Sep 16, 2017
When you move somewhere as an expat, it's easy to lament the things that you miss from home. Sometimes that can feel all powerful and all consuming – and that's when it's important to try and take stock of the good things here (even if they are different to where you're originally from). When I'm having a day where I feel a bit flat, these are some of the ways I try and change that so that I can remain happy in Japan.
Get out amongst nature.
There's something so calming about being out amongst nature – and Japan truly has some of the best spots. Even if you're in the inner city, there are some great parks to visit (some of my most loved Tokyo spots are Shinjuku Gyoen, Yoyogi Park and Showa Kinen Park). You might find your spot of calming green space at a local shrine or temple, or maybe you're nearby to a lake or river that is a pleasant spot to relax and take a deep breath. Either way, sometimes being out and appreciating the beauty here is all I need to get a smile back on my dial again.
Trade care packages with someone back home.
Are you really missing a particular type of cookies or a particular candy from back home? Maybe you'd just love a copy of your favorite glossy magazine that you can't find anywhere in Japan. I'm sure there's a friend or a family member back home who would love to trade a care package with you – because come on, who doesn't want to try fun treats from Japan! Not only will you be able to get some goodies from your home country, but you'll also make someone's day by sending something off for them to enjoy. Sometimes my happiness-meter improves just by doing something nice for someone else, so sending off packages always cheers me up.
Work on finding your people.
I wrote an article recently about ways to find your tribe in Japan. This is a hugely important one, in my opinion. The saying “no man is an island” (or woman!) really applies here – we weren't meant to do life alone...humans are social creatures! Even though I am an introvert, I understand the importance of finding other people to connect with, and to share the Japan experience with. It can be lonely at times if you don't have a tribe around you – and I'm dealing with this right now, having recently moved about 3 hours away from Tokyo to Niigata. I've got to develop my group of like minded friends again, and I know that when I have that support network around me it makes the whole experience of living as an expat in a foreign country that much more enjoyable - and easier to deal with.
Write down a few things a day that you're grateful for.
Yes, it might sound like one of those cheesy, new-age approaches to happiness – but I'm convinced that it has merit. If I'm deliberately looking for the positive in my day, then I tend to focus my thoughts that way. Whether it's something as small as appreciating your walk to and from the train station daily, or being overjoyed that 7-11 has a limited edition choc-mint mochi for sale, it really can be a perspective shift when you start looking for the good rather than focusing in on the negative.
Grab a cheap notebook at Daiso to keep a bit of a gratitude journal, if you'd like!
After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!