Category Archives: Health

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Spirit – A Minimalist’s Guide

by Jessica Dang rss | t f | g+

In life, there are a lot of things that matter. For example, your work, your relationships, and your health. But there is something at the root of all these areas in our lives that connects them, which we can easily neglect like tending to flowers in the garden but not looking after the roots.

Even if things are going well for now, without looking after the roots, everything will eventually weaken over time.

The roots that connect all the areas in our lives is the strength of our spirit.

What do I mean by this? Your spirit is you, and all the things that make up what you are your mind, your body, your relationships, memories, character, actions, beliefs and values. These are the things that make us unique. Put together, in the end, your spirit will be your legacy.

It can be a story of weakness, discontentment, and regrets, or one of adventure, kindness and virtue. What you leave behind is up to you.

how to strengthen your spirit a minimalist’s guide

“Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength.” –Douglas Malloch

1. Cultivate courage. If you always stick to what you’re already comfortable with, you’ll never push past your current limits. Your spirit will never grow from being trapped in the confines of fear. Don’t fall into what is easiest, put yourself out there. Challenge yourself. It’s the hardship that builds strength. Try something new every day sometimes you’ll fail, but those are opportunities to learn and grow. You will have lived your life without regrets, because you tried everything that you wanted to. Through cultivating your courage, you can, and will, achieve great things.

Read: 5 Lessons Learned from Repeated Failure

2. Open your heart. Humans are naturally empathetic creatures. You can end up expending huge amounts of energy blocking out others and ignoring their suffering. In terms of spiritual growth, being selfish certainly doesn’t pay. Instead, be generous and give what you can not just money, but your time can also be as valuable. When you open up your heart, in a way you become vulnerable, but that’s not a bad thing. You’ll be more open to new ideas, listening to others, and learning new things. Challenge what you know, so that with reason you are able to support your views, or better yet, amend them. Put yourself on the line, and when you make it to the other side, you’ll be stronger.

Read: Be Vulnerable, Be Alive

3. Maintain balance. Demands in our every day lives pull us all over the place. Work, relationships, staying fit, all can take up our time until we feel like we have none left. It’s difficult to juggle it all – we can’t spend equal amounts in all areas, and we can’t all be perfect all the time. But with a bit of awareness we can identify areas we’ve been neglecting, and with practice, we can adjust until we feel we’ve reached an equilibrium between work and play. Along the way, we have to ditch the things that are wasting time, like too much TV, or more drastically, even our jobs if it’s sucking away too many hours and too much energy from what we really care about. Just like your body needs a certain amount of activity versus sleep to be fit and to get stronger (and too much of one will lead to breakdown) your spirit builds in the same way.

Read: Balancing Work Life With A Minimalist Life

4. Eliminate the weeds. Weeds are like parasites that creep up on us and suck away our energy. If you don’t pay attention to them, they’ll spread and take over our lives. If we are to cultivate a strong spirit, we need to eliminate these sources of toxic energy. This includes people and relationships that take up our time and emotional energy, but don’t give anything back, and things like partaking in gossip, complaining too much, and talking about people behind their backs. Other timewasters, like too much TV, social events that we feel obliged to go to but don’t enjoy, also need to be cut down if we are to spend more time on growing ourselves, or the relationships we care about. A more simplified lifestyle where we spend less money also has the benefit of saving us from working as much to sustain our lifestyle.

Read: Let go of your most toxic habit

5. Build integrity. Integrity is like food for our spirit. It energises it, and gives us life. Things like being honest and admitting to your mistakes so you can learn from them, and build your strength. Keep promises, to yourself and others, and follow through with what you say you’re going to do. People will come to rely on your word. When you are faced with a decision, try to do the right thing that’s best for the most people, instead of what’s right for just yourself. Be kind to others, and approach others with sincerity. You’ll attract more friendships this way, with other open and honest people. The relationships in your life will be much more fulfilling when they’re with people who love you back, and who give you back as much as you give them.

Read: Minimalism & The Noble Eightfold Path II – Ethical Conduct

The effect of doing all this is that you’re bound to leave the earth having a left a better impression than when you entered it. Your courage will inspire others, your open heart will make you closer to those you know and love, your balanced life without the weeds that sap your energy will allow you to do what you love, and your generosity and integrity will encourage others to do the same.

It won’t be easy. We don’t do all of these things by default. Rather, they are small actions that we build into habits, and through doing something small everyday, we build up a strong foundation for living a good and fulfilling life. The best thing is, none of these habits cost a penny.

In the end, it’s not how many things we own, or how many hours we’ve worked, or what title we have that matters. It’ll be the strength of your spirit that counts.

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What I learned from 365 days of doing the 7 minute workout

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On October 2nd 2013, I downloaded an app on my iPhone called ‘Seven‘. It was a free app that guides you to doing a workout that lasts approximately seven minutes, which includes exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, amongst others, without the use of any equipment, except a wall and a chair.

The exercises make you use most of your core muscles of your entire body within just a few minutes. The aim is to do the workout at least once per day, every day.


