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How to Choose the Best Meditation on Insight Timer in 2022

You may have done some research to find the best free meditation app and decided to give Insight Timer a try.

But where should you start?

How can you find the best insight timer meditations?

I was in the same place a month ago. I finished a yearly subscription of a paid guided meditation app called SBT (Stop, Breathe, Think) recently and I switched to Insight Timer.

At first, I was skeptical that a free app like Insight Timer could provide the same value as a paid guided meditation tool. So I decided to try some popular meditations to see if it’s worth continuing trying meditating on this app.

Ready to learn about the best guided sessions on this app?

Yes!

In this blog post, you will learn not only the best meditations, but I will also share how to pick the meditation that best suits your mood and purpose.

Alright, let’s do this!


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Why did I choose Insight Timer over a paid guided meditation app?

I started meditating as a daily habit a year ago, and I started using an app called SBT (Stop, Breathe, Think – previously MyLife). When it was time for my subscription to renew, I looked for reviews for many different apps including free apps and paid apps.

I tried:

  • Smiling Mind (Free)
  • Sattva Meditations & Mantras (Free Trial)
  • Oak – Meditation & Breathing (Free)
  • Lumosty Mind- Meditation App (Free)
  • Waking Up: Guided Meditation (Free trial)
  • Calm (Free trial)
  • UCLA Mindful (Free)

Most paid apps cost somewhere between $50-100 a year, and I started to doubt about spending some money on guided meditations. It took me a month to finally find an app I liked and that was Insight Timer. I knew about insight timer for a while, but I had an impression that there were too many guided meditations on this app and it could be overwhelming.

So why did I change my mind?

While I was exploring guided meditations on this app, I found out that there are so many mindfulness experts including people who have PhDs and MDs. Also, because there are so many choices, it was refreshing for me and it got me excited to try different meditations every morning!

Are you ready to find the best meditations that could change your life?

Let’s take a look!

Best guided meditation on Insight Timer app

Morning

best morning guided meditation on insight timer

Buddha Morning Meditation by Jonathan Lehmann (12 min)

Sometimes, if we have a bad day we carry our mood to the next day, or we feel like will never feel better again. This track is perfect if you want to have a fresh start no matter what happened yesterday.

Buddha says ,

“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most”.

I was so inspired to hear this quote from Jonathan. We can’t go back in time and change things, but we become a new person every morning and we can always do better.

Jonathan will introduce you seven affirmations in this track, and he will help you have hope when starting your day.

Morning Intentions by Lauren Lee (12 min)

Do you set intentions for the morning? If you feel like you’re on autopilot and things keep piling up, this might be the perfect meditation for you.

When you set an intention in the morning, for example, “I will do some quick slow breathing before jumping on to my next task”, you may feel more relaxed and calm at the end of the day. If you are not sure how to set intentions for the day, you can check out this article by LifeHack 🙂

Setting a tone for the day is useful especially if you want to be less stressed at the end of the day!

Manifestation meditation by Meredith Rom (6 min)

Do you have a dream you want to reach but it feels like you will never get there? Or you can’t quite believe that it’s possible you can do it?

What you need may be to start visualizing your goal more strongly everyday. When you practice manifestation meditation, you can create new neurons (the information messengers in your brain) and you can strengthen the connections with other neurons (this is called neuroplasticity).

According to a study, your brain can’t tell a difference between a memory and a vision of future, so practicing manifestation meditation urges your brain to work more efficiently towards your dream!


Short Guided Meditation

the best short guided meditation on insight timer

3 Minutes To Calm by Amanda Sellers (3 min)

You may not always have 10 minutes or more before you start working and you may want a short and sweet meditation to feel calm.

Amanda, the meditation instructor is a voice actor based in Vancouver, and her voice is so calm! She can help you let go of your worries and feel gratitude and joy in your life in just three minutes!

Working With Anxiety with Jud Brewer, MD PhD (4 min)

Have you ever noticed your racing mind or difficulty breathing when you are anxious?

This is a perfectly normal reaction to anxiety because anxiety can set off the “fight or flight” response in your body and cause these stressful bodily sensations.

I used to struggle with general anxiety disorder and daily meditation has helped me a lot. This guided body scan meditation helps you become more aware of your emotions, so the next time you feel anxious, you can recognize your anxiety and take action!

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Short Afternoon Work Break

Workday Break: Less Stress & Better Focus In Five Minutes

If you feel too worked up and overwhelmed in the afternoon during weekdays, you may want to try giving yourself a short break!

You may not have 30 minutes to take a break but I’m sure you can spare five minutes! This track is focused on using breathing techniques to help you focus on the present moment. Taking a short meditation break can be surprisingly helpful!

Any recommendations for sleep meditations on Insight Timer?

Actually, I don’t use Insight Timer for sleep. Why is that?

I used to use a guided meditation app to fall asleep, but I realized that it was making it even more difficult to sleep because I kept scrolling through my phone after the meditation had finished. Sometimes I fell asleep right after the guided meditation, but I didn’t like the idea of keeping my phone so close to me while I was asleep.

Did you know smartphones omit blue light? You may have heard many experts saying “Avoid smartphone use before bedtime”. This is because blue light can suppress sleep hormone production, making it more difficult to sleep.

So, I started using searching for screen-free meditation devices and I bought a meditation gadget called Morphee. I’ve been using this meditation device for a month now, and I have been falling asleep faster thanks to Morphee!

How can I find the guided meditations I like?

There are so many tracks on Insight Timer and it can look overwhelming, but this app actually has a nice sorting system for you.

I can usually find great guided meditations by selecting “Highest Rated” on the “Sort” button. It’s most likely that you can get best guided meditation tracks on the Insight Timer if you select a range of 4.6-5.0 stars.

Also, if you find a meditation teacher you like, you can follow the person and explore more of their tracks too! The cool thing about this app is that you can participate in live events for free as well. In this way, it can help you learn more about mindfulness and incorporating it into your daily life.

  1. Open Insight Timer and click the search bar

2. Type in the kind of meditation you are looking for

3. Select the length of the meditation

4. You can select if you want only female voice or male voice

5. You can sort out the meditations from “Sort”

6. Now you can view your suggested meditation tracks!


Can I Download Meditations from Insight Timer?

Yes, you CAN download the tracks if you have a paid membership which is $59.99 (USD) a year. If you become a paid member, you can take unlimited courses and use offline listening. If you are interested, take a look at this link for more information 🙂

Your Guide to Non-Toxic Living (+4 DIY Toxin-Free Recipes)

For some time now, detoxification has been developing into a big trend in the wellness world. But it’s more than a fad, non-toxic living is a mindset with which you approach life.

It all starts with being aware of the products we use in our homes and bodies. 

Sadly, we fill them with a lot of products that are toxic. 

And the worst part is that often these harmful toxins are invisible. Yet, they have a great negative impact on our health.

What can you do about it?

Start by getting educated and take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Lao Tzu

In this article, we’ll guide you towards taking that first (or second) step toward non-toxic living.

Ready to dive in?

Yes! Let’s do this! 

Haruka Writes is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. Read the full privacy policy here. Thank you for helping me run this blog Ad free!

What is non-toxic living?

Non-toxic living, also referred to as non-toxin living or toxin-free living, is about minimizing your exposure to and consumption of harmful chemicals. 

First, let’s start by understanding what a toxin is.

Toxins are synthesized substances that are poisonous (toxic) to humans. Some well-known toxins include asbestos, benzene, arsenic, and chloroform. These toxins are found in many everyday items, like household cleaning products, makeup, and foods.

Exposure to these chemicals is linked with an array of illnesses, including asthma, anemia, asbestosis, and cancer.

But is it possible to live without chemicals?

While it might not be possible to live completely chemical-free, it’s definitely possible to minimize our exposure to them with some simple lifestyle changes.

If you’re at the start of your non-toxic living journey – first of all, congratulations! Keep in mind that you should start small because it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. You don’t need to banish all toxins from your life at once.

Start by making a few lifestyle changes, and as you learn more, continue to stack on your new, healthier habits. 

The importance of a toxic-free lifestyle

importance of non toxic living

We’ve established that many of the products we use in our daily life can harm us. But how harmful can they be?

Here are 5 reasons you should consider toxic-free living.

1. Protect your gut health

Our gut refers to the digestive tract. And a healthy gut is the foundation of our overall health and wellbeing. There are over 100 trillion microbial cells in the gut, and they are responsible for the proper functioning of our immune system, metabolism, psychological condition, and nutrition.

So, having good gut health simply means having a balance between good and bad microbial cells. 

Studies show that many toxins can mess up our gut microbiome, including chemical pesticides, food additives, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

An imbalanced gut will wreak havoc on the body, which can lead to gastrointestinal conditions such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and can also cause autoimmune diseases.

Non-toxic living reduces the risk of ingesting or being exposed to toxins that can mess with your gut health. 

2. Strengthen the immune system

Exposure to environmental toxins can not only affect your reproductive, nervous, and respiratory system, but also that of future generations, leading to a weakening of the immune system that can pass through generations. 

Toxic chemical exposure is also linked with chronic inflammation and impairment of the immune system, also known as Immunotoxicity. And as we touch upon on the previous point, a gut health imbalance caused by toxin exposure can also cause the development of autoimmune disorders

So, toxic-free living not only helps protect your immune system, but also the immune system of future generations.

3. Reduce the risk of developing cancer

There are more than 60 carcinogenic chemical substances. This is the number that we know so far. We can find these harmful toxins in our food, water, and everyday household and personal care products. 

For instance, paraben is widely used as an artificial preservative in shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants, makeup, and many other everyday products.

Several studies have linked parabens with an increased risk of developing breast and prostate cancer. Yet, paraben is only one of the 60 carcinogens that we are exposed to every day.

What’s more, kids are more susceptible to experiencing the negative effects of harmful chemical exposure. According to research, there is a link between exposure to pesticides during early childhood and during pregnancy with a higher risk of developing childhood cancers.

