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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Perks of keeping an orderly life amid restricting times in Japan

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

Recently, the university I work at started to hold online classes and I've had more opportunities to communicate with students. It feels a bit odd seeing faces on a screen and asking them what they have been up to lately, but the students seem very accustomed to it, talking more naturally than when we're in the classroom.

Most students wish for universities to open its doors again, with some saying they want to be able to play tennis soon or that they want to read many books in the library. On the other hand, there are also those who talk about the benefits of staying at home. A student who returned to their hometown to stay with their parents said, "Because my father also works from home, my family ends up eating dinner around 6 and going to sleep at 9 o'clock. My parents too are saying that it's been a while since they've had a healthy daily routine like this."

Indeed, as the time spent commuting to work is no longer needed and overtime work is also generally not necessary, it has become possible for people teleworking to schedule dinner at 6 p.m. and go to sleep at 9 p.m.

Come to think of it, I remember such patterns in daily life were typical when I was a child. During my elementary school years, I would watch TV for a bit with my family after our 6 o'clock dinner, take turns to bathe, and go to sleep soon after. The internet and smartphones did not exist at the time, and my parents would also go to sleep shortly after reading books and magazines for a while.

And then before you knew it, company workers found themselves working overtime until late and arriving home in the middle of the night, especially those who live in the suburbs and have a long commute. The children, of course, had already finished eating dinner, but they had also grown the habit of staying up late while watching videos and playing games on their smartphones and other devices.

I myself am in no position to tell others what to do as I eat and go to bed at different hours each day, and there were times during the day when I'd fall into a deep sleep inside the train after becoming sleepy all of a sudden.

Among such modern-day individuals, there seem to be people that have unexpectedly gone back to a conventional daily schedule of eating dinner at 6 p.m. and sleeping at 9 p.m., as they spend more time at home. I found myself saying to the student who shared this story, "I hope this pattern in your daily life will continue, even after social activities are resumed."

But in reality, I wonder how things will go. Once infections are contained and we can go back to our usual lives, will we lead lives that are busier than ever, as we're finally able to move and work freely? Or, will we try to lead lives with a structured schedule that is healthy for our bodies despite its restrictions on our freedom?

If possible, I would like for you to keep living a life with a regular routine. And for those who don't think they can do so, I would like to advise you to try eating dinner with your family at 6 p.m., even if it's just for now.

(Japanese original by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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