If you miss a day, you lose a ‘life’ (represented by a heart in this app) and you only get three of them per calendar month. The point in this is to keep a high level consistency by doing it almost every day throughout the month.

Apps like these were featured in The New York Times and have since become a dime a dozen from their popularity. It started out as a fad, but it became something I took quite seriously after a few weeks.

If you ask me why I started doing this, I wouldn’t really be able to go give you a good answer. I suppose it was because, like most apps, I just wanted to give it a go. But, if you asked me why I kept it up for 365 days, I can give you a much better answer.

photo 5

It’s only seven minutes a day. Seven minutes. It’s not much if you really think about it. It’s probably the amount of time you take to scroll through Facebook, wait in line at the supermarket, or make a cup of tea.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Seven of those make up less than half of one per cent of it.

The argument is that if you can’t even find that much time to do a short workout, and keep your body in shape, then you’ve got your priorities mixed up.

When I first started, I didn’t think I could keep it up for a month, let alone for a year. However, I’ve always believed that my body and health is one of the most important things to me because without it I wouldn’t be able to do anything else.

So, it was that thought that kept me going. What else could be so important that I couldn’t give <0.5% of my day to keeping fit?

I had no excuses.

365+ days

365+ days

In the year that I’ve started this workout, I’ve moved several times across the world. I started it in Kochi, Japan, where I lived at my other half’s house, then moved to my own apartment in Tokyo for a few months, then back to Kochi, then back to my parent’s house in Kent in England, then I stayed in my brother’s dorm in Leeds, then moved to my own place in Manchester. In between, I’ve stayed in quite a few different hotels and hostels as well.

I can proudly say, even after all of this moving around, I never missed a single workout.

After about a month, it became a staple part of my day. I simply couldn’t not do it. It was the only part of my day that was consistent during this tumultuous year with all of the moving around I did.

I usually did it in the morning, straight after waking up and splashing my face with water. It woke my body up and prepared me mentally for the day. I would either do it mindfully in silence, or play loud music and get myself pumped up for whatever I had to get done that day.

On the days I didn’t have time to do it in the morning, or when I had flights etc. that messed up my schedule, I would find another time to do it during the day, but I could feel the difference having missed it in the morning. I would be much more sluggish, and achy in some places.

I wish I could include some sort of dramatic ‘before and after’ photos of myself a year ago compared to now, but I don’t have any. I’ve never really had a problem with my weight, and the truth is, I’m sorry to say, this is not a weight loss app. Seven minutes is still only seven minutes, not a magic formula to lose weight. It has never advertised itself as such, so don’t be disappointed if you try it out for that reason.

What it is for is to ensure that for most days, you’ve done at least one thing good for your health. Even if you didn’t find time to go to the gym that day, or you ate an extra piece of chocolate, at least you can go to bed that day knowing that you did one thing good for you.

It’s been a long journey. There were days when I could barely pull myself together to do it, and there were days when I was ready to go by 6am. It hasn’t been easy, but I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Why don’t you try giving it a go?

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How running taught me the value of persistence

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A few years ago, I wrote about the importance of perseverance. The ability to see things until the end – it’s the difference between make or break.

Little did I know, I would one day go through one of the biggest tests of perseverance – a full marathon. I would end up putting my money where my mouth is.

lessons in starting out

When I first started running, it was to lose weight. I dragged myself to the treadmill about once a week, or sometimes just once a month. There was no ‘big goal’, and I was never really that good at it. I got out of breath, my chest hurt, and I made a hundred excuses. It took me a year to run more than three miles.

I wasn’t making much progress, especially weight-wise. Mostly, it was because I didn’t do it enough.

Then one summer, when the weather was particularly good, I went for a run. Just a gentle jog in the June breeze, and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. I ran a couple more times that week, then a few more the week after, and within that month, running turned from a chore to a hobby.

While I was running for superficial reasons (ie. to lose weight) and not making much progress, I would be completely put off by just the number on the scales. I would think, ‘What’s the point?‘. But, after that month, I started to truly appreciate running as something fun and healthy to do, not just as a means to an end.

Once I actually got going, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, I grew to love it. Now, I run because I enjoy running itself, not because I wanted to lose weight or impress others. It gives me more energy, the opportunity to clear my mind, and a sense of accomplishment. I had persevered, and eventually, everything clicked into place.

Before I knew it, I was running a half marathon. Finishing it was one of the best things I had done in my life up until then. I felt so proud of myself, and so happy that all of my hard work had paid off. Instead of asking, ‘What’s the point?’ I came to ask, ‘What more can I do?‘.

I read into minimalist running. I took up yoga, swimming lessons and spin class. I had neglected my body for years, but now it was one of my highest priorities. Being healthier became a part of my daily life, rather than something I begrudgingly tried to fit into it.

screw it, it’s now or never

A few years after that transforming summer jog, I found myself signing up for a full on marathon.

What an idiot. Training went fine until a common cold turned into a chest infection, which turned into a check-in in the emergency centre of the hospital. It happened right when I was supposed to be running the most miles. I had probably made it worse from running outside in cold and rainy weather. The doctor told me to stay in bed.

