9 Calming Japanese Words That Will Immediately Turn Your Wednesday Around
You're versed in the Danish art of hygge; you've long since KonMari-ed your apartment. Needless to say, our collective, ever-growing obsession with wellness knows no bounds—these days, we're importing self-improvement strategies from across the globe.
That's probably because we recognise that we have a lot to learn in this respect, particularly from cultures who perfected their wellness traditions centuries ago. And those of us who struggle to find peace and mindfulness in a world that moves at breakneck pace could definitely stand to look toward the Japanese way of life as the ultimate inspiration for balance.
That marriage of tradition and the modern world is essentially the MO behind Tatcha, the cult-fave Japanese skincare brand (which might as well have a permanent place in Byrdie's nonexistent Beauty Hall of Fame). By crafting beautiful formulas that work hard but make the ritual of skincare all the more calming and delightful, founder Victoria Tsai seeks to prove that mindfulness and multitasking aren't necessarily mutually exclusive things. Tatcha's products are relaxing and steeped in Japanese tradition, but they're also highly efficient—a winning combination for the busy modern woman.
So with this philosophy in mind, Tsai was happy to reveal a series of simple Japanese concepts that just might inspire you to live your best life ever—if not at least get you through the rest of your work week. Keep reading for nine Japanese strategies to staying centered, no matter how crowded the week's agenda is already looking.
What it means: All-purpose and all-mighty.
"[It means] your things should work hard for you so that you don't have to work as hard," says Tsai, who adds that this concept was the inspiration for Tatcha's brand-new Water Cream, which works as both an anti-aging treatment and deep moisturiser. It's a philosophy to consider extending to other aspects of your busy life as well. For example, instead of meditating and logging gym time, try doing both at the same time: Find a workout that keeps you mindful and centered while exercising your body.
What it means: Imperfections make things more unique.
"We can so often feel off balance by a desire to do each and every thing perfectly, in work and in life," says Tsai. "This philosophy teaches us to embrace the flaws. Cooking a meal for a loved one doesn't have to be Instagram-worthy—a chipped plate or a crooked sushi roll only makes it more treasured." From a beauty-specific standpoint, sometimes the "imperfect," lived-in looks are the most interesting (and the most "you!").
What it means: Just this one moment, once in a lifetime.
It's like YOLO but on an interpersonal level. "This saying reminds us of the preciousness of each interaction we have," says Tsai. "There are ways to multitask while also allowing us to spend time with the people we care about. Instead of taking a work call while making dinner, catch up with a friend or loved one while chopping veggies."
What it means: Trust others.
Interestingly enough, this word is most commonplace at sushi bars. "When ordering, it gives the chef authority to make what they want at the price they set," explains Tsai. But take that lesson to go: "In life, it reminds us to trust and lean on the people who surround us to help us achieve what we need to do," she says.
What it means: Make small, continuous improvements.
The ultimate antidote to "biting off more than you can chew," kaizen reminds us to take a breather and practice patience when setting out to accomplish our goals. "It's much easier to multitask when you're working on small changes towards a goal rather than trying to accomplish something radical," says Tsai.
What it means: There's beauty in taking your time.
"It is easy for us to rush through our work, turning it into a series of mindless endeavors," says Tsai. Shankanan reminds us to be mindful and appreciative of the journey.
What it means: Have a flexible mind.
In martial arts, students are instructed to practice nyunanshin so that their minds are open and receptive to new teachings. The rest of us can certainly learn from this sense of flexibility as well. "There are always more efficient or better ways of completing the task at hand, so it's important to seek out new perspectives," says Tsai.
What it means: Know when enough is enough.
Society certainly conditions us to want for things—in fact, this perpetual state of human dissatisfaction is central to ancient Zen principle. (In Buddhism, desire is a form of suffering, and letting go of that desire is a sign of higher consciousness.) "It is up to us to know when to be satisfied," says Tsai. "It can be easy to lose ourselves in a flurry of work, but chisoku reminds us to know when our work is done, so we can step away and enjoy other things."
What it means: Find joy in small things
"Even when tasks seem mindless, there are ways to make them uplifting," says Tsai. "Allow yourself to notice the beauty of the flowers as you run or the sound of your favorite song as you work." It's a similar concept to Beginner's Mind, which is an essential tip for mastering mindful eating.
On that note, check out the four most valuable beauty tips a Byrdie editor picked up from her Japanese grandmother.