Naikan: The Japanese Art Of Self-Reflection

By Wild Ginger

Naikan: The Japanese Art Of Self-Reflection

March 1st, 2022 at 9:22 am

Ask yourself these 3 questions


Does self-reflection feel like a chore? Many of us struggle to slow down and take time to reflect on our fast-paced lives. Some of us find it difficult to sit with our thoughts and feelings, thus avoiding self-reflection. Whatever the reason, going through the motions will only leave us feeling stuck and stagnant. We need to pause and reflect on our emotions and behaviours in order to move forward in life.


What Is Naikan

There’s a structured method of self-reflection called Naikan, which is Japanese for introspection. Instead of adding to your overwhelming to-do list, it focuses on three questions that you can still practice daily with a packed schedule. Developed in the 1940s by Ishin Yoshimoto, a Japanese Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, Naikan has helped many people understand themselves and their relationships better. It is even used in mental health counselling, and in rehabilitation of prisoners.


How To Practice Naikan

Naikan is based on receiving, giving and hurting. By being more aware of how our actions affect others, it develops a natural drive to be kinder and give more. Helping others is crucial to creating the sense of meaning we’re all seeking. At the end of each day, take 20-30 minutes to ask yourself these questions:

  1. “What have I received?” – Practice gratitude by listing down everything you’ve received that day. Let it serve as a reminder that you are supported and cared for.
  2. “What have I given?” – Deepen your sense of connection by listing down everything you’ve given that day. Giving can make our lives feel more meaningful.
  3. “What problems have I caused?” – Learn from your mistakes by listing down the difficulties you caused that day. This opens us to learning and change.


Naikan broadens our perspective to see beyond ourselves. By seeing how others have helped us, it inspires us to engage in more positive behaviours, such as helping others and bettering ourselves, to pay back the people who have supported us along the way.

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