Flash-forward to the big day. I hadn’t had a proper run in weeks. I had my doubts, but I wasn’t going to give up. I didn’t want to give up. No way. At the start line, I said to myself, ‘Screw it, it’s now or never.’

Twenty miles later, my feet felt like they were going to explode with every step. My hip had locked up, my shins felt brittle enough to snap, and if I had to go up another incline, I might didn’t think I would make it.

Despite all this, somehow, I kept going. I saw a sign that read, ‘Run as if zombies are chasing you!’ In other words, keep going as if stopping wasn’t an option. 

So I put one foot in front of the other. Again and again. I did it ten thousand times until I saw the finish line.

When it was in sight, I sprinted.

My foot crossed the line. I did it! I cried. I waddled. I smiled my oxygen-deprived head off.

5 lessons on persistence

What did I learn that day? That band-aids are a runner’s best friend? Well, yes, but also some great lessons on the value of persistence.

1. Persistence is what separates people who are successful and people who are unsuccessful. They persist and persist until they finish. They may adjust their course, slow down or speed up, but they just don’t give up. It’s as simple as that.

2. If you look at the most successful people in the world, the one thing they have in common is that they didn’t give up. You can look at any field, and at any measure of accomplishment, or at all their different backgrounds, but you will see that to get to where they are, they simply got started, and kept going. Their common characteristic was their perseverance.

3. It’s easy to give up, but hard to carry on. That’s what makes a ‘success’ something to be admired. Anything worth achieving is worth working hard for.

4. Finishing creates momentum. The sense of accomplishment you feel from finishing carries forward into your next project, and then the next one, and then the next one. Life is a series of ‘projects’, whether at work, in relationships, or for yourself. Whether they end in success or failure, you will never know unless you finish. 

5. It’s not about luck. People don’t just get lucky, they finish things and learn from them.  By reaching your goal, you open new doors and opportunities. You end up with more and better chances of doing more stuff. In other words, luck doesn’t find you, but if you just keep going, and you’ll find it.

What can you achieve by being persistent?


Phew, now that’s crossed of my life list, where am I going from here? To my next project of course. Sports-wise, my aim is to complete a duathlon in the next year or two, and a triathlon after that. Find me on Fitocracy, if you like. My course has been set, and I’m determined to reach the end. See you at the finish line!

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5 quick tips to get healthy the minimalist’s way

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To run a mile you have to take one step. And then another. And then another. There’s no secret formula behind it.

I’ve seen so many people try out new things that are good for their health or happiness, but after a few weeks or months, they give up. They make excuses about how it takes too much time or effort, but the problem was that they started out with such lofty goals that they became frustrated when they realized that they couldn’t reach them.

They also don’t realize that getting healthier is a lifestyle change. It’s not a fad that only lasts a few months. You have to be willing to transform the way you think about yourself, about food and about exercise. Here are some minimalist tips on how to get healthier for good.

1. Start small. It’s easy to build up big ambitious dreams like “One day I’ll weigh __ pounds” but to achieve such goals, everyone has to start somewhere. If you want to start running or working out, don’t push it until you’re sweaty and out of breath, otherwise you’ll come to dislike it. Just take a short and slow jog around the block. If you can manage to do this almost every day, then you can look to increasing your speed or distance and challenging yourself.

Last week, I ran my first half marathon. I joined thousands of other people as we all lined up, put our headphones in and pounded the pavement. Everybody I passed or passed me had their own story of how they got into running and then to this race. But no matter who they were or where they’re from, it all started with a single step.

2. Don’t let your first reaction be to buy stuff. Otherwise that yoga mat, exercise ball or ab crunch machine and so on will only end up gathering dust. And it’ll always be there to remind you of your failure. Only buy when you have developed a regular habit of working out and when you are absolutely sure that you need it. And even then,  you can get a lot out of not using any equipment at all. Gyms are overrated – the machines only facilitate muscle movement that are basically unnatural. If you don’t like running, take up swimming or yoga or pilates or tai chi or cycling or parkour or a martial arts or anything else that gets you moving naturally.

3. Get to know your body. Read ‘The Four Hour Body‘ by Tim Ferriss. Learn about what you can do to really get fit. If you want to lose weight, instead of signing up for a gym membership straight away, cut down on one thing you know you shouldn’t be eating as much. You cannot just ‘burn it off later’. At the same time believe it or not, you do not have to eat like a rabbit. Google “Paleo Diet”. If there’s one thing you should be learning about, it’s how your body works. You wouldn’t use junk to fuel a Ferrari. Your body is even more intricate and irreplaceable. Get educated.

4. Realize that “skinny” and “healthy” are not the same thing. Don’t overdo it. Being thin does not necessarily mean that you are healthy. If you lose too much weight, you’ll become fatigued easily, your immune system weakens and your overall health is much worse than being slightly overweight. I’ve known people to get completely mixed up between being “thin” with being “slim as a result of sport” or for the purposes of sport. Rather than concern yourself about your weight or fat percentage or whatever, choose an exercise that you enjoy doing, and do it for the fulfilment of challenging yourself and you will naturally lose weight along the way.