But by adopting a toxic-free lifestyle, you can reduce your exposure to many carcinogens, and as such, reduce the risk of developing cancer as well as protect the young ones.

4. Live a healthier, more energetic lifestyle

For one, your gut is the main organ that aids the absorption of nutrients that fuel the body with energy. A healthy gut and a strong immune system will lower the risk of you getting sick. 

Ultimately, reducing exposure to toxic chemicals will lead to you feeling healthier and more energetic. 

5. Protect the environment and the future of the planet

All the toxins found in products, water, or food, eventually end up in our rivers, seas, or landfills. Pollution from toxic substances is a growing threat to nature, affecting wildlife, and natural resources, and coming back to affect our health and the future of the planet. 

Therefore, a non-toxic lifestyle is not only good for you and your loved ones; it is also good for the environment. 

Being a health-conscious consumer will influence governments to pass new regulations on the use of toxins and push companies to produce toxin-free products

Now you know why non-toxic living is important for your health and the environment, but you’re not sure where to start? Continue reading to find out how to embark on your toxic-free journey.

5 steps to start your non-toxic lifestyle

Transitioning to a non-toxic home can seem like an overwhelming task at first. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide with 5 practical steps to aid your toxin-free journey

1. Eat more organic, non-processed food

organic fruits

When embarking on your non-toxic living journey, it’s good to start with what you directly put in your body. As we said above, ingestible toxins can wreak havoc on your gut health.

Organic food is food grown without the use of synthetic chemicals, including pesticides. Therefore, eating organic food will reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

In fact, according to a 2018 study, consumption of organic food is linked with a reduced risk of developing cancer.

Meanwhile, processed foods are full of harmful artificial additives a.k.a. Toxins. Simply put, non-processed food, also known as whole food, is food that has undergone little to no change of its natural state. 

My tips:

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    2. Create a toxic-free kitchen

    Think about the cookware and food storage containers you use. Did you know that almost all of them are coated in toxic material?

    For instance, non-stick pans and pots are coated in a material known as Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene). While not harmful in itself, when this non-stick material reaches a temperature above 500°F (260°C), it releases toxic fumes that end up in the air and in your food. And several studies have found a link between this material and cancer, infertility issues, and lung diseases.

    Moreover, tupperwares are another kitchen essential that may contain harmful toxins such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bisphenol S (BPS) which can leach into your food. These plastics have been found to act as estrogens, causing many adverse health issues.

    What’s more, the study found that even the plastic containers that were being advertised as free of BPA or free of estrogenic activity had detectable traces of estrogen. And as such, are toxic.

    My tips: 

    • If you’re looking for a non-stick pan, consider purchasing these non-toxic alternatives such as ceramic, stainless steel, or cast-iron pans instead of a Teflon-coated pan.
    a non toxic stainless steel pan
    My stainless steel pan
    two non toxic food glass containers
    The food glass containers I use

    3. Use safe cleaning products 

    Cleaning products are some of the most toxic items one can find in most homes. Most of these products contain harmful synthetic substances such as bleach, ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, or chemical fragrances.

    The solution: turn to non-toxic cleaning products. 

    You may think non-toxic cleaning products don’t do a good job, but they clean as well as normal cleaning products.

    My tips:

    • Turn to sustainable, transparent and non-toxic brands such as the Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer, and Attitude. These brands make use of natural ingredients which will protect your homes, health, and the environment from the hazards of toxin exposure. You can also search for other non-toxic cleaning products from this non-profit environmental working group
    • Buy non-toxic laundry detergent and fabric softeners. I’ve been using Seventh Generation detergent and softener for over half a year now. I love the smell of the lavender softener. The smell isn’t too strong and it gets rid of the odor from outfits perfectly. 
    One bottle of the Seventh Generation fabric softener and one bottle of the Seventh Generation laundry detergent
    My Seventh Generation fabric softener and laundry detergent
    • I’ve tried several non-toxic dish soaps, but Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap is a clear winner for me. This non-toxic dish soap creates a good amount of foam and it easily washes oily stuff pretty well. I usually buy a big bottle and refill it when it runs out. Another thing I like about the Mrs. Meyer soap is that the smell isn’t too strong. Sometimes, normal dish soaps have a strong smell that lingers on my water bottle, making the water taste like soap. I don’t have this problem with the Mrs. Meyer soap.
    non toxic bottle of refillable Mrs. Meyer's dish soap
    My refillable Mrs. Meyer bottle of dish soap
    One bottle of Attitude floor surface cleaner and one bottle of the Attitude bathroom cleaner
    My floor surface and bathroom cleaner from Attitude
    • And if you’re looking for a safe bleach product, I’d recommend purchasing this non-chlorine bleach from Ecover.
    • When possible, opt for making your own cleaning products using natural and safe ingredients. Check out my easy-to-make DIY surface cleaner recipe below.

    DIY Surface cleaner recipe

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup of distilled/filtered water
    • 1 cup of vinegar (any vinegar)
    • 20 drops of tea tree oil
    • 20 drops of essential lemon oil

    A word of caution: if you have pets, essential oils can be toxic to them if not properly diluted. So, it might be best if you leave them out of this recipe. After all, their function is to provide a nice smell and it doesn’t affect the cleaning properties of this DIY surface cleaner.
    Instructions

    1. Prepare a spray bottle 
    2. Fill the bottle with 1 cup of  filtered water and vinegar 
    3. Add tea tree oil and essential lemon oil 
    4. Shake them all together

    4. Use non-toxic personal care and beauty products

    Commercial personal care products such as shampoos, deodorants, and body creams are full of toxic ingredients including parabens and artificial fragrances. 

    Here are some of my favorite personal care products that are effective and safe to use.

    My tips:

    • I’ve always used non-toxic shampoo and conditioner but I wasn’t always happy with how my hair looked and felt. However, Attitude’s shampoo and conditioner have been a game-changer. My hair is healthier and smoother since I started using them. If you want to be even more cost-effective, you can buy refills for shampoo
    non toxic shampoo and conditioner bottles from Attitude brand
    These non-toxic shampoo and conditioner by Attitude are so good for my hair
    • After I dry my hair, I use Japanese Camellia oil every night. My hair felt so dry after I moved to Canada, due to a different climate, but since I started using the Camellia oil, my hair is really healthy even though I bleached my hair a year ago. I met the owner of the Camellia oil company at a farmer’s market half a year ago, and I have loved her product ever since! 
    • Japanese Camellia also sells amazing Japanese bath bombs and hand soap too so check out their store!
    My non-toxic hand soap and the Camellia hair oil
    • Another category of personal care products you should pay attention to is beauty products. This includes everything from hair dye to makeup and nail polish. Always read the label before purchasing these types of products and opt for brands that work with natural ingredients only. This website can help you find non-toxic skincare products and cosmetics.
    • And when it comes to your nails, give nail stickers a try instead of using nail polish or gels.  There are so many amazon nail stickers you can find online or on sites like Etsy.
    • Try making your own DIY non-toxic products! It can be super easy and fun too.
      • I tried to make scented candles myself in the past, but I couldn’t find non-toxic wax, so I gave up. Soy candles tend to be cheaper than beeswax candles. I love this soy candle from iHerb. This candle comes in four scents: Abundance, Healing, Money, and Positive Energy. Personally, I love Abundance. 


    DIY Deodorant spray recipe 

    I started making deodorant spray because I couldn’t find the products I would normally use in Japan. Therefore, I looked up DIY deodorant spray and it wasn’t difficult to make at all! My partner sweats a lot and I spray our bed and blanket every day to keep them smelling good. All I need to do is to mix essential oils and water, how easy is that?!

    Ingredients

    • 20 drops of tea tree oil
    • 10 drops of lavender oil
    • Filtered water

    Instructions

    1. Prepare a spray bottle 
    2. Fill the bottle with filtered water 
    3. Add 20 drops of tea tree oil and 10 drops of lavender oil
    4. Mix them all together in a bottle 


    DIY Hand & body cream recipe

    I started making hand and body creams myself this winter because I realized non-toxic body and hand creams can be so expensive! I made one jar of body and hand cream and I still have lots. Plus it’s so easy to make.

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
    • 1 cup of shea butter
    • Any essential oil you like

    Instructions

    1. Put shea butter and coconut oil in a small pot, and let it melt on low heat.
    2. Take the pot off the stove and add any essential oils you like. Add around 40 drops.
    3. Mix everything together with a whisk.
    4. Let it solidify in the fridge for a couple of hours.
    5. Whip it up with a whisk.
    6. Put the body butter in a jar

    DIY Bath salt recipe 

    I always make bath salt myself because it’s super easy to make and it’s a lot cheaper than buying some, especially when we are talking about non-toxic bath salts. You only need four ingredients for this DIY bath salt recipe!

    Ingredients

    • A cup of Epsom salt
    • A cup of Himalayan pink salt
    • 1 tsp of baking powder
    • 20 drops of any essential oil you like

    Instructions

    1. Add the Epsom salt and pink salt to a bowl 
    2. Add 20 drops of any essential oil you like (you can add more if you prefer a strong scent) 
    3. Mix them all together 
    4. Add the baking powder 
    5. Mix everything together and store in a glass jar 

    5. Pay attention to your drinking water and air quality 

    Your drinking water and the air you breathe are an important part of non-toxic living.

    Nowadays you might see many terms going around such as purified, distilled, or remineralized water to name a few. They all sound very healthy, but alas, confusing.

    The good news is that you don’t need to get into it all. The most important thing to know is that you should opt for spring water (I’ll get more into the why below).

    And when it comes to air quality, you need to be aware of the inside pollutants, how to avoid them, and how to detoxify your house.

