the practice of positive self-talk. You should be constantly encouraging and motivating yourself to develop self-love.

Breathing exercises/pranayama: Through pranayama, you can maintain awareness of your feelings, thoughts, sensations of the body and the surrounding environment. This is an important practice of yoga and spirituality which will bring calmness and remove stress.

Physical activity: Create well-being for yourself, as good health and mindfulness are pivotal to your happiness. A sound body will allow you to enjoy a rich and fulfilling life.

(With inputs from lifestyle coach Akshar)

Signs to watch for...

You find it difficult to wake up each morning. Spending considerable amount of time each day thinking about the problem and compromising on other activities.

Constant feeling of lethargy, inadequacy and hopelessness.

Relationships are strained.

Disconnected with activities that you previously enjoyed.

Experiencing unexplained fear on a regular basis.

These signs surely mean that a visit to a therapist will give you an insight into what you are feeling and how therapy can help you.
Ashna Shah
(The author is a clinical psychologist)

Published 17 August 2020, 18:43 IST

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