I run because it makes me feel alive.  This half marathon was a milestone for me, and I learned a lot. In some ways it’s more challenging than a whole marathon because if you want to do it in good time you have to run at a fast pace for 13.1 miles, almost like a prolonged sprint – and every couple of pounds you carry counts. But I would never trade away my weight if it means that I’ll end up skinny, frail and unhealthy. I don’t do it because I want to lose weight, I do it because I firmly believe that I was born to run.

5. Love thyself. It’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes you just want to devour some cake – but that’s okay. Just ask yourself – am I happy? This is very important. AM I HAPPY? Because if you’re trying to lose weight because you think it’ll look good or that people are judging you or for any other reason apart from for your own wellbeing then you should just stop now and come back when you have learned to love yourself for who you already are. You shouldn’t feel guilty about eating a cookie for crying out loud. If it makes you happy, then just eat it! Alternatively, if too much bad food would stop you from reaching more fulfilling dreams (like running a marathon, go mountain climbing etc.) and make you unhappy, then don’t. There’s always a middle way.


Ultimately, nobody is judging you as much as you think. People have better things to worry about than the number that pops up on a pair of scales when you stand on them. Life is too short to be constantly distressed by something so trivial. As long as you’re happy with yourself, your natural self-confidence will shine through – you’ll be more optimistic and much more likely to wear a smile on your face. And that is so much more beautiful.


Find my daily minimalist motivational quotes via twitter!

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Christmas Challenge Week 3 Review – Health Week

Wow we’ve come to the end of the third week of Minimal Student’s Christmas Challenge! With the amount of Christmas parties and food going on around this time of year, I thought it would be a great opportunity to go against the flow and focus on health.

Dec 13 : Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Give it a rest and a workout at the same time today by meditating for 5mins

For a lot of people, the word ‘health’ immediately implies body, and most of the time referring to weight. But the health of your mind is just as valuable. You can train and stimulate it by doing sudoku puzzles and so on, but there’s nothing better than just sitting still for a few minutes and letting it wander. People have no idea how hard it is to just sit without being distracted until they stop for a moment and try it.

Dec 14 : Only drink water today. It’s pure, simple and cleansing.

Water is the stuff of life. It may not taste like much, but it has no calories, fats, additives, sugars or anything, and yet it is essential for your body. It’s one of the only things that you can consume which is purely good for you. Drink a glass now!

Dec 15 : Have a meat-free day and/or try not to eat anything that comes in packaging for just one day.

Reducing meat consumption (and substituting it for tofu or at least white meat) can make a massive positive difference to your body. Packaged food is the same in many ways. We pay for the convenience of food, not only with our money, but our health too. I’m not saying we should ban either of them, but that we should be at least be mindful of the amount we’re eating, especially in proportion to fresh foods.

Dec 16: Incorporate exercise as part of your morning routine today. It’ll wake you up, even if it’s just 5 mins.

A lot of people reach straight for the coffee cup when they’re feeling drowsy in the morning. I love to drink coffee, but for me, exercise does the job of waking me up – it loosens my body muscles, gets my heart pumping and releases endorphins which puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day. By ‘exercise’ I don’t mean you have to go for an early morning jog or spend an hour in the gym before work (if you don’t want to). Literally a few minutes of equipment free exercise (see below) will make all the difference.

Dec 17 : No snacking today. Simple.

Ever since I read Patrick Reynolds post about Mallory Eating (I’m never going to stop linking to his amazing blog) I’ve been making a concious effort not to snack between meals. When I used to do it, most of the time I wasn’t actually hungry – I just saw the cookies on the table top and munched on them. Just moving them out of plain sight greatly reduced the amount I ate. Then I realized I didn’t really need to eat snacks that much at all and I stopped buying as much.

Dec 18 : Carbs – Cut out sugar today and/or buy the wholegrain alternative to your regular bread, rice, pasta, cereal etc.

Dorm life is a notorious opportunity for other people to steal your food. My friends used to wake up in the morning and find their milk, cereals and bread packets a little lighter than they remembered leaving them the day before. But I never encountered this problem. I found out that the reason was because my food was ‘too healthy’ (whatever that means) for them. They didn’t want to drink my skimmed milk, eat my bran flake cereal or my wholemeal bread or pasta. It made me laugh when  I found out, because it’s like killing two birds with one stone.

Dec 19 : Do 20+ minutes of equipment free exercise (except for clothes). No gadgets, no machines. Just run, jump, stretch and breathe.

I used to hate running in the gym because I thought it was a waste since I lived next to the beach. I still much prefer running outside, but the winters in Japan are so bitterly cold that it would be almost dangerous for me to do so. So even though I go to gym occasionally now, I still prefer to do most of my exercise without equipment. The main reason is because I can only use the gym at certain times, which isn’t always convenient for me. In the mornings especially, I have the urge to do a small work out, so I just do a few jumps, stretches, sit-ups, push-ups and a little karate. It’s quick, simple, and no set-up is required, just the way I like it!