    My tips:

    • Opt for spring water! Now I’ll tell you why this is the only label that matters on your bottled water. Spring water, also known as natural mineral water, is filled with a significant amount of natural minerals like magnesium and calcium that have many health benefits. 
    • When possible, store your water in glass bottles. Plastic bottles are often filled with toxic chemicals that will leech into the water and make their way inside your body. Or carry your water in this BPA-free bottle
    • Get your water tested. Tap water can happen to be contaminated with harmful chemicals such as lead that can cause serious health problems. Getting your water tested will help ensure that your water is safe to drink. You can easily test your water quality yourself with an at-home water test kit.
    • Another way to ensure that your water is free of toxic chemicals is to use a water cartridge or a water purifier. A water cartridge or a filter serves to remove waterborne contaminants. Meanwhile, water purifiers not only remove harmful contaminants but can also improve the taste and smell of water. I personally use this large filtered water dispenser
    a large filtered water dispenser
    The filtered water dispenser I use
    • To purify your air at home you can use an air filter/purifier. These air purifiers can eliminate toxic chemicals as well as unpleasant odors in your inside environment.
    • Another natural way to improve your home’s air quality is to have house plants. And some plants are better than others when it comes to removing toxins. Some of the plants that will improve your indoor air quality, as recommended by the NASA Indoor Air Pollution study, are: Peace Lily, Philodendron, Rubber plants, Areca palms, Ficus, Snake plant, Aloe Vera, English Ivy, and Chinese Evergreen. 
    Different types of indoor plants on a shelf

    Final thoughts

    Ultimately, non-toxic living is about being a health-conscious consumer. That is, choosing to use products for your home and your body that do not contain harmful chemicals. As a bonus, when more of us choose to become more conscious consumers, we’re also signaling to the market the need for producing safer products

    In this guide, we’ve shared some practical tips on how you can embark on this journey.

    However, you don’t have to stress about implementing all these tips overnight. After all, stress is also bad for your health!

    Remember, every step you take towards non-toxic living is one step closer to living a healthier life. At the end of the day, all the small steps will add up.

    What made you consider toxic-free living? What are some tips that have helped you avoid or reduce your exposure to toxins? I’d love to hear about your non-toxic living journey!

    Holistic lifestyle for beginners: 10 tips for optimal health and happiness

    You know it’s time for a change but are not sure where to start?

    Or maybe you’ve tried the mainstream wellness tips such as doing yoga or adding superfoods to your diet and are still not seeing the desired results. 

    The thing is, you can’t try to improve your life by focusing on separate aspects of it. You must look at the big picture. 

    That’s where leading a holistic lifestyle comes in!

    Rather than journeying down the rabbit hole of wellness, my guide on how to live a holistic lifestyle for optimal health and happiness will provide you with everything you need to get started on your journey.
     

    Haruka Writes is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. Read the full privacy policy here. Thank you for helping me run this blog Ad free!

    What is a holistic lifestyle?

    First, let’s start by defining what the word ‘HOLISTIC’ means.

    According to the Cambridge Dictionary:

    /həʊˈlɪstɪk,hɒˈlɪstɪk/

    Considering a whole thing or being to be more than a collection of parts

    E.g. a holistic approach to life

    For instance, you can’t lead a healthy lifestyle by only focusing on eating well. That’s only one aspect of health. Sure, it helps. You can eat a superfood-rich diet, but if you have a job that makes you miserable, superfoods won’t be contributing as much to your overall health and happiness. 

    There are other aspects to life, such as mental, physical, and spiritual health, work, and relationships. They’re all connected. 

    These key aspects work in harmony to complete you as a whole person.

    The keyword is harmony. This harmony is achieved by looking at your life from a holistic point of view – by looking at the bigger picture.

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    Aristotle

    So living a holistic lifestyle means approaching life as a whole. It means taking care of your whole being. 

    5 Dimensions of a Holistic Lifestyle

    In practice, you can take a holistic approach to life by addressing all its key aspects, together. These key life aspects are also known as the 5 Dimensions of Holistic Living/Health.

    1. Physical health

    Physical health is the most commonly referred to health dimension when people think about health. That’s because this dimension seems to be the most tangible one. After all, it’s the physical body that often shows symptoms that something is not right. 

    Taking care of your body involves things such as exercising, staying hydrated, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and sleeping well. 

    2. Mental and emotional health

    While some might consider these two different dimensions, mental and emotional health are closely intertwined because mental health is actually an expression of emotional health. Our brain reacts to our emotions. Learning how to consciously manage your emotions can greatly reduce your levels of anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to achieve this.

    3. Social health

    Humans by nature are a social species. You’ve probably heard this before. This means that having healthy relationships and genuine connections is crucial for our well-being. Social health is so important that according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, forming social connections can help lower anxiety and depression while boosting our immune system.

    This doesn’t mean that everyone should be an extrovert. It’s not about the number of connections you build as much as it is about the quality of those connections.

    4. Spiritual health

    Some people might confuse spirituality with religion or faith. And while there are those who find spirituality in religion, they are two different things. Everyone can be a spiritual person. Being spiritual relates to our sense of purpose in life, our connection to nature, community, and to something bigger than ourselves. A couple easy ways to foster your spiritual well-being are to volunteer in your community and practice gratitude.

    5. Occupational health

    Work is part of life. And while you don’t necessarily need to love what you do, your job shouldn’t make you feel miserable to the point where you dread waking up in the morning. 

    That’s why it’s important to do a job that allows you to lead the life you wish while feeling rewarded for your efforts. And if you’re part of a toxic work environment, know that you can and should take steps to change your situation.

    If you’d like to dive deeper into the 5 Dimensions of a Holistic Lifestyle, check our guide with practical tips on how to make your health super simple with the 5 Dimensions of Holistic Health.

    The importance and benefits of a holistic lifestyle

    Benefits of a holistic lifestyle

    Did you know that experiencing high levels of work stress can lead to gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, isolation, depression, and even aggression? 

    If you experience any of the above symptoms and go to a traditional doctor, you’ll probably be sent home with a drug that will help you ease the physical pain. While conventional medicine might provide some temporary relief, the symptoms will continue to manifest, be it physically or mentally until you address the root cause of your problem.

    And that’s the importance of holistic living – having the awareness to look at your health and wellness from a higher perspective. 

    When you are aware of all the dimensions that contribute to your general wellbeing and their connectedness, you will be able to live in an optimal state of health and happiness.

    It all sounds good in theory, but what practical steps can you take today to start living a holistic lifestyle?

    That’s what we’ll explore in the next section!

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      10 tips to living a holistic lifestyle

      These 10 practical tips aim to help you practice holistic living and take control of your own life.

      1. Work in a meaningful job that you enjoy

      do meaningful work

      Do you love your job?

      Not really?

      You’re not alone.

      A global poll of full-time workers found that 85% were dissatisfied with their jobs. That’s a LOT of unhappy workers.  

      A big part of living a holistic lifestyle is doing work that is meaningful to you. This can be next to impossible if you’re stressed and unhappy at work, which is somewhere you spend a third of your day if you’re a full-time employee.

      Let’s be realistic – you don’t have to love every minute of your job.

      Work is work, after all. But you should have some love for what you do, whether it be enjoying the process of your day-to-day activities, or the satisfaction you get from the outcome of those activities. While some stress on the job is normal, you shouldn’t feel stressed out all the time – it’s bad for your mental and physical health.

      My previous career was not right for me and caused a lot of unnecessary stress.

      I worked as a software engineer for a start-up and just hated it. Every morning I’d wake up hoping the day would pass quickly. I constantly worried about my CEO calling me after hours (which he often did, because he had no sense of boundaries) to say mean things.

      As a result, I was always anxious and thinking about work, and never felt rested.

      A stressful job can be detrimental to your holistic health

      Since changing to a more meaningful career (as a holistic health blogger), I’m a lot less stressed. I also get more satisfaction from working hard to achieve my goals and continuing my holistic living.

      My tips:

      • If you love the type of work you do, but not who you do it for: look for another job. You might think you can’t find a better place to work, but you might be what’s blocking your mind (this is called neuroplasticity). You deserve to find an employer that treats you well. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile, start networking and ask your friends if they know of any good opportunities! 
      • If the thought of changing employers doesn’t make you any happier, then maybe you just don’t love what you do for a living. The good news is that it’s never too late to change careers.
      • If you are interested in holistic wellness like me, you can check out the health coaching school I’m currently attending. After graduation, you can become a self-employed health coach or work at a local clinic to help patients find the root cause of their health problems.

      2. Build a healthy relationship with your finances

      Build your financial health

      Does your heart skip a beat every time you log into your banking app? 

      Do you count down the minutes until payday?

      Are you obsessed with every dollar that you spend, no matter how much money you have in the bank?

      If you answered YES to any of these questions, then it’s time for you to start building a better relationship with your finances.

      Also known as financial wellness, this is not about having buckets of money to throw around. In fact, you can live a simple life and be happy without increasing your income.

      Financial wellness is about being on top of your financial situation, living within your means, and creating financial confidence.   

      When I started university, I never paid attention to how much I spent and quickly ended up with $10,000 in debt on my credit card. I also used my parents’ credit card on Amazon and I was almost cut off from my family. And then when it came time to buy essentials, I’d be paralyzed in a supermarket aisle, agonizing over whether I should buy a 30-cent vegetable or not.

      Financial stress can be detrimental to your holistic health

      Money can cause crippling stress, but it doesn’t have to.

      Rather than constantly worrying about money, try thinking of managing your finances as self-care. This can completely change your mindset and encourage holistic living.  

      After realizing my bad relationship with finances was affecting my holistic health, I set out to be responsible with my money and not ignore my responsibilities.  

      It took time, education, and commitment, but I got there. And so can you!

      My tips:

      • If you want to reduce stress around finance, listen to this podcast episode on joy-based spending by Manisha Thakor,  Founder and CEO of MoneyZen Wealth Management. Manisha’s approach is to focus on joyful spending – look at your finances and see if your spending is bringing you real joy or not.
      • Learn how to budget. Budgeting is a key skill when it comes to building financial health. It will take a lot of stress off your daily relationship with money. Once you’ve worked out a budget, you only need to take a few minutes each day to make sure you’re not overspending.
      • If you’re struggling to cope with financial stress, consider turning to financial support networks for additional help.

