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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

'Ikigai' - Beating Blue Monday


In recent years, we have embraced 'hygge', loved 'lagom' and simpered over 'sisi'. But enough with the Scandinavians and their idyllic lifestyles. Now it is all about the Asian way of being and the latest state that we are urged to adopt is 'ikigai' from Japan. 


Which is why, coinciding with Blue Monday on 21 January, the new book Ikigai and Other Japanese Words to Live By has been published, written by Mari Fujimoto and David Bulcher. This book contains 42 Japanese words and phrases that have been selected to help coax the troubled Western mind out of its ruts and to think in a new and refreshing way.

For instance, the book's title 'ikigai' is simply 'something to live for' and many say that once they have conquered this concept they have truly uncovered the secret to being happy. While 'yugen' is the goal of prioritising what is mysterious and profound, and 'hatsu' means finding something new in what is routine. You can spot a theme in these examples: living in the here and now while embracing the everyday simplicity of life. 

Ikigai is illustrated with beautiful black and white photographs by Michael Kenna, whose work has been exhibited in galleries all over the world. His landscape images are hauntingly beautiful and, if anything, would benefit from bigger pages to be printed on! But that's hardly a quibble. They are an excellent compliment to the text and succeed in making Ikigai a beautiful book visually as well as literally. 

Friday, 11 January 2019

'Live Happy' - Beating Blue Monday

According to the people who work these things out, 21 January is ‘Blue Monday’: so called because it is apparently the most depressing day of the year. Christmas and New Year celebrations seem a long way in the past, January’s pay day seems a long way in the future… and it’s cold and raining outside, so we’re all feeling blue. To try and counter this, Bridget Grenville-Cleave and Dr Ilona Boniwell have published Live Happy: 100 Simple Ways to Fill Your Life with Joy.


I’m a sucker for a book with a nice cover and beautiful design, so Live Happy is already ticking my boxes: elegant illustrations throughout, soothing paper stock (yes, paper stock can be soothing) and a classy design, all instantly draw you in to Live Happy. But obviously, a book needs more than just pretty pages.


Life coach Bridget has teamed up with psychologist Ilona for this book, which is based on academic research and the study of more than 100 separate sources. So Live Happy neatly combines practical tips that may seem obvious but often need spelling out (eat well, meditate, be kind to others, build routines) with more abstract ideas (mindfulness, keep your expectations realistic, stop trying to change the unchangeable). The result is a very appealing package of text and visuals that is designed to take the edge off your January blues and keep you calm throughout the rest of the year.


The particular draw of Live Happy is that all of the 100 ideas are simple and achievable by anyone, regardless of income or resources. And it’s also interesting to think about how happiness is constructed. Of course, what do we mean by happiness? What makes someone happy is a very individual thing. But it’s helpful to be reminded every now and then to take stock, to evaluate your life and to consider ways to build on what you already have. And what better time to do that than on Blue Monday?