If you haven’t joined the Minimalist Christmas Challenge yet, it’s still running daily on Twitter until Dec 25th. I hope to see you there!

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Minimalist Christmas Countdown Challenge

Christmas is approaching fast. November is coming to an end and people have already started shopping for presents, things to decorate their houses with and even for food.

I get a lot of questions asking me my opinion about Christmas. Of course, I enjoy it as much as the next person, and I have some very fond memories of this time of year. We would have big family gatherings – where it would be loud with chatter and laughter and everyone would have a great time.

As I grew older, I began to realize that there are aspects Christmas that are not so good (post coming soon). So, I’ve decided to counterbalance it this year with a Minimalist Christmas Countdown Challenge.

the challenge

Starting Dec 1 until Christmas day, I will be posting short daily prompts on my Twitter feed on how to de-clutter various aspects of your daily life – productivity, money, food, clothes, health etc.

Every week, I will publish a few of the prompts on the blog with some reader’s comments I’ve received and add some of my own.

You don’t have to do a challenge everyday, but if you do, leave a comment on the blog to let everyone know how you did, or any problems that you might have encountered. You can also tell me anything you’ve learned or found interesting, and even suggest a prompt if you would like!

Or, you can @minimalstudent me with links to your blog posts about a prompt and I promise to do my best to read all of them.

UPDATE: I’ve decided to schedule the challenge into 4 weeks, with each week focussing on a different category of minimalism.

  • Week 1: 1st ~ 5th Dec – Minimal Money Week
  • Week 2: 6th ~ 12th Dec – Digital/Info Purge Week
  • Week 3: 13th ~ 19th Dec – Minimal Health/Lifestyle Week
  • Week 4: 20th~ 25th Dec – New Year Cleanse Week

So if you’ve been meaning to get going on applying minimalism to your life for a little while, or you want to take it to the next level, sign up in the comments now!

minimalism 101

I’m very happy to announce that this week, I was featured in the UK The Times newspaper magazine.

It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my short lifetime, and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that there are people who will listen to someone like me has to say.

So, with honor, I would like to say, welcome The Times readers!

This post is for you, but also for my current readers as well as my friends and family who I have kept this blog a secret from for so long. It’s a complete definition of what in the world ‘minimalism’ is, I predict that only a small percentage of people will actually read this post from beginning to end, but I can guarantee that you will be a different person by the end of it if you do.

If you’ve never heard of minimalism before, I should warn you that I’m going to make some pretty bold statements, but if there is anything this blog has shown me, is that there are also many people apart from myself who absolutely believe them to be true.

what is minimalism all about?

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Minimalism is all about having enough. It’s about having only what you need, no more, and especially no less.

‘What you need’ can refer especially to your possessions, but can also include your commitments, relationships, work and lifestyle.

All our lives we’re told that we want to have more money so that we can achieve ‘our dreams’ of owning a big house with a pool in the back, a fancy sports car and expensive shoes so we can gain the label of ‘success’. We’re told to know the latest gossip, watch the latest shows, know what everyone is doing on facebook, and jump from relationship to relationship otherwise we’re labelled ‘loners’. We’re told that we should always be ‘busy’, because if we’re not busy we’re being lazy. We’re told all of these criteria and more about how we ‘should’ live our lives and what we should have so that we can be ‘happy’.

But that’s not the whole story. In real life, there are people that have and do all of these things, and yet they’re no happier than the people who don’t. And there are people who have none of these things and are very happy with their lives. Clearly this means that it can’t be the above things that make people happy.

But despite this, there are people who wake up in the morning only to look forward to an hour of sitting in their car in bad traffic, then sitting at their desk doing a job that makes them bored or tired, then going home exhausted and sitting in front of the TV, then spending their weekends spending the money they earned to buy things that ‘make them happy’ when all they’re really doing is perpetuating the cycle.

If you ask these people what they look forward to the most the answer is usually something like their next vacation abroad, or they’re saving up to buy something big and special, or they’re waiting for their retirement… all of which are things that only occur occasionally, whilst the rest of the 90% of their lives are spent… just waiting.

a new way of thinking

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
-Vernon Howard

What’s the secret to happiness? This topic has been researched extensively, but I know many people have already found the answer.

It’s minimalism.

Do you think I’m making a pretty bold statement here? It’s up to you, but here are my reasons.

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking out of the mould of always wanting more. It’s about finding happiness in what we have already, instead of chasing something that is always out of reach. Once one gains something they’ve wanted for a long time, they only find temporary happiness.

Think about all of the times you’ve gotten what you wanted, do you still want them now? Of course not, because you got it. But my guess is that you want something else right now. So you have moved on from that thing you orignially wanted so badly. Don’t worry, everyone does it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but minimalism helps you break out of exactly this vicious cycle.

