We live in the era of «chaos» forgetting our wallet, being stuck in traffic or our battery discharged can make us go into an emotional outburst. These situations beyond our control are part of the stress we face in our day-to-day lives. The ability to remain calm in the face of what we can and cannot control is fundamental to preserving a healthy mental and emotional well-being. Faced with this, in Japan the concept «shou ga nai» was born, which in our western version would be «what are we going to do». It is very easy to say, but how can we integrate the concept «shou ga nai» in our lifestyle?

Get to know the concept of "shou ga nai"

From the Japanese philosophy comes the expression «shou ga nai» part of a philosophy where many of those who practice it, recognize it as «the secret of happiness». The Shoganai philosophy has its origins in Buddhism, therefore, it reflects a style of coping from the acceptance of circumstances that we cannot control.

This ability to maintain serenity in the face of difficulties does not deny our emotions, indeed, it does not focus on the conformism of our reality but preserves our efforts to change that which we can transform. This direction of our energy is a great protective factor when considering the disease of the 21st century: stress.

This refreshing new perspective brings us a new coping strategy that takes us away from cognitive rumination, automatic thoughts or paralysis by analysis, to bring us greater peace in our daily life situations and in which we can find a point of support, to look at our concerns with a broad outlook.

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The integration of shonagai into the western world

The Shoganai philosophy is based on the pillars of mindfulness, where the importance of living in the present is recognized, moving away from «what I could have done» in the past or «what I will do» in the future. This concept has been tried to be transferred within the Western world as (it is what it is) in English or the popularly known (C’est la vie) in French. In other languages such as Icelandic we find (Petta reddast).

Beyond the globalization of the concept, the real key to this philosophy lies in its integration into our daily lives. In the Western world, it may seem fatalistic or pessimistic to «throw in the towel» in the face of difficulties. The key has been practiced by the Japanese, who focus their efforts on respect and acceptance of good and bad cycles as part of the way.

This philosophy makes us see beyond the concept, a lifestyle completely removed from western standards of «productivity» and how little we are allowed to «stop». We can find different translations of «shou ga nai» but sadly it is very far from our integration in the face of difficulties. A good starting point to establish a new cognitive reframing in the face of difficulties focuses on the differentiation between: «Conforming» as a reactive attitude while «Accepting» is a mature and proactive attitude, which translates into emotional stability, a sense of inner control and self-knowledge.

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How to practice the Shoganai philosophy? Here are 4 simple steps for its integration

Take an instance of things

Before starting to analyze a situation, it is key to take a step back and try to find a moment where our emotions are more settled. When we all receive bad news, we are flooded with negative and even catastrophic thoughts, we tend to put ourselves in the worst, going into a state of alert as a strategy of preparation for danger. A vital tool that can help us in practice is the puppy metaphor:

«We have a puppy and we see how it does not stop sitting on our sofa, chewing the cushions and even begins to leave us some gift around the house … through this metaphor, we will see how we will see how we sprout frustration and anger to have our house impeccable, however, we must be patient and focus our efforts on educating the puppy, since a scolding would not help us at all.»

Identify which are and are not in your control

Once the metaphor has been put into practice, we will begin to analyze those things that have disturbed our routine and have led to a state of chaos in our order. Before their appearance, we will take enough perspective to establish a critical judgment. We will differentiate between: Can I change it? Yes, we take action. Can’t I change it? «In this case, we should accept it and save our energy.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude is a crucial part of integrating this philosophy, so that when our efforts are focused on the things that inspire gratitude, we encourage the development of a positive attitude. In the term this attitude refers to the cultivation of our resilience as a tool for adaptability in the face of difficulties. In addition to this, an attitude of serenity in a «calm mind» makes us find new solutions in situations we had not previously contemplated.

The more practice, the greater the mastery

This type of strategies, like mindfulness, do not try to be established with a goal of hours of practice. The key lies in its frequency, i.e., if you have 5 stressful situations during the day and you practice these simple steps in the 5, you will be training the mastery of the flow of thoughts, seeing how they become less and less present and that you have much greater awareness and control over your emotions in front of these. This continuity of short time and high frequency is what really works our ability.

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Know the 5 Benefits for your mental health through the practice of the "Shoganai" philosophy

  1. Reduce your cortisol hormone: As the hormone responsible for stress, cortisol is produced by our body in "emergency" situations in order to cope with those situations that are out of our routine. Cortisol is as necessary as any other hormone, since it is indispensable for those situations in which we are in real danger. However, its prolonged maintenance can be detrimental to our health, promoting emotional irritability, lack of sense of humor or provoking emotional outbursts of anger or sadness. Beyond this, our quality of sleep or our immune system is weakened by this continuity. In view of this, the practice of the Shoganai philosophy can reduce our reactivity to stress and thus establish a correct regulation of the hormone.
  2. Increase your ability of resilience: Resilience is one of the most important skills when facing the challenges of our life, and is that, bring serenity is also focus your inner energy to listen to you, understand you and especially recompose yourself from those setbacks that assail us without warning. The absence of this ability can cause fear or loss of control to paralyze us, leading us to a state of obsession or rumination of our own thoughts. It is clear that resilience will not make our problems disappear, however, it gives us the ability to see beyond them, to continue and to appreciate the good despite the difficulties.
  3. Improve the stability of your emotions: The Shoganai philosophy leads us to a greater state of consciousness by focusing on the acceptance of the present, that is, to focus our strength on what we really have, in order to be able to modify our reality. This makes emotions that lead us to frustration move away, establishing a greater mental balance and learning to manage those that appear to us with relativity to the facts.
  4. Promotes Self-knowledge: The practice of Shoganai leads us to a state of resignation which brings us to an encounter with our emotions, this encounter from the acceptance gives us a deeper understanding of ourselves and the recognition of where our limits of will are, being more aware of those things that predispose us in that state of alertness. This self-knowledge is a key ability to know how to work in these stressful situations.
  5. Improve your attention span with creativity: Controlling your focus of attention directly improves the quality of your attention. The Shoganai philosophy, not only helps us to establish this control, but, with the acquisition of this, we find new solutions through creativity. This valuable quality, as experts say, is blocked in those situations where there is an overactivation of certain brain areas. When we approach problems from worry or pressure, our brain goes into a "state of alert" trying to solve situations quickly and automatically and therefore limiting our ability to find creative solutions.
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The importance of lifestyle for wellness

Having learned about the many benefits of this innovative philosophy, it is essential to recognize its practical application in order to integrate it as a pillar of our lifestyle. The concept of «shou ga nai» may begin as a simple expression, but it has the power to transform itself into a new way of perceiving life and every circumstance around us. Its adoption is not a passive process, but requires active commitment, willingness and awareness. However, the efforts invested in its practice bring us the peace and mental balance essential to face daily challenges with serenity. Now, I ask you: Are you willing to immerse yourself in the practice of the Shoganai philosophy?

Written by:

Paula Taguas Labrador

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