What Is the ‘Kintsugi’ Wellness Method (and Can It Make You Happier)?
When we first heard about kintsugi, the traditional Japanese practice of repairing broken pottery with golden glue, we loved the philosophy behind it. By embracing the flaws of a treasured object, in a way, we’re embracing our own flaws, too.
So when food and wellness blogger Candice Kumai created Kintsugi Wellness, a book that helps incorporate the kintsugi philosophy into every aspect of our lives, we read it from cover to cover, and it now has a permanent spot on our bookshelf. (She has an amazing podcast, too.)
“Learning is the key to kintsugi, and we never stop learning,” she writes—and we’ve officially become her students. Here are Kumai’s ten principles to bring the Japanese philosophy into your life.
‘Wabi-sabi’: Admire Imperfection
It’s tough to look in the mirror, see a huge zit on your forehead and not try to furiously cover it up with concealer. But that’s exactly what Kumai is asking us to do. “Holding ourselves up to a ‘perfect’ standard is ultimately defeating, because perfection is fleeting,” she explains. Go for a walk and observe all the imperfection in nature, quit comparing yourself to others and practice acceptance when you look in the mirror. Wisdom—not perfection—is beauty.
‘Gaman’: Live with Great Resilience
When something unexpected happens, do you stay cool or fly off the handle? Gaman is the ability to endure by remaining calm, patient and resilient. Traditionally, the people of Japan “prefer to be still and allow the storm to pass, quietly enduring the changes along the course,” Kamai writes. Let go of grudges and remember that everything will eventually pass—if you have trouble with this one, try a group meditation class.
‘Eiyōshoku’: Nourish Your Body
Keep your fridge stocked with nourishing, healthy foods, so there’s always something delicious to eat. Take a page from the traditional Japanese kitchen and fill your cupboard with seaweed, rice, noodles, green tea, spices like ginger and turmeric, and lots of veggies. Try miso avocado toast or carrot miso ginger beauty noodles, two of Kumai’s favorite recipes.
‘Ki o Tsukete:’ Learn to Take Care
Remember what the flight attendant told you on your last trip: Always put on your own oxygen mask before you help others put on theirs. Don’t be afraid to cut negative people and things out of your life, and trust your own instincts. Focus on the good stuff, and remember to take time to rest and recharge (here are some self-care tips to get you started).
‘Ganbatte’: Always Do Your Best
It takes time, patience and concentration to do something to the very best of your ability—but if you focus on doing your best every time, the results might even be better than you thought you were capable of. There’s something beautiful in this effort and struggle, Kumai says. Always prepare, give it your all, be on time and, most importantly, be yourself.
‘Kaizen’: Continuously Improve
Ganbatte and kaizen go hand-in-hand. Remember that even though you always want to try your best, “you will never reach your true potential,” Kamai explains. “No matter how hard you try, you will always be improving yourself, improving your work and improving the conditions of your life.” In other words, stay humble and remember that you’re always a work in progress. (We love this.)
‘Shikata Ga Nai’: Accept What Cannot Be Helped
Your boss has been storming around the office all afternoon, and even though you know it isn’t your fault, you’ve spent the whole day feeling tense. It’s time to practice some shikata ga nai. “Don’t take anything personally,” Kamai advises. “It’s a safe bet that it isn’t about you. Sometimes the best answers is to shō ga nai—to just let it go.”
‘Yuimaru:’ Care For Your Inner Circle
This philosophy is all about finding your tribe and keeping them close. Embrace your community, join groups and surround yourself with positive, loving people. Do everything you can to stay in touch, even if your family and friends live far away. And once you’ve selected your chosen few, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in front of them—they deserve to know the real you.
‘Kansha’: Cultivate Sincere Gratitude
Gratitude doesn’t need to come from lavish, expensive gifts—a simple card or smile will do the trick. Join a cause or charity you believe in, help your friends and family and allow others to help you in return. Cultivate sincerity in everything you do—when something good happens, be grateful, appreciative and thankful.
‘Osettai’: Be of Service to Others, Welcome Gifts
Whether you’re an incredible painter, a genius baker or really good at math, find ways to share your gifts with everyone around you. Share your knowledge, teach a class or invite your friends over to dinner. But most importantly, share your heart—tell your co-worker he did a great job today, or tell your aunt how great she is at knitting. Whenever you see someone in your life doing something well, make sure they know it.