Why do people want things, like the latest gadget, car or in-season clothes? Most of the time it’s to boost their ego, or to show off how much money they have, or to fit in or to confirm that they are doing well in life. These people aren’t bad or selfish, in fact, I used to be exactly like that because we hadn’t been taught any other way. But now I have, and I’ve stopped worrying about what others think of me and started making some real friends who love me for who I am, not what I have.

realism or idealism?

Well that’s all well and good, but I have to pay the rent and my credit card bills“. I get this remark a lot, because people are focussing on the the wrong issue. They think minimalism is about being practically homeless – with few possessions, looking ugly and hoarding all of their money, but that’s not it at all. I have always said that minimalism is different for everyone, and it cannot be measured in set rules like that. Sometimes, it’s impractical for people to give up their jobs, especially if there are people who rely on them. If you have kids and you’re wondering what this has all got to do with you, I would suggest checking out Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker (somebody who I’ve looked up to for a long time and had supported my blog in it’s early stages), who manages very well with being a minimalist and a parent.

But there is always something you can do. If you downsize from a huge house, you can probably afford to live in a better location. If you just get rid of the clothes you know you’ll never wear, then maybe it won’t be so hard to open and close your wardrobe. If you spend less time watching trashy TV shows you’ll forget about in a week, or films you’ve seen before, then you can spend more time with friends and family or developing a skill or doing a hobby. If you spend more time cycling than driving, you can spend less time worrying about traffic, your health and the environment.

You don’t have to give up everything, it’s about reducing to what you really need. You can still dress fashionably without wasting money on brands, watch TV that is actually worth watching and drive a car when you need to. Just do what feels right for you. If you know me, or any other minimalists, you’ll just see a regular person. We’re not that different on the outside, just the inside.

Some people think that minimalism is against human nature. They think that if humans stop wanting more, things will stop progressing. If people have no ambition and drive, then ideas and innovations cease. People will stop working hard and just stick to their lowly jobs. This is not true. You can be happy with everything you have, and still improve yourself and society. The difference is this: as long as you are happy right now and not basing your happiness on obtaining the next thing or stage, then you’re practising minimalism, because you’re already happy. From then on, you’re working because you love what you do, not so that you can obtain happiness – because that kind of thinking never works, you will always be hanging on for ‘the next thing/stage’ , and when you get there, there will be another thing and then another thing… We should have more faith in human nature than thinking it is to be greedy.

Every human being is born to be happy. That is our life purpose. From those born poor or rich. Even the bad villains we see in movies are just trying to find happiness in their own way.

We deserve more than to be constantly waiting for happiness.


Live simply so that others may simply live.
HH Dalai Lama

A post that has been consistently popular since I published it is ‘Why minimalism brings happiness‘. People are looking for an answer.

But what is happiness exactly? How do we know if we are ‘happy’?

What happiness means is different for everyone, and in my opinion there isn’t one complete definition, but for me, happiness means that

I am feeling how I want to feel, I am doing everything I want to do, and I am at peace.

How do I want to feel? I want to feel good about contributing as little as I can to the waste and pollution of the Earth. I want to feel good that I have enough time and money to give away to people who need it more than me. And finally, I want to feel that I’ve made a positive impact, no matter how small, on the people around me and thus a difference in the world. No matter what, I’m determined to leave this world in a better state than how I entered it, that is what happiness means to me.

why I became minimalist

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

So let’s keep it simple. Apart from being happy, I became a minimalist for three reasons. For my:

1. Health. Minimalism keeps me healthy. Just check out my previous posts on a minimalist diet, my minimalist kitchen, minimalist exercise, cycling, runningand so on.

2. Study. I am a student, who is in love with her major. Through minimalism, I’ve been able to be where I want to be. If you want to find where I am, check out ‘the big reveal – my year abroad‘.

3. Dreams. Finally, I became minimalist so that I can eliminate distractions from my life. Without things that don’t matter cluttering up my life, I can focus my time, efforts and money on my dream of being able to travel the world because I am a firm believer of experiences over possessions.

I am happier now than I have ever been. And I predict in the future that I will be even happier than I am now. Hopefully, my happiness will never stop because I find myself wanting something I can’t have, or because I put my life on hold to get something I want. Of course there will be ups and downs, but what can I say, I’m an optimist.

An optimist is a person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.
Mark Twain

make a difference

When I started this blog, I did it anonymously because I thought it was so that I could chat about minimalism with people who felt the same. But in the Times article, my identity has been revealed to everyone, including my family and friends who had very little idea about what I was up to. Why did I agree to reveal myself in the article? Believe me, it wasn’t for fame or recognition or anything like that, I don’t care about that stuff.

This blog is my way of expressing the message of minimalism. It isn’t a cult, or a religion to follow, and I never preach or push about it in real life. Minimal Student blog is my way of spreading the word and to making the small change in the world that I have always wanted. I just want others to be happy, and if this is the way they’ll find it, that makes me even happier.

where to go from here

I’ve linked to a few of my past posts above but they are by no means all of them. If you want to read more, check out my most popular posts or read a little about me. You can also check out a few series I’m currently working on Simple Philosophies, 5 Life Lessons and Minimalist Meditations.

