Friday, September 10, 2010

De-stress Japanese Style

Life gets more stressful as you get older, with rises in cost of living, pressures at work, children… It can get overwhelming at times! You really have to take care of yourself. There are lots of ways to de-stress, you can listen to music, go for a run. The Japanese have found unique ways to de-stress themselves and they pay big bucks for these methods.

Water is serene and calming, so being around water naturally de-stresses you. In Japan they take it one step further where people would sleep with fishes to relax themselves. It’s not what you think, people would pay $120 for the Enoshima Aquarium’s overnight relaxation program. The program includes a 45 minute massage session in a dimmed lit room where biofluorescent jellyfish swim along gently to relaxing music. Then people make themselves comfortable in a sleeping bag in front of the aquarium wall and watch the fishes and sea creatures swim around. Ikiko, a 30 year old company manager from Tokyo said “I feel totally relaxed, it’s like I’m floating in the tank with them. Reality feels so far away.”

If you don’t the idea of sleeping with the fishes then you can try animal therapy, where you can rent-a-pet. This service allows people to enjoy canine or feline companionship without the costs or hassle of pet ownership. It is a novel idea and a popular one because the number of rent-a-pet stores has increased dramatically across Japan. This idea could only work in Japan because the living space is small it doesn’t allow people to own pets, so I guess that is why people have embraced the rent-a-pet service. I can’t think of any other country where this idea would work. In Australia, people wouldn’t rent a pet. Another issue is, what happens if people get attached to the? Would it become harder to return the pet to the shop? Could that add stress?

Back to Jellyfish, it seems the Japanese really find Jellyfish very relaxing. Enoshima Aquarium marine biologists say their studies prove that observing the slow movements of jellyfish produces a compound in human saliva associated with human relaxation. Very interesting! What is this compound produced in human saliva that promotes relaxation? I wanted to find out more about their studies and so I went on a literature search, but I couldn’t find their study in any scientific journal. I’m not sure if their studies have been published yet. BUT I did come across an interesting study on jellyfish movement called ‘Calculation Model Of Jellyfish for Simulating the Propulsive Motion and the Pulsation of the Tentacles’. Researchers from The University of Tokyo, proposed a method for doing computational modelling of the jellyfish movement. They generate 3D jellyfish animation of the propulsive motion and pulsation of tentacles. They have some pretty cool graphics of their models in the article. Some interesting facts about Jellyfish, they have very little ability to swim using their own power, therefore they are classified as a plankton. Jellyfish have to move by voluntarily expanding and contracting the circular muscle which is running circularly on the edge of the jellyfish umbrella. The principles of their movement is simple, it contracts and expands. Due to the deformable nature of the jellyfish body, the motion of the whole body is very complex, fascinating and most difficult to model.

Back to de-stressing, they state that watching the slow movement of jellyfishes produces a compound in human saliva that results in relaxation. Well it got me thinking, if I watch the slow movement of grass growing would that result in the same effect of relaxation? During lunch time I stared at some grass and that just made me bored and not relaxed… The argument I am trying to make – is the relaxation effect caused by specifically watching jelly fish? How about a turtle? A snail? A worm? Maybe the scientists can research that next. I’m still curious to find out what compound is produced in human saliva that promotes relaxation. In Japan, they sell jellyfish home kits, where you can put baby jellyfish in a small tank and watch them move around.

In Australia, if you see a jellyfish at the beach you run in the opposite direction because their sting is so so painful! You don’t stare at its slow movement for relaxation. I’m not sure if this method would work for me! Knowing how dangerous jellyfish are – they wouldn’t help me to relax. Watching all their rays move slowly creeps me out. I just see poison, poison! Rather than this graceful water creature gliding in the water like a lava lamp.

Well, I don’t think any of these methods would help me de-stress. I like the idea of sleeping at the aquarium in front of the tank wall. But then… if a shark just swims by, the hairs of my neck would instinctively stand up. So I think I’d better stick to closing my eyes and listening to mellow music to de-stress. And occasionally eat a tub of ice cream =D

Reference: Washington Post

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