      3. Pay attention to your physical activity

      Get active

      Do you find it hard to squeeze in an hour-long workout each day?

      No problem!

      You don’t need a gym membership or an extreme fitness routine to get the benefits of exercise. In fact, according to Harvard Health, you may not need as much exercise as you think.

      When it comes to your holistic wellness, it’s better to be active throughout the day, each day, rather than be inactive most days and hit the gym twice a week.

      I was a perfectionist, so if I ever missed the gym, I was very hard on myself.

      I felt like I ruined my fitness, which affected my mental health, and led to binge eating until I gained 25lbs. Since I recovered from my binge eating disorder, I decided to work out at home. This was a gentler routine for me, as I didn’t have to psyche myself up to visit the gym. At home, I can also focus on exercises that are best for me.  

      Try at home workout sessions as part of your holistic lifestyle

      My tips:

      • Commit to an exercise routine that fits with your goals. As stated by Harvard Health, your workouts would and should look different if you were to exercise for health, work, competition, or recreation. If the general health is your goal and you don’t enjoy working out, try walking to the supermarket instead of taking the bus. Or instead of taking an elevator, make walking up the stairs part of your holistic lifestyle.  
      • If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of a workout but don’t have a lot of time – you might also benefit from exercising at home. I usually do a 10-20 minute Pilates or dumbbell workout, doing a separate exercise for each part of my body (e.g. 20-minutes upper body on Monday, lower body Wednesday, 10 minutes abs Thursday, the upper body again on Saturday). When you do a dumbbell workout, start with lighter weights and pay attention to your form. If you are not confident with your exercise form, you can always work with a personal trainer as a part of your holistic living routine.
      • New to Pilates? Try these easy workout videos:
      • Home dumbbell workout I recommend:

      4. Connect with your environment (home & neighbourhood)

      connect with your home

      Home is where the heart is!

      But is yours cluttered and full of toxic products? 

      Or do you live in a neighborhood that’s not so friendly?

      You don’t have to be a neat freak or live in a trendy, upmarket suburb to be happy at home. But you need to be mindful of your surroundings. 

      It’s hard to find time to wash up dishes when you’re busy or put laundry away when you’re tired.

      These days, we all have a lot of stuff, so the clutter piles up. This is not good for your holistic health, as it can be distracting and cause you anxiety.

      What’s more, a lot of stuff we have in our homes is toxic. That is, our homes are filled with products containing chemicals that are harmful to our health. Just think about your air freshener that contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogenic. 

      Likewise, you will not be at ease if you live in a neighborhood where it’s not safe for you to walk around. This may cause you to spend more time inside than you want, and you might find getting out and about stressful.  

      connect with your neighborhood

      My tips: 

      • Decluttering your home makes it easier to keep it tidy. You can start with some simple changes like:
        • Pick your clothes up off the floor
        • Fold and put your outside clothes away as soon as you get undressed
        • Wash the dishes or stack the dishwasher daily/after each meal
        • Spare 10-20 minutes to clean either before going to bed or as soon as you wake up
      • Learn home Fung Shui to create a place that brings you luck and more energy
      • Start living a toxin-free life. We’ve made a guide to get you started!
      • If you’re not comfortable in your neighborhood, it might be time to move. If you are looking at a new neighborhood to move to, check out the “Walkability” in the neighborhood first, to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your physical health needs.

      5. Invest in healthy relationships

      cultivate healthy relationships for an holistic lifestlye

      Do the important people in your life bring you joy?

      Well, they should!

      Studies have shown that being in supportive relationships contributes to our health and wellbeing by giving us a sense of belonging, a feeling of self-worth, and a sense of security.

      If you’re spending time with people who stress you out or exhaust you, you’re going to end up absorbing their negative emotions.

      Building positive relationships with your loved ones can be easier than you think!

      My tip:

      • If you have friends or family who get you down, reduce the time you spend with them. Instead, put your energy into those people you have healthy relationships with to promote holistic living.


      What about my romantic partner?

      cultivalte healthy romantic relationships

      It’s hard to get away from negativity when it’s coming from the person you’re in a romantic relationship with.

      My tips:

      • If you feel like your partner is not sparing time to listen to you but is rather being occupied with work or social media, you both may benefit from turning off your devices for a while. Instead, spend 10-15 minutes focusing on, and listening to, each other.
      • If you feel like your relationship is struggling, try sharing “3 things I appreciate about you” once a day. I started doing this with my boyfriend, and it’s helped us focus on what we love about each other. And remember, if you try everything but you still feel like your relationship isn’t working out, you might benefit from couple’s therapy. 
      • And if you tried to make it work but you and your partner seem to bring the worst out in each other, it’s important to know when to let go.

      6. Get creative

      get creative

      How often do you use your imagination?

      While you’re busy working, being healthy, having good relationships, and looking after yourself, it’s easy to forget one pillar of holistic living: creativity.

      Why is creativity important?

      Without our imaginations, we run on autopilot. This can lead to a serious lack of problem-solving or a reluctance to try new things. We become less resilient if (and when) life changes. Being creative helps reduce stress, boosts your immune system, and combats loneliness. 

      When you think about creativity, you’re probably wondering if you need to dig deep for some hidden artistic talent inside of you. But guess what?

      ANYONE can be creative!  It’s easier than you think.

      My tip:

      • If you’re stuck on how to get those creative juices flowing, check out my easy-to-follow ideas for creativity. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pick up a paintbrush (unless you want to).

      7. Put yourself out there

      Build social connections

      Does it often feel challenging to put yourself out there in social situations?

      Depending on what’s been going on in your life, you might not feel ready to socialize. Even if this is true, you might be surprised by the impact being social could have on you.

      One result of the worldwide pandemic was that the rates of loneliness are higher than ever before. People who experience loneliness are more prone to anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior. In fact, loneliness poses the same risk to your health as heart disease.

      On the flip side, studies have found that strong social connections can boost your immune system, help you recover from diseases, and even increase your chance of longevity.

      My tips:

      • If you’re lonely, try reaching out to your loved ones or joining a community or social group to make new friends. It’s easier than you think. You’re not just helping yourself, you’re also making connections with other people who might be lonely. 
      • Invite your friends and cook together! I often invite my friends and cook something delicious. It’s fun and food will bring you and your friends closer. It’s also easier than preparing everything by yourself!
      • Join meetup events to connect with people who share your interest. At first, I was skeptical of this idea and super nervous to join, but I ended up making two new friends at the first meeting!

      8. Upskill yourself

      commit to learning new things

      Do you like to learn new things?

      Education doesn’t just benefit your career, it’s an important part of a holistic lifestyle.

      Research shows that education polishes our minds, reinforces our thoughts, and strengthens our character and behavior toward others. It doesn’t matter if you’re already finished school or college. You’re never too old to get an education (the oldest university graduate was 95, and lived until she was 105!).

      If committing to university seems like a lot of time and money, don’t let that put you off from seeking further education.

      I’ve been there.

      After I went through a knee injury, I was interested in studying physiotherapy but didn’t think I could afford the tuition fees. I looked into similar study options that were shorter and more affordable and enrolled in holistic health education instead.

      My tips: 

      • If you want to study but you don’t want to commit to a degree or post-graduate certificate, why don’t you start with something short? You can take introductory courses online on Udemy or enroll in 1-2 classes at a university to see if it’s a good fit. 
      • If you’re interested in studying holistic health like me, check out one of the sample classes at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition or watch their webinar for an overview.

      9. Practice mindfulness

      Practice mindfulness to raise your awareness

      Do you practice mindfulness?

      Jon Kabat-Zinn, a meditation guru I admire, describes mindfulness as:

      Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally

      Awareness is an essential part of living a holistic lifestyle.

      We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the future, and our mind is often somewhere else, without us even being aware of it. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for nearly a year now and I can say this is such a powerful tool, especially when you are facing difficult and stressful situations.

      Recently, I encountered many stressful events, and I was always worried about “what if…”, and my mind was so busy! I started focusing on bringing my mind back to the present moment when it happens. You would be surprised how much it helps to simply stop for a moment and take a deep breath.

      Take a moment to take a deep breath

      You may not be able to control everything that happens in your life, but you can change how you cope with it.

      Jon says:

      You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

      My tips:

      10. Pay attention to what goes  in your body

      The reason I decided to talk about food last is that eating clean and avoiding harmful ingredients such as the ones found in processed food is important – but it’s only one part of holistic health. Joshua Rosenthal, the founder of my health coaching school says:

      “Even if you are eating the most organic food in the world, if the other pieces of your life aren’t in place, you still won’t feel whole.”

      This was so eye-opening for me. When I was working as a software engineer, I was super stressed and anxious, but I was eating well and exercising regularly. So, I believed I was the healthiest person in the world!

      Does that mean eating healthy isn’t that important? 

      No. It still is important. My point is that healthy eating is part of a holistic lifestyle, however, people often equate being healthy with eating healthy and tend to ignore the other aspects of life – which are equally important.

      Now that we clarified that, want to know how to pay attention to what you put into your body? I have some tips for you!

      My tips:

      Final thoughts on living a holistic lifestyle

      A holistic lifestyle caters to your mind, body, and soul.

      As such, taking a holistic approach to life will allow you to take control of your health and happiness by living in harmony with yourself, the people around you, and the environment. 

      Humans are creatures of habit. So, initially, it might seem difficult to change and adopt new, healthier habits. And looking at all the above tips might seem overwhelming. Worry not. You don’t need to apply all the tips we mention in this article at once. 

      Start slow. The most important thing is to start paying attention. Pay attention to your work environment, how the friendships and relationships in your life affect you, how the food you eat makes you feel after, and so on. 

      The cornerstone of a holistic lifestyle is increased awareness.