I have already mentioned some of these blogs above, but just in case you didn’t check them out, I want to thank the following people who have inspired me:

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. Thank you for reading and thank you for your helpful comments and encouraging emails. If you find any of the posts helpful to you in some way, please help me keep Minimal Student going by making even just a tiny teeny donation.

If you can’t see the donate button, please click here!

Have you changed even just a little since the beginning of this post? I look forward to hearing from you.

5 Lessons learned from a year of vegetarianism

For the last year, I’ve been on a vegetarian diet. I didn’t eat any meat (except for fish very occasionally) and based my diet on vegetables, rice and many other kinds of plant based foods. I made the switch by gradually reducing my meat intake during summer last year so that by the time I moved to uni, I didn’t have any problems cutting it out. Since I cooked for myself, it was very easy to buy ingredients and make whatever I wanted to eat (or not to eat).

However, unfortunately, once I fly for my year abroad, I will have to give it up. The reason why I can’t continue to be a vegetarian (as much as I would love to) is because it would impose a lot of difficulty on my host family. I think it would be too hard for my them to prepare a separate meal for me every single day in a country that pretty much bases its food pyramid on rice, fish and beef. I will try my best to eat as little meat as I can, but I also don’t want to ‘miss out’ on some cultural experiences.

Just a quick note, I’m not trying to convert anyone and I’m not saying eating meat is evil or any of that stuff. I’m simply just reflecting on the few things that I learned during my year of being a veggie.

lessons from the humble veg

1. Everyone has their reasons. I didn’t really tell anyone I was a vegetarian unless it was necessary, such as when they were making me dinner, or we if were going out for one. This was because if there’s one thing I can guarantee it’s that as soon as I tell somebody, the first thing they’ll say is “why!?“, after which I have to give my much rehearsed spiel of “it’s a combination of mostly health for me, but I also care a lot about the animals and the environment…” and so on. I’ve said it so many times that I wish people would just say something like “okay, cool” as if I had said “I don’t like the color pink” and be done with it.

I’ve learned that although I should be grateful that people are interested, many people simply just like to question your reasons instead of accepting what is.

2. Not everybody will understand. I used to like to eat meat, but I didn’t love it so much that I would defend it to my death. In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect when people found out, but now I know that there are some who find it very hard to just be respectful about it. Some people were fine, they would ask me if it was okay for them to eat meat in front of me (to which I replied ‘I don’t care about other people, just that I didn’t eat it’). But some acted like I was trying to convert them or something and would immediately go on the defensive about it. “But those animals wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for us!“. “It’s not our fault we’re on the top of the food chain!“. “But don’t you need meat for protein!?“. At first I would argue that all of these reasons were pretty much invalid but in the end I just gave up having debates everyday before my dinner and just let it go.

I’ve learned that some people, rather than be understanding, respectful or even tolerable about it, would rather argue their own point to justify their meat eating.

3. It’s not just leaves. Now onto the good stuff. Since becoming vegetarian, I’ve learned to cook about four or five times as many different dishes than if I had stuck with meat. I learned to use different types of rice, all kinds of beans, nuts and lentils, mushrooms, vegetables I’d never tried before and lot’s of seasonal fruit. I would have probably missed out on easy and quick ways to put together salads, soups, pastas and entire courses if I’d just stuffed myself with a burger and chips. As a bit of a foodie, all of these lessons were absolutely enlightening. (Also, yes, I did lose a lot of weight ;))

I’ve learned a lot about my body, what constitutes a healthy diet and about preparing food in general.

4. Willpower can be amazingly strong. Personally, I have always found it difficult to resist really fattening things like chocolate, cakes and desserts. So I don’t buy them. But when they’re in the fridge for the rest of my family whilst I’m at home, it takes an absolutely enormous amount of willpower for me to resist it. When I first started to give up meat, it was a little difficult and I would almost forget sometimes. However, I’ve noticed that over time, it became easier and easier for me to resist until I got to a point where I just didn’t feel like I wanted to eat any at all. It’s very rare now that I want to eat meat, and I never have cravings for it.

I’ve learned that the way to treat cravings is to not feed them and eventually they will die. Now if only I could apply this to chocolate.

5. Fresh and simple food is the stuff of life. Finally, I’ve learned that food isn’t something we should feel bad or guilty about. It’s fuel for the body, and fuel for the soul. It should make us feel happy and healthy. It should give us energy, not drag us down. Preparing food should be a joy, not some stressful routine we have to endure. We should eat foods as close as we can to how they’re given to us by Mother Nature, not canned, baked, boiled and fried until it’s barely recognizable.

I’ve learned to be more grateful for my food and what it really means to be closer with nature.

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Image: Chez Us

5 essential minimalist lessons for getting really fit

As an aspiring minimalist, I love to get rid of anything I think of as ‘extra’. Extra clothes, extra gadgets… and extra fat. I love to exercise, and I never see it as a chore. Rather, it’s something I do as a hobby, like curling up and reading a good book. But it took a while to get to where I am, and I learnt a lot of harsh lessons over the past year about how to get really healthy. As always minimalism has played a massive role in teaching me those lessons and showing me all of the things I did and didn’t need.

