Naikan Therapy – Find Happiness through Appreciating What You Already Have

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Naikan Therapy  – Find Happiness through Appreciating What You Already Have

by Hope Rehab Team

Topic at a glance:

  • What is the purpose of Naikan therapy?
  • Where does Naikan therapy come from?
  • How does Naikan therapy work?

Are You Getting a Bad Deal in Life?

Water Volleyball in the Pool at Hope Rehab Thailand

Does your mind have a tendency to view life in negative terms? Are you regularly overwhelmed with a sense that you are being treated unfairly or that life is giving you a bad deal? Naikan therapy is a technique that allows us view things from a more positive perception. It can help us see that when we do a fair assessment of our life, we are actually getting a fantastic deal. This technique can also lead to the life-changing insight that true happiness doesn’t come from getting more of what we want, but in appreciating what we already have. For our purposes, we could think of it as a type of gratitude therapy.

Origins of Naikan Therapy

Naikan therapy is a Buddhist technique from Japan. The word ‘naikan’ can be translated as ‘looking inside’. The idea is that we use this form of structured introspection to gain a better understanding of ourselves and our relationship to life. This approach has become popular in Japan, but it is only starting to become known in the western world.

How Naikan Therapy Works

Naikan Therapy uses three questions simple questions to direct our self-reflections:

  • What have I received today?

  • What have I given today?

  • What problems have I caused?

Understanding the Three Questions

If we don’t pay close attention to our life we may assume that the answer to the first question (what have I received?) is ‘very little’. This is because we tend to be far more aware of what we are not getting than what we are getting. If we look closely at our experience though, we recognize we are getting a hell of a lot.

Some of the examples of the type of things we received today could include:

  • Food in our fridge (usually items that we didn’t have to grow ourselves).

  • The ability to drive to work (other people had to invent and build cars, buses, trains, and roads).

  • Friends who care about our well-being (they don’t have to do this).

  • Electricity and electrical appliances that make our life easier.

  • Strangers who smile or are kind to us (e.g. holding a door open for us).

  • Time to engage in activities we love (we no longer need to devote all of our time to mere survival like our ancestors did).

  • The fact that our community provides many services that we would otherwise have to provide for ourselves.

When we compare the list of what we have received with what we have given, we will likely notice that the former has a lot more items. This shows that we are indeed getting a good deal in life.

The last question, ‘what problems have I caused?’, is there to balance out our usual preoccupation with the harm done to us by others. You may wonder, why don’t I list the harm caused to me by others? Well, the answer is that we usually have no problem doing this already. In fact, a huge part of our problem can be that we are so focused on the harm caused to us by others. By focusing on the problems we have caused, we can start to see that we are not so hard done by as our usual thinking might suggest.

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