      This Circle of Life exercise can help you evaluate which area of holistic living you’re doing well and which need improvement. It will only take 30 seconds!

      When you start noticing how all the different dimensions of your life are connected to your wellbeing, then you can start making the necessary changes to improve your situation.

      What are your thoughts on holistic living? What motivates you to start living a holistic lifestyle? I’m keen to know!

      5 herbs for menstrual cramps (+5 more natural tips)

      Did you know that more than 80% of women experience menstrual cramps in their life?

      You are not alone in this.

      Menstrual cramps are a common issue among women. Throbbing or at times dull pain in the lower abdomen, hips, and even thighs that starts a few days before your period and can continue up to a few days after. 

      Since I was a junior high school student, I’ve been struggling with my period every month. So much, that oftentimes I hated that I was born as a woman because of painful cramps.

      But surprisingly, this is not an issue that people talk about much. 

      So, you may take a painkiller and hope your period will pass soon.

      However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to live in pain or rely on pills that have many negative side effects.

      Are you aware that there are many natural remedies that can help relieve menstrual pain?

      And they are backed by science!

      So let’s dive into how these natural remedies can help you find relief from menstrual cramps and take control of your health and wellbeing.

      ***Please note, if you are taking any medications or if you are pregnant, you must check with your doctor before trying any new herbal remedy.

      Haruka Writes is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. Read the full privacy policy here. Thank you for helping me run this blog Ad free!

      What causes menstrual cramps?

      First of all, what exactly causes menstrual pain? And is it normal?

      To answer these questions we should start by understanding what happens in our bodies during menstruation. 

      Each month, the inner lining of the uterus thickens and prepares itself for pregnancy. If the pregnancy doesn’t happen, the uterus sheds its lining. This shedding process is what we call menstruation or having your period. 

      It’s completely normal to feel some discomfort and cramping before, during, and a few days after your period. That’s due to the production of prostaglandins, which trigger muscle contractions in the uterus. In turn, these contractions cause inflammation and the pain we associate with menstrual cramps.

      That’s to say, menstrual pain is a normal part of your cycle. Doctors refer to painful menstruation as primary dysmenorrhea.  

      However, if you experience severe menstrual cramps that keep you from performing basic daily tasks, then it may be time to see a doctor. Severe pain might be a sign of an underlying medical condition (secondary dysmenorrhea).

      Why turn to natural remedies to relieve menstrual cramps?

      Even though menstrual cramps might be a normal part of your cycle, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to relieve the pain.

      Some women rely on painkillers (e.g. ibuprofen, aspirin, mefenamic acid, and naproxen) or get on “the pill” as a solution. While these methods might help to numb the pain, they also come with many side effects. 

      Harvard Health Publishing explains how taking over-the-counter drugs over a long period of time can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, kidney and liver damage, and several gastrointestinal problems. Whereas birth control pills are synthetic hormones that can negatively impact your gut health and metabolism. Being on the pill is a personal choice. However, it’s good to know there are other options for treating period cramps. And if you’re thinking of getting off the pill, you should first consult with your doctor so you can do it safely.

      That’s to say, in the long run, managing your cramps by “popping a pill” can do more harm than good.

      So what can you do instead?

      The good news is that you can turn to natural remedies to find relief from menstrual cramps.

      Several herbs contain natural anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate menstrual cramps. These herbal remedies have been used for centuries and it’s amazing to see how nowadays their medicinal values are being studied and supported by research.

      5 Herbs to Relieve Menstrual Cramps

      Here are 5 herbs that can help you relieve menstrual cramps in a natural, effective, and safe way. The best part: you most likely already have them in your kitchen cabinet or fridge. 

      1. Ginger for menstrual cramps

      Ginger root for relieving menstrual cramps

      Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds that counteract the inflammation caused by the rising level of prostaglandins. Remember that? The hormone produced by our bodies before menstruation triggers period pain.

      There are several studies that support the effectiveness of ginger for relieving menstrual cramps. 

      One clinical study found that ginger is as effective as ibuprofen in relieving menstrual pain. Another study found that taking 500 mg capsules of ginger root powder 3 times a day for 5 days had a significant effect on relieving both the intensity and duration of pain. Similar results were shown by a later study published in the National Library of Medicine: taking 750-2000 mg ginger powder during the first 3-4 days of the menstrual cycle was shown to be effective in alleviating menstrual cramps.

      How to use ginger for menstrual pain?

      One easy way of introducing ginger to your system is to make yourself a warm cup of ginger tea. You can either buy tea bags or opt for brewing the tea yourself using fresh ginger root. Bonus points if you add some honey to your tea. Honey is also known for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

      Ginger root is also eaten in its raw form. But if you’re not a fan of it, you may also choose to opt for some ginger capsules in the form of supplements.

      2. Lavender for menstrual cramps

      Lavender flowers next to a white cup

      This one is a personal favorite. Besides its great smell, lavender has been proven to have a calming effect on the nervous system.

      A 2016 study found that smelling lavender on the first 3 days of the menstrual cycle may be effective in reducing the severity of period cramps. Another experimental study found that lavender oil massage proved to be effective in reducing cramps.

      How to use lavender for menstrual pain?

      You can make yourself cozy with a cup of lavender tea – either by purchasing lavender tea bags or making your own.

      Alternatively, you may use lavender essential oils. Try sprinkling a few drops of lavender essential oil into a cloth and inhaling it. You may also add the oil to an aromatherapy vaporizer/diffuser or to your bath. If you choose to massage lavender oil into your skin, keep in mind to first mix it with a carrier oil such as jojoba.

      3. Cinnamon for menstrual cramps

      cinnamon sticks and powder for relieving menstrual cramps

      Research on the effects of cinnamon on primary dysmenorrhea has shown that cinnamon is a safe and effective treatment for menstrual cramps. What’s more, cinnamon also helps with other symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, nausea, and mood swings.

      In addition, cinnamon is a great source of magnesium, which is a natural relaxant and has proven to be effective in preventing dysmenorrhea

      How can we use cinnamon for menstrual pain? 

      Similar to the other herbs, you can also enjoy cinnamon in the form of a warm cup of herbal tea. Here’s an easy-to-follow cinnamon tea recipe

      Another popular combination is cinnamon and honey, a power duo filled with antioxidants. You can mix cinnamon powder and honey in a warm glass of water or milk.

      4. Fennel for menstrual cramps

      Fennel seeds for relieving menstrual cramps

      Here we are talking about the herb fennel, not the vegetable. 

      Clinical trials found that taking 30 mg fennel capsules every 4 hours, 3 days before the start of the menstrual cycle till the 5th day was effective in providing pain relief in women with primary dysmenorrhea. Another study found that fennel was as effective in relieving menstrual cramps as medical therapy like mefenamic acid, albeit without the side effects.

      How to use fennel for menstrual pain?

      You can enjoy the benefits of this herb in the form of a warm cup of tea made from fennel seeds. Alternatively, you can also take fennel orally in the form of supplements.

      5. Dill for menstrual cramps

      Dill seeds for relieving menstrual cramps

      Clinical studies show that dill is as effective in reducing the pain intensity in women with primary dysmenorrhea as over-the-counter pain relievers. In the mentioned study, the participant took 1000 mg of dill powder 2 times a day for 5 days, starting 2 days before the beginning of the menstrual cycle. 

      How to use dill for menstrual pain? 

      This herb has a sweet flavor so it makes for a tasty tea. You may find dill tea bags at the supermarket or make it yourself using dill seeds. Dill seeds can also be roasted, fried, or cooked in water. 

      +5 natural ways to relieve cramps other than herbs

      Besides incorporating herbs in your diet, here are 5 other tips on how you can reduce menstrual cramps in a natural way.

      1. Avoid coffee and alcohol

      cup of coffee

      Ah, this one may not sound like that much fun. But, it can have a great impact on the level of pain you experience during your period. There are several studies that support this claim.

      A 2010 study as well as a 2014 study both show that coffee worsens your menstrual symptoms and is associated with more intense pain. Another study published in the Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences found that caffeine intake is considered a risk factor for menstrual abnormalities.

      Similarly, alcohol is also associated with more severe menstrual symptoms

      My tips

      1. You do not need to give up coffee and alcohol forever. Give it a try to reduce your coffee and alcohol consumption on the days leading to your period and avoid them during the cycle. 
      2. Herbal teas can be a good replacement for your daily coffee during those days. Find your favorite herbal tea to enjoy – I like lavender tea!  
      3. Drink lots of water. Research shows that hydration is important to reduce menstrual pain and menstrual duration.

      2. Manage stress

      woman meditating

      Stress is the root cause of many health problems and more intense period pain is one of them. I usually experience more pain when my stress level is higher throughout the month. Studies also say that stress and anxiety worsen menstrual pain.

      But what can you do to manage stress?

      Everyday life is filled with many stressors. It’s a part of life. And at times we are not even aware we are experiencing stress.

      There are small habits you can form that will help you manage stress on a daily basis, not only when you are on your period. Check out the tips below!

      My tips:

      1. Try to schedule fewer tasks during your period. Experiencing PMS symptoms (premenstrual syndrome symptoms) during that time of the month is normal. Is okay to be emotional. Your body is going through fluctuating hormone levels. So it’s not uncommon to find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Don’t let your to-do list add to that. See if you can work on easier work tasks or fewer chores at home. No laundry, cleaning the floor, washing some dishes – is fine! Be gentle with yourself and your expectations of what you have to do.
      2. Give meditation a try. When you’re in pain, it’s easy to focus too much on it. Meditation can help you shift your focus and how you relate to your pain. Even 5 minutes of meditation in the morning can help you set the tone for the rest of the day. Take a deep breath and check out our beginner’s guide to meditation to help you get started.
      3. Incorporate holistic self-care on a daily level to manage stress throughout the month. We have a guide for that as well!

      3. Pay attention to what you eat

      Basked with vegetables

      Happy gut, happy life (and happier periods). 