1. No gym. Last year, I ditched the gym. At first, I liked paying for it because the pressure not to waste my money pushed me to go. But only begrudgingly. I began hating going to the gym simply because I knew I had to. When I cancelled my membership, I felt liberated. I developed a much better attitude towards getting fit, I did it because I wanted to, not because of anything outside of me, which is a much stronger and longer lasting motivation.

2. No ‘health-potato’ equipment. Looking back, I didn’t know how the hell I fell for those late night telecommercials that sell exercise equipment that promise miracles. “In just 10 minutes a day you can look like this!” and so on. Ugh, my family (including me) fell for them too many times, paid too much for bogus pieces of metal that never worked and got stuck with trying to get rid of it. Patrick Reynolds, one of my most admired fitness gurus, calls them ‘health-potato‘ equipment, a reference to couch potatoes who want to get fit but are too lazy to do it properly. Taking a step back, you can see that this kind of thinking just doesn’t make sense.

3. No ignorance. These days, you just have to turn your head around to see something, anything that recommends some kind of health trick or hack or an advertisement for magic pills or a new superfood. You can choose to believe what people tell you, or you can choose to find out the truth. Your own research and education about the way your body works, what really is in the food you eat, how it affects you and how it is made is irreplaceable.

4. No fancy stuff. When people want to get fit, sometimes the mix up spending a lot of money = weight lost. This is one of those harsh lessons I learnt. Getting really state of the art trainers with air cushions on the bottom doesn’t mean that you are actually running. Getting expensive yoga equipment doesn’t mean you are actually doing yoga. When a lot of people decide they want to get fit, like at the beginning of the year, sports equipment sales go through the roof because people think that if they buy the equipment, they’ll be ‘fit’. But in the end, without the right kind of motivation, the equipment just becomes like a gym membership, pressuring and constraining because of the guilt of already investing load of money.

5. No shortcuts. Another simple thing to realize, and yet it took me so long to do it. There are no easy ways to get healthy except by getting healthy. That means exercising more but more importantly, eating well. I used to expect that I could eat chocolate bars and fairy cakes as long as I could run it off. It may work for some people (my brother eats like a pig but is as fit as a lion) but it definitely doesn’t for me. I was in denial, always wondering why no matter how much exercise I did, I saw little results. And then one day, someone told me “only 30% of weight loss is done in trainers, 70% is done in the fridge“. In other words, what you eat has much more an impact on your health than exercise does. Both are important, but one makes much more of a difference.

Finally, I just wanted to add that getting fit for me wasn’t all about losing weight. Yes, it was part of it, but not because I wanted to conform to social views on beauty or any of that rubbish. Instead, I wanted to feel good about myself so for me, during every workout I felt like I was earning some currency to put into my self confidence bank, which was hovering dangerously low for too long. Now, I can say that in that sense, thanks to these lessons, I’m much richer than ever before.

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10 minimalist reasons to start cycling today

This year, I discovered the wonders of cycling. I saw a poster that advertised a cheap bike hire scheme and I spontaneously decided to take the plunge. Before that, I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a year, let alone on the road. At first, I was slow and a bit wobbly, but by the end of the year I was faster and fitter. Now I wonder how I ever got anywhere without my trusty bike. Here are 10 minimalist reasons to start cycling today:

1. Quit the gym. I used to go the gym for two reasons. For the treadmill and for the exercise bikes. When I started running outside I halved the usefulness of the gym. And when I took up cycling at the beginning of the academic year, I found myself unable to take out that expensive membership. It just wasn’t worth it any more. Cycling burns an enormous amount of calories, and takes you places whilst you’re doing it.

2. No need for cars. Cars are expensive. There are multiple taxes, insurance, maintenance fees, not to mention gas, parking tickets, and the initial cost of the car itself. In fact, the cost for me to hire a bike for a whole year was less than the cost of a tank of gas. I realise that there are a few times when cars come in handy, such as twice a year when move my stuff from home to dorm (I’m lucky enough to have parents that would drive me), but for the rest of the year, a bike is more than enough to get me from A to B, even with all my shopping and books in tow.

3. Green. Speaking of cars, apart from the CO2 from your breathing, bikes don’t release toxic gases. And they don’t take that much energy to make and transport. They run on good old clean human energy – extra calories and a bit of elbow grease.

4. Takes up less space. An average bike takes less than 15% of the space an average car takes. Bikes can fit in doorways, in the front garden, in alleyways, and in sheds. They can be parked on lamp posts, fences and railings. They’re great for city dwellers, studio flats, apartments, not to mention minimalists!

5. Easier to maintain. Cars are needy. When you fix one thing, sooner or later another thing will break. And when you fix that, soon enough another part needs to be replaced. When you’ve done almost everything, the cycle starts again. Yes bikes do need to be maintained too, but not to that extent. Plus, the pieces are cheