Naikan as Gratitude on Steroids

Carly Taylor describes Naikan as gratitude on steroids because, through Naikan, people go through every detail in their daily lives and realize that they still have these things to be grateful for, no matter how hard life is.

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Naikan is a deeper level of gratitude

Nick: You could be maybe also the only Australian I know, or maybe the only Australian who diligently practises Naikan every day. So would you like to describe your personal approach to Naikan and the benefits you experienced from doing it?

Carly: So I'm a big journaler, and I've journaled a lot. I've got boxes of journals since I was like six years old. So I just find it is such an important tool for self awareness and reflection. And Naikan, from my experiences, is the most effective journaling technique that I have ever done.

I don't do it on just one person, I will do it on the day in general. And so the three questions if people aren't familiar with it are: what have I received? What have I given? And what troubles and difficulties have I caused? 

And depending on the time that I've got, I normally just do dot points, but I will put as much information as possible. What this does is it really connects you so what have I received, if just say, my husband brought me a cup of tea, I could extend that to because I was sleeping and I'd had a really bad night's sleep.

And so just put some really descriptive words on the whole situation around when you were given this by someone. And I just find it just opens up my awareness of my life and the things that I'm given, the troubles and difficulties that I've caused, not that it is meant to put a guilt trip on me or that I deliberately did anything, but it is a real reflection on the impact that we have on the world around us.

So my son does as well. He's my 12 year old son, he started doing a Naikan each night, he's got his Naikan journal. And we will often sit around the dinner table and we'll do Naikan together. It's just such an effective self reflection exercise.

And it doesn't have to be, as I said, just on one person, and it can be just in general, and a great one to do with the kids.

Nick: Yeah, I noticed you describe it as gratitude on steroids.

Carly: Yes, it is. Because there's a heap of research on gratitude and its positive effects on our mental health. And I think with gratitude, I'm grateful for the sun shining today. I think sometimes we can become a bit desensitised to gratitude, whereas Naikan just goes deeper. Naikan can even go to this level that you would never think of. 

So, if you think of, when you get a plate of food, or when you're cooking, you think about how that food actually got into your kitchen: a farmer had to grow the food, a truck driver had to go and pick it up, somebody put it in the truck, and it was transported to the fruit and veg shop, somebody packed the shells, you came along and put it into a bag.

You got served by somebody hopefully with a smile, and then you took it home and the number of people that you are connected to who you don't even know that were responsible for getting the food on your plate. Like, that's gratitude on steroids.