      While devouring a bag of chips or your favorite ice cream in front of the tv during your period may seem comforting, research shows that nutrition plays a key role in the severity of menstrual cramps.

      So you need to be mindful of what you eat, especially during your period. 

      That doesn’t mean you have to eat boring food. You can enjoy a delicious diet, just look at the list below (chocolate is included!).

      Foods that help with menstrual cramps

      • Omega-3 rich food: Think of seafood and fish, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, and yogurt. Yummy right? These foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory nutrients. A 2012 study found that Omega-3 fatty acids were effective in reducing the severity of period pain.
      • Fruits and vegetables: While typical staples of a nutritious diet, research has shown that a vegetarian diet is helpful in reducing menstrual cramps.
      • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is full of magnesium. And magnesium is found to be effective in preventing menstrual cramps. Plus dark chocolate is delicious, and it may even count as comfort food!
      • Seed cycling: Seed cycling is becoming increasingly popular as a hormone balancing practice. This naturopathic remedy involves eating specific seeds during the two main phases of the menstrual cycle. The first phase, also known as the follicular phase,  refers to the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle, from the first day of your period until ovulation. During this phase, it’s advised you consume 1 tablespoon daily of pumpkin seed butter and ground flax. Whereas during the second phase of your cycle, the luteal phase (day 15-28), it’s advised to consume 1 tablespoon daily of sunflower seed butter and sesame seed butter. You can also add these seed butters to smoothies, steel-cut oats, or have the butter spread over a rice cake – be creative! Here are some delicious seed cycling mixes.

      Food to avoid on your period

      These foods will make your menstrual cramps worse, so it’s best to avoid them during your period.

      • Processed food: Processed food, such as french fries, cereals, and canned food, is high in trans fats. These types of fats (among many other negative side effects) increase inflammation in the body, which can increase the severity of your menstrual cramps. You should instead turn to whole foods
      • Sugary foods: Sugary foods will increase your insulin level and end up in a sugar rush, which will wreak havoc on your hormones. On top of that, sugar tends to increase inflammation, which can worsen your cramps. If you’re craving something sweet, opt for natural sugars such as bananas and figs. 
      • Carbs: Our bodies tend to crave high-carb foods during our period due to hormonal changes. It’s science! But that doesn’t mean that a high-carb diet is good for your menstrual cramps. While carbs increase your serotonin and make you feel momentarily better, later you will feel even more sluggish. That’s not to say you should completely remove carbs from your diet. Instead, opt for healthier alternatives or limit your portion. Here’s a great tool to help you understand how much carbs you should eat.

      My tip:

      Try to not think as if you are restricting your diet during your period. Instead, make a list of foods you are looking forward to when you are on your period. Maybe take the time to explore some new recipes containing food that help relieve menstrual cramps if you enjoy cooking. It’s all about a small mindset shift.

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        4. Try some yoga and stretch

        Woman doing yoga for relieving menstrual cramps

        Following your normal workout routine might be hard during your menstrual cycle. I know it is for me. 

        But did you know that exercise can actually help with your period pain? 

        Research says so. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone, and endogenous opiate peptides, the pain regulating hormone. Exercise also suppresses the release of pain-causing prostaglandins.

        So while you might feel like skipping your normal workout routine, you should try some gentle movements like yoga and stretches. These types of exercises are specifically helpful at relieving cramps.

        My tips:

        • Some yoga poses are better than others for when you are on your period, such as hip yoga. You can also try this gentle yoga session created specifically to help reduce cramps.
        • And if you feel yourself become stiff, give these shoulder and neck stretches a try.

        5. Keep your body warm!

        Foot bath for relieving menstrual cramps

        Now, this is one of the MOST important and effective tips. Also referred to as heat therapy, heat has been proven to significantly reduce period pain, being as effective as painkillers.

        How does that work?

        Heat therapy serves to relax your uterus muscles, stimulate blood flow and the amount of oxygen in the area, which dilutes the cramp-causing prostaglandins hormone. 

        My tips:

        • Use a Japanese heating pad and stick it on your belly and back – I like this because I can go outside and no one can see it, and it lasts 12 hours. I always put it on my belly and back and I can’t get through my menstrual cramps without this! An electronic head pad may be cheaper but the con is you can’t take it outside.
        • Take a warm foot bath whenever you can. Our feet play a key role in regulating our body temperature. A 2021 study found that a 20-minute warm foot bath significantly relieves period cramps. So it’s a good idea to have a foot bath basin
        • Take a bath instead of showering. A warm bath can ease your cramps.
        • If you can, going to get a massage is also a good idea. Usually, reflexology helps my menstrual cramps a lot. 

        Bottom line

        Many women are affected by menstrual cramps. But you don’t have to dread that time of the month. There are many natural things you can do to relieve your period pain, from incorporating herbs in your diet to making some lifestyle changes. You don’t need to feel overwhelmed by all the tips or try to implement them all simultaneously. Maybe start by picking one or two herbs and lifestyle changes and see if you want to add some supplements or new habits once you feel comfortable.

        Listen to your body to see what works for you.

        While it may seem difficult to focus on something else besides the pain, it’s important that you find ways to divert your attention to other things, things that you enjoy. For instance, you can incorporate some breathing work into your day, invite your friends over, immerse yourself in a hobby, or go somewhere you’ve never been before. Menstrual cramps can be mentally and physically draining, so planning something fun can bring you some joy 🙂

        Also, if you’re interested in looking into other natural solutions for your menstrual cramps, you can also work with a qualified naturopath or integrative medicine doctor to get continuous support.  Working with an integrative medicine doctor can be a bit expensive if it’s not covered by your benefits, so I’d suggest you look for a student naturopathy doctor. I noticed they charge much less. You can look for a qualified naturopath in the United States on this website; for naturopaths in Canada, you can refer to this site.

        And keep in mind that if your menstrual cramps are too strong, to the point that you cannot perform basic daily tasks, then you should go see a doctor. Your pain may be pointing to an underlying condition such as uterine fibroids or other uterine issues.

        Have you tried these tips before? If so, have they worked for you? And if you have any other tips or natural remedies to relieve menstrual cramps, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below!

        How to live a simple life and be happy (without increasing your income)

        Do you sometimes wonder how you can live simply and feel happier?


        I totally get how you are feeling.

        I moved to Vancouver from Tokyo a month ago, and I was so jealous of everyone around me in the beginning, but I didn’t want to keep feeling unhappy.

        If you are like me, you sometimes spend too much time thinking “If I have this much money then I can get XX, and I will be happier”. This can lead us to lose many important moments in our life.

        So how can we start appreciating what we already have in our lives?

        What if I told you that you can be happy just as you are right now without increasing your income?

        That sounds good! But how can you do that?

        We will explore 6 tips to be happy now by living a simpler life!



        Ready to go?


        Let’s do this!

        Do you need more money to be happy?



        I really used to believe more money = happiness and I even left my Equine Management course at college in England after I had made tons of effort to get in.

        So why did I leave something I always loved behind?

        Well, I believed working for a horse stable wouldn’t bring much money to me and I wouldn’t be able to own my horse in the future. So I decided to change my degree to business to own my horse in the future!

        But this was a big mistake.


        Why is that? – I want to share something with you that someone told me and I have never ever forgotten.


        “You may be able to own a horse if you work for an investment bank. But you can’t stay with your horse all the time because you’ll be busy working. So which would your horse like more, the person who takes care of him all the time or someone who visits once in a while?”


        Of course, my horse will like someone who feeds him and takes care of him more than someone who visits once a week for a couple of hours!

        So what’s the main takeaway from my story?

        Sometimes, we may think if we make a lot of money, we can get what we want but it’s not true! We don’t need to be super-rich to be happy!
        Does that make sense?

        In Japan, we have a saying called ”侘び寂び Wabi-Sabi” which means if you look carefully at what you already have, you will find the beauty and value in it and it will lead you to find happiness from simple living.

        There is one more thing that the same person asked me many times that got me thinking about money and happiness.

        How much money do you have to make before you will be happy? What does being successful mean to you?


        I think I told him if I become a billionaire it means I’m rich and successful enough. Then he said,

        I believe even if you become a billionaire, you won’t be satisfied and you will seek more and more money to feel happiness.


        I couldn’t understand why becoming richer and richer wouldn’t increase my happiness, but I really understand what he meant now.

        So what is that?

        If you believe more money means more happiness, you will constantly set a goal and believe that when you reach the goal, you will be happy. This means you’ll spend so much time not feeling happy.

        What if I tell you, you can be happy with a simpler life?

        Ready to jump into 8 tips to be happy now?

        YES! Let’s do this!

        8 tips to be happy now by living simply

        1. Practice gratitude

        Unsurprisingly, we often get busy pursuing things to purchase or goals to achieve, and we forget the important things we ALREADY have in our hands. The key to a happier life is to focus more on the present moment.

        I know some people recommend writing down things you felt grateful about at the end of the day, but I don’t like writing much. It might be because I got used to typing so much that my hand is no longer equipped to use a pen and paper.

        So what can you do about it?

        I have a great recommendation for you that is simple but works really well. Do gratitude meditation before you start your day in the morning.

        Some meditation practitioners say it’s better to meditate right after you wake up, but I prefer meditating after doing these things:

        • Tidying up the room
        • Brushing my teeth
        • Washing my face
        • Making herb tea/coffee
        • Finding a quiet place where you can feel calm


        Now you may be wondering what kind of gratitude meditation you should do?

        If you are a meditation beginner, I always recommend guided meditation!

        For example, this meditation on video is 5-minutes long and I find it’s the perfect thing to do before you start your day!

        Here are some things you may feel grateful about:

        • You have roof over your head
        • You feel cozy and warm at home thanks to the heater
        • Sunny day – Makes you feel good and provides your Vitamin D
        • You are alive, breathing healthily
        • You have a hobby that you can immerse yourself in
        • You have a job to support yourself
        • You don’t need to starve. You have food to eat everyday
        • You have friends or a partner who understands you
        • Your pet who’s always with you and makes you feel good and needed
        • You have a dream


        When you feel like “There is nothing I can appreciate about my life! I’m so miserable!”, go back to something really basic like you have a roof over your head and you don’t get cold or wet.

