If any of you know me, you know that I am a book fanatic. I love reading and listening to books, and there’s always something new on my list. I’m usually about halfway through 2-3 books at a time on Audible, and I always have 1-2 actually PRINTED books (yes they still exist!) on my bedside table that I’m reading. Reading is one of my greatest joys, and teachers.
Recently I downloaded “The Little Book of Lykke” by Meik Wiking and was ridiculously inspired. The entire book is on his research of what makes people happy around the world. He is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, among many other things, and is quickly becoming one of my most inspirational people.
Because of my own personal quest for happiness, for many years I have thought about, written, and read about what makes people happy, what gets us out of bed, and what happy even means.
One of the conclusions I came to at a very young age was that most people crave a sense of connectedness – a feeling of togetherness.
That sense of community and family, blood or not, and knowing that you always have someone who’s looking out for you. This is essential to our happiness and well being.
Before picking up this book, I had already been reflecting on this concept of togetherness, family, and community here in Japan, as I’ve witnessed two very different “Japans”.
The Businessman culture:
One is the “working businessman/salaryman” culture. Here in Japan, businessmen, and many other careers as well, work insanely long hours. They’re on the train at 6:30am and get out late, often (if not always), stopping by an Izakaya (bar for yakitori/skewers and drinks) on the way home to wind down. They finally make it home by about 9 or 10, sometimes later, usually after their kids have gone to bed and everyone has already eaten dinner.
This culture is something I didn’t realize existed so prevalently in the big cities here, especially Tokyo. For some families, it may work. But I have seen and noticed and talked to many where this does not work. Families at home don’t see their fathers as often as they’d like and it seems that more and more people feel estranged from their families, and even their friends, as they strive to keep up with a certain image, lifestyle, and the pace of life in general.
[Side note: This isn’t only happening in Japan, and of course not all families are like this, but it is extremely prevalent and it’s happening in many countries across the world. Of course, we see similar situations in the US as well, so I’m not picking on Japan or any specific country – it is simply a matter of noticing and observation, and a problem that we are facing as humans in an ever-evolving world.]
The Okinawan Culture:
Contrast this with the lives of the people who live in Okinawa, Japan, one of the longest living and happiest people in the world. The research shows that this is largely due to their consumption of vegetables, green tea, living in the country and gardening, actively exercising, walking and moving, and mostly because of their sense of community, also called “moai”.
A moai is essentially a support group, or group of people, that all of have similar interests, and most importantly look out for each other and support each other in all aspects of life – whether it be financially, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.
These Okinawans also tend to live very simple but rich lifestyles and many claim that the best parts of their days are drinking tea with friends.
And this is where I come full circle. This, too, is what I have found makes me happy. Maybe replace that tea with a good cup of coffee, but the principle stays the same.
Happiness, to me, is a good coffee with a friend. A walk in the park. A good book on a sunny afternoon. Or morning. Or rainy day. It doesn’t matter.
The things that bring me the most joy tend to be either free or very inexpensive (of course I like to dine – yes, that costs money!) – but usually, if I end up spending a lot of money, it’s usually on an experience, like a plane ticket to a new country, rather than a thing. Even then, I find myself doing these same things – drinking a good coffee with an old or new friend, reading a book, or taking a walk and exploring.
Seeing firsthand the contrast of lifestyles here in Japan, as well as being away from my family and friends at home, has made me think long and hard about what truly matters to me. It has made me reassess and look at myself. It has made me consider what truly brings us happiness, and solidified many of my previous thoughts and conclusions.
And so it seems, that what truly matters to me, and what many of us crave and are looking for, is a sense of community, support, love, and togetherness.
And that is what I strive to do with this blog and my writings. To create a space where people feel safe, loved and included. Where people can come and not feel so alone. Where people can come and have real, raw emotions without judgment. Where you don’t feel like the only crazy person out there, living your life on a little island inside of your head.
So I ask you, please reach out and tell me:
- What makes you happy?
- What do you want? What do you wish you had?
- What brings you the most joy?
- What do you NEED as a human being?
Please reach out – I can’t wait to hear from you 🙂