How Ikigai can help you have a happier winter

It’s hard to believe that we are almost two thirds of the way through 2021 already.

This year began with a few long, hard months and while I’m hoping that won’t happen again, the truth is that we don’t know how the pandemic situation will unfold when the seasons change.

I’m not feeling at all ready for the autumn/winter season so I’ve decided I want to use the last weeks of summer to help me focus and prepare.

August is a traditional time to get ready for the ‘new term’. Even though it’s many years since I left teaching, I still make resolutions at this time of year.

With this in mind, and newly inspired by the Olympics in Tokyo, I’ve been learning about the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai, and using it to help me plan a happier, healthier winter.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully there’s some inspiration here for you too.

Ikigai and longevity

One international study showed that people with a sense of purpose in life are at a lower risk of heart disease and early death.

Areas all over the world with high numbers of people living a long and healthy life have shown to have ‘purpose in life’ as a common link.

There are several books available on the topic of Ikigai if you want to study and learn in more depth.

I recommend Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, which is a beautiful, warm and comforting read.

Four principles for happiness

Ikigai has four defining principles.

  1. Challenge – opportunities for improvement, mastery and growth
  2. Choice – something that gives you a feeling of freedom
  3. Commitment – to a skill or a belief, maybe a cause or a group of people
  4. Well-being – it’s associated with positive relationships and brings energy and good health

You might already know what your Ikigai is, if you have an activity or purpose that you see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

If you’re not sure you’ve found your Ikigai, Garcia and Miralles have three questions to help you narrow it down.

  1. What do you love?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What does the world need?

I would suggest that ‘the world’ doesn’t need to be the whole world. I want to encourage you to think of your own definition instead.

In my view ‘what you are good at’ isn’t a fixed idea either. It could be something that you want to be good at, or you are improving at.

My Ikigai

When I started to think about my own Ikigai, I came up with the following list.

  1. Homeopathy – gives my life meaning and helps me earn a living
  2. Gardening – allotment, small garden and indoor plants
  3. Yoga, swimming, running, walking – each of these twice a week
  4. Quilt-making – one I’m working on and another idea
  5. Knitting – usually socks
  6. Cooking – especially soup, salads and cakes
  7. Writing – my journal, this blog, my newsletter
  8. Culture – art, film, music, books
  9. One-to-one time – with people I care about

These are all things that I love to do, am reasonably good at and has some benefit for others (as well as myself).

Homeopathy (at the top of the list) is something I love, gives my life a great deal of meaning, and also helps me earn a living.

It does give me energy, but it takes energy too.

When I make time for the other activities, it helps to balance my energy.

This is why I have to make time to do them regularly.

Planning a happier winter

Some of the things on my list happen naturally in the summer, but the winter months can be challenging.

It’s darker, colder and I often feel less motivated.

When the days are shorter and there’s less light, it’s harder to make time for sewing, for example.

In Ikigai, physical movement is highly valued, and I realise that I need to schedule this during daylight hours, which are much shorter during the winter months.

Things to do now

  • Set aside two full days in September, and one in October to tidy the allotment and garden ready for winter
  • Plan a trip to my favourite knitting shop to pick out the yarn I need to knit a pair of socks (and meet a friend)
  • Take the unfinished quilt on holiday and try to do some sewing for an hour a day
  • Plan a trip to my favourite fabric shop to pick out the materials I need to make my next quilt (and meet another friend)
  • Make a list of winter soups, warm salads and cakes I want to make – with a list of ingredients alongside for easy reference

Things to do later

  • Move one of my yoga classes to online when the days get dark
  • Keep my Sundays free from other commitments so I can go for a dog walk, do some cooking, a little sewing and a yoga class [Related post: Simple Sundays]
  • Plan one-to-one time with friends alongside art, cinema and days out
  • Keep half a day aside for writing each week
  • Research buying a record player as a family gift this Christmas

Thinking about Ikigai has given me new motivation to make time for activities I enjoy.

Rest, sleep and quality downtime are already building blocks to help build resilience.

Now I can add Ikigai to help restore energy during the winter months. [Related post: If you have pandemic burnout you are not alone]

What’s your Ikigai?

I hope this has inspired you to plan activities to help you find more happiness and well-being in the months ahead.

If you need support for your energy and well-being, and you want to find out whether homeopathy and homeobotanicals would be a good fit for you, feel free to get in touch.

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