        In gratitude meditation, you don’t need to have a big object you want to appreciate. It can be simple!

        If you want to learn more about meditation, check out this beginner’s guide to meditation I wrote! It’s the first step on the path to a simple life.


        2. Only compare yourself to yourself

        Have you ever compared yourself with someone you know or strangers on Instagram before?

        I struggled with this issue recently. As I mentioned, I met some Japanese women living here when I just moved to Vancouver.

        One woman I met up with isn’t working because her husband is earning enough money. And I thought “Why can’t my boyfriend earn more money so that we can afford nicer things and live in a nicer apartment!?”.

        Another time, I met up with another Japanese woman who’s also not working currently because her partner tells her “You don’t need to worry about money”. Then I felt “Why can’t we afford a car like them and go anywhere we want to like them?”.

        Can anyone relate to me? Feeling jealous of what other people have and feeling miserable about yourself.


        So what can you do about it? – My therapist gave me some great advice and I want to share it with you.

        1. Why comparing with others doesn’t help

        You may often hear comparing yourself with others doesn’t help.

        But why is that?

        Because you and your friend may be different ages. Your life stage and your friend’s life stage may be different. Especially if you are comparing yourself with a stranger, you never know what the person went through in his/her life.

        The person you just met or you follow on Instagram might have made a huge effort to build their wealth. Or their partner or parents are rich.

        You see why envying others doesn’t help. But how can you stop doing that?

        2. Only compare yourself with yourself

        Here is something that I’ve found useful.

        Since comparing yourself with others doesn’t help, what’s helpful is to compare yourself with where you were before.

        For example, I may feel miserable about not having a car, but before I came to Canada, my boyfriend and I were not happy about our apartment and the neighborhood. There were lots of cars and it was not safe to walk around on the roads.

        Also, I felt like I didn’t fit into Japanese culture well.

        So where am I now? I like Vancouver better than where we used to live and we are happier about our apartment and neighborhood! I also feel like I like the culture way better than Japan, it’s slow and simple living.

        Do you see the difference between comparing yourself with others and comparing yourself with where you were before?

        This is the simple but powerful key to a happy life!

        3.Prioritize what to spend money on for more joy


        Have you ever wished you had more money so that you could buy more outfits or cosmetics?

        I totally have, and I still do sometimes.

        Here is something I always keep in mind. Since I don’t have an unlimited amount of money, I need to prioritize what to spend my money on.

        Does that make sense?

        Suppose you are earning the same as your friend. Your friend may be a person who focuses more on outfits, cosmetics, or something that makes them look pretty.

        On the other hand, your focus is on your health, so you spend money on groceries and massages (which is me!).

        My point is, it’s important to know what your priority is right now. I know what makes me happy is eating well and living mindfully. So, I don’t hesitate to spend money on what makes me happy!

        Also, try to spend money on experiences, not material things.

        Why?

        Research suggests experiences bring more long-lasting happiness to people vs. shopping.

        When I was going through bipolar disorder, I bought a bunch of stuff on Amazon. But I realized I didn’t use most of it when I moved to a new place, so I want to share some tips with you.

        My tip:

        1. When you want something, write it down on your phone’s notepad and leave it for a week
        2. Come back after a week and think about whether you still want it
        3. If it’s an expensive purchase, you may want to ask yourself “Will I still be using this in one year, 5 years, and 10 years? Will it still be valuable to me after a while?”

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          4. Start doing what you want to do NOW

          Do you sometimes wish you could go on holiday more often or take a week off and not work at all? When you feel this way, you may think “I can’t afford a holiday and I’m sad”.

          I totally get it. What if I told you, you don’t necessarily need to stay sad about it?

          My way of thinking changed after I read one book. It was a Japanese book called “How to start doing what you love as a living”.

          What was the author talking about that moved me so much?

          If you can’t do something you want RIGHT NOW, you won’t be able to do what you want to do forever in your life. If you want coffee, get off your chair and go grab coffee!

          Does this make sense to you?

          My boyfriend and I went for a picnic today


          Maybe you can’t go on a holiday for a week, but you can go for a picnic during your lunch break with your partner or co-worker and it may be really refreshing.

          Maybe you can’t fly to Hawaii, but you can put a chair outside and enjoy some sun!

          So get off your work desk and go do whatever you want to do right now! It can be as small as going to the toilet!

          If you keep doing this, you will be able to achieve bigger things in the future because you kept training yourself to pursue what your heart tells you to follow.

          Believe it or not, it’s usually YOU stopping you from doing whatever you want. Maybe you are telling yourself “I’m too busy, I don’t have time!” which I totally get.

          But you’re the only one who can sort out your schedule and do whatever you want!

          If you are feeling like you are juggling too many things at the same time, check out my healthy coping mechanisms for when life gets tough for more tips!

          5. Adjust your expectations


          If your happiness is dependent on money, you may feel like you may not be happy until your income increases.

          So how can you feel happy without increasing your income?


          Well, how about you start exploring what makes you feel happy when spending less money? Here are some examples:

          • Invite your friends and hang out at home instead of going out
          • Instead of drinking at a bar, start exploring making your own mix drinks at home
          • Instead of going to a massage, buy a good quality massage machine (I have a foot massage machine from Japan!)
          • Make bath salt instead of buying it from a store
          • Learn how to cook and cook for your friends instead of eating out
          • Make a quality coffee and pancakes at home and enjoy brunch
          • Instead of eating out, bring lunch and enjoy walking around
          • Instead of taking a taxi, walk or take a bus
          • Make lists of things you want or need and wait for a week to see if you really need them
          • Instead of buying something, see if you can DIY and have fun!
          • Learn self-care


          6. Identify the area of life you are unhappy about

          So far, I’ve been talking about how you can be happy where you are right now, but if you are REALLY unhappy about certain areas of your life, I suggest you identify that first.

          Why is that?

          Because I believe we can’t be truly happy if we ignore the pain in our life. What I mean by pain is, you may not be satisfied with your:

          • Relationship with finance
          • Social life
          • Career
          • Overall health
          • Education
          • Relationships
          • Social life
          • Joy

          It may hurt or feel discomfort to face the truth. But if you are here, hoping to be truly happy, you may want to give it a try.

          Pick one area of your life you feel you want to change to bring you enlightenment in your life so that you can start living the life that aligns with your intention more!

          How can you do that?

          Why don’t you check out my guide to learn about how to be connected with yourself in a simple way!

          This free tool from my health coaching school can help you identify which area of your life you REALLY want to change to enhance happiness simply.

          It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy until you resolve what you want to work on. Appreciate you took the first step to becoming in charge of your life, and be happy with what you have right now!

          7. Focus on Work-life Balance

          Do you feel like you are missing out on time with your loved ones because you are married to your work? Or maybe you work from home and find difficulty detaching your personal life from your work life? I hear you.

          I used to be a software engineer and I had the possibility of earning much more money. But I decided to say goodbye to my career. Why is that?

          I found being a software engineer was hurting my body from long hours of sitting, and it was worsening the knee injury I had 4 years ago. Although I tried to stretch whenever I could, I found a 9-5 job is not for me.

          My point is, it may be worth re-evaluating your work for your own happiness. Ask yourself if it’s worth keeping a high-stress job for the sake of money? Have you ever found yourself buying a lot of things to compensate for the stress from work?

          I’ve been there. Think of it this way, if you take a lower-paying job you love, you might be happier buying fewer things. You may no longer feel the need to compensate for your stress with shopping because you feel a higher sense of accomplishment from your work! This may leave even more money in your pocket!

          How to find work-life balance

          • Listen to this joy-based spending podcast by Manisha Thakor, MBA, CFA, CFP, to re-evaluate your spending and find out how much money you need to have a satisfactory life.
          • Look for new job based on aspects that are important to you
          • Stop saying “Yes” at your workplace for the sake of being a good person. This will help you reduce overwhelm and focus on what you need to do
          • If you work from home, put away your laptop after work to create some boundaries. I usually put my laptop in the kitchen drawer after 5pm!

          8. Get out of busyness now

          One thing I noticed about when I’m busy is, I get used to being busy. And I start creating tasks I don’t necessarily need to sort out at the moment! Does this happen to you?

          When I was extremely busy after I moved to Canada dealing with my visa-related things, all I wanted was inner peace! Maybe you treat yourself with buying something, but what you truly need may be some rest!

          So how can we get out of our complicated life?

          Instead of continuing to worry and preparing for a “what if” situation, why don’t we give our full attention to the present moment? One way to do this is to spend time meditating. It sounds difficult to sit still and not get distracted when you’re busy, doesn’t it? I hear you.

          The main reason why meditation works really well is, it helps our nervous system calm down by focusing on breathing. When we are busy and overwhelmed, our breathing gets shallow and it causes us more stress, unfortunately.

          You may feel like you don’t have time for meditation. But the thing is, you don’t need to meditate for an hour to get the benefit! You can start with 1-minute meditation, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 9 minutes, to 12 minutes! If you want true relaxation, you can try 30 minutes of meditation!

          At first, I was doing 10-15 minutes of meditation, but I found it really hard to concentrate. So starting short and making it longer is a good idea! If you are not sure where to start, make sure to check out my complete meditation guide for beginners!

          My second piece of advice is to focus on less stuff in your life. I believe we simply have too many things to do! Instead of trying 10 different things, why don’t you give your attention to 3 things a day! When we put fewer things on your to-do list, it is proven that you actually accomplish more!

          I used to have gazillion things to get done for the day, and I was always unable to finish them. So I felt unproductive. But the thing is, I had too many things to do!!!

          My tips:

          • Write down on your calender or tool management tool (I love Kanban flow!) three big things you want focus on for the day
          • Check out this guide to find out how to narrow down and focus on three things to do per day



          Did you find any tips useful? Comment below which tip you’d like to try this week!

          Why Are Whole Grains Better Than Refined Grains? – The Complete Guide

          We’ve all heard that whole grains are better than refined grains… but WHY?

          There is so much information about carbs and it’s so confusing! You might be on a keto diet and you feel like you shouldn’t eat either whole grains or refined grains.

          I totally understand. I was a low-carb junkie and I was trying to minimize carbs until I learned about the benefits of including more whole grains in my diet.

          Want to learn more about whole grains so that you can start enjoying carbs more?

          Yes, please!!!

          In this post, I will walk you through whether you should choose refined grains or whole grains, and how to choose REAL grains!

          Ready to dive in?

          Let’s do this!

          Whole grain vs refined grain

          Do you know why grains started to be processed?

          Well, in the late 19th century, industrialized roller mills were invented and it totally changed grain processing. By milling, only the soft part is left which makes it easy to chew. Also, the fat content of the grain is removed through the process which makes its shelf life longer.

          As a result, the refining process takes away valuable nutrients from grains!

          According to the Harvard University School of Public Health, when grains are refined, they lose important parts that provide great nutrition sources, including bran, germ, and endosperm remnants.

          • Bran – Provides Vitamin B, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals
          • Germ – Healthy fats, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, Phytochemicals (help disease prevention), and antioxidants
          • Endosperm – This exists both in whole grains and refined grains (made of carbs, protein, and a small amount of some vitamin B and minerals)

          In fact, when grains are refined, more than half of Vitamin B, 90% of Vitamin E, and almost all the fiber gets removed. So, if that many vitamins and minerals remain, what kind of benefits can whole grains provide to our healthy living?

          1. Lower death rate

          The first benefit I want to share with you is that you can reduce the risks of developing inflammatory diseases and infectious causes if you eat at least 2-3 servings of whole grains a day.

          Whole grains contain an important nutrient called phytochemicals, and they can protect us from oxidative stress which is in charge of causing inflammation.


          Phytochemicals are the chemical compounds found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and seeds helping protect them from fungi, bacteria, virus infection, and consumption by insects and animals.


          Let’s take a look at this study as an example. Researchers collected data from 786,000 people from the US, UK, and Scandinavian countries. And they found that people who ate 70 grams of whole grains per day had a 22% reduced risk of total mortality, a 23% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, and a 20% reduced risk of cancer mortality compared to people who ate little or no whole grains!

          2. Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

          Did you know that whole grains have the power to lower total cholesterol, bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels?

          A research group from Harvard University researched nurses to find out the link between whole grain consumption and cardiovascular disease.

          They found women who ate 2 to 3 servings of whole-grain products a day had a 30% lower risk of developing or dying from heart attacks over a 10-year period compared to those who ate less than 1 serving per week!

          So why can eating more whole grains decrease the risks of getting a cardiovascular disease?

          Whole grains are high in soluble fiber which swells and absorbs water when entering the digestive system. Believe it or not, this can help slow down the digestion process in your intestines, which in turn can prevent blood sugar level spikes.

          3.Prevents type ll diabetes

          Not only does it help you prevent cardiovascular disease in the future, eating more whole grains can help stop you from developing type ll diabetes.

          As I explained, whole grains are rich in fiber and phytochemicals, and those valuable nutrients play an important role in improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

          Take this research as an example.

          In 2007, 160,000 women participated in an experiment and the researchers followed up on their health and dietary habits for up to 18 years. As a result, participants who ate 2-3 servings of whole grains a day developed type ll diabetes 30% less compared to those who didn’t!


          4. Promotes digestive health

          Have issues with your bowels? Maybe you need to eat more whole grains!

          Whole grains are rich in fiber and it acts as a prebiotic for your gut microbiome. Prebiotics? Is it as same as probiotics?

          Take a look at this explanation by healthline,

          • Probiotics. These are live bacteria found in certain foods or supplements. They can provide numerous health benefits.
          • Prebiotics. These substances come from types of carbs (mostly fiber) that humans can’t digest. The beneficial bacteria in your gut eat this fiber.

          Is it clear now? Your gut can’t process fiber, but it’s good food for the gut microbiome and it helps you digest fiber! The gut microbiome then ferments the fiber and processes it into molecules called short-chain fatty acids, and these help promote the normal function of cells in the colon!

          If you are on a long-term low-carb diet like I was before, you may want to consider including more whole grains in your diet to promote your digestive health. Surprisingly, I didn’t gain weight after I increased my carb intake! If you are interested in checking out the side effects of the long-term keto diet, check out this article for more information.

          Are refined grains really bad?

          Maybe you were expecting to hear from me that refined grains are bad and that you should totally avoid them.

          I want to share something with you. I found an interesting fact in a meta-analysis published on Advances in Nutrition. When the author, Glenn, analyzed 32 different published papers, he found out that refined grain consumption is NOT linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

          Why is that? Does that mean we should have refined grains in our diet?

          He found out that a lot of studies paid attention to dietary patterns, but not food groups. This means most studies didn’t separate staple refined grains such as pasta and bread from indulgent refined grains including cookies, cakes, doughnuts, muffins, and brownies.

          So yes, if your diet contains a lot of indulgent refined grains, it could lead to diabetes, obesity, liver disease, decreased immune system strength, and cardiovascular disease. Also, if your diet is low in fiber, it can lead to heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation.

          The answer is, refined grains are not bad unless you are not eating a lot of indulgent refined grains. But if your grains are mainly refined, you may be missing out on essential nutrients.

          What are examples of whole grains?

          1. Oats (Choose steel-cut oats, and rolled oats over instant oatmeal)
          2. 100% Whole-grain pasta or bread
          3. Popcorn (not the pre-packaged kind)
          4. Fresh corn
          5. Long-grain or short-grain brown rice
          6. Quinoa (I love mixing quinoa into my salad)
          7. Whole barley
          8. Buckwheat
          9. Sourdough such as rye

          What are refined grain examples?

          • Snacks such as cookies, brownies, donuts, sweet rolls, scones, croissants, and muffins
          • Breakfast cereals
          • White bread
          • Pasta
          • Burger buns
          • White rice
          • Frozen meals such as lasagna, mac & cheese, and pizza
          • Instant oat meals

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            How to choose “REAL” whole-grains

            Did you know that even if products say “Whole grain” on the package, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are 100% whole grain?

            Yes. Food manufacturers describe their products in many different ways to make them look healthy! You may often see packages that say;

            • Multigrain
            • Fortified
            • Made with whole grains
            • Stone ground
            • Enriched
            • Double fiber
            • Cracked wheat
            • 7 grain
            • Wheat

            However, the sad fact is, those are mostly enriched white flour. So how can we pick the REAL whole-grain products to maximize their health benefits?

            Well, I will share a simple rule you can apply the next time you purchase whole grain foods! According to Harvard Health Publishing, you can find the percentage of whole grains based on what the label says.

            Isn’t this interesting? Other than the food label, you can also check ingredients lists. If it’s a REAL whole grain product, “whole” something should be the first ingredient. If it’s a multi whole-grain product, “whole” something should come in the first couple of ingredients. For more tips, check out this article published by Harvard Health Publishing!

            You can also use the search function on the whole grain council website! You can type in the product you are going to buy and they will tell you the percentage of the whole grains in the product.

            The thing is, you don’t need to start eating 100% whole grains today. It is way too overwhelming! I made gradual changes to my eating over many years and I’m still making changes! The smaller the steps you make, the more likely you are to succeed!

            Want to learn how you can do that?

            Let me share some tips with you!

            Step by Step Guide to Making A Swap With Whole Grains

            It is important to get the essential nutrients from the whole grains as much as possible, but it is also important to enjoy meals. I used to choose food based on the calories and nutritional value, but I was not always looking forward to my meal.

            So, how can we try to include more whole-grain foods and enjoy our meals? Well, you can swap your refined grains with whole grains to see if you like it!

            Breakfast

            Cereals

            Step 1: If you eat cereals for breakfast, consider swapping them with healthy cereals such as whole wheat cereal. Cereals are often made with refined grains and an unhealthy amount of added sugar. Check out these 30 healthy cereals listed by healthline!

            Step 2: If you are comfortable enough eating healthier cereals, try overnight muesli. You can soak rolled oats overnight in unsweetened almond milk and add things like frozen fruit, sliced almonds, and shredded coconut for a nutrient and flavor punch.

            Bread

            • If you eat white bread for breakfast, consider swapping it with sourdough rye or 100% whole grain bread. I like eating rye sourdough with raw honey and organic peanut butter!

            Pancakes

            Lunch and dinner

            Rice

            Step 1: If you eat rice often like me, how about introducing brown rice sometimes? My mum always made brown rice growing up but I really hated it. I eventually realized she wasn’t cooking it right! If you soak short-grain brown rice overnight and cook it in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes with 500ml of water, you will get really fluffy brown rice every time:)

            Step 2: I definitely enjoy white rice from time to time. I’m Japanese and I love white short-grain rice. White basmati rice is also good with curry! I usually try to limit my white rice to 1-2 times a week.

            Pasta

            • If you eat white pasta a couple of times a week, try reducing it to once a week. You can also pick different kinds of pasta such as brown rice pasta, chick pea pasta, and quinoa pasta. My partner and I don’t like whole-grain pasta texture, so we try to eat white pasta once every two weeks or so.

            Salad

            • If you like eating salad as a lunch, try adding brown rice or quinoa!

            Bread

            • If you like making bread like me, instead of using refined wheat flour, try to pick flour blended with whole grains. I usually use 60/40 bakers blend (60% white flour and 40% multiple grains) for my bagels!


            If you are not sure how much whole grain you should eat per day, download this healthy plate infographic created by Harvard School of Public Health. I find this easier than measuring your whole grain intake based on how much you eat.


            Comment below your what else you want to know about food and nutrition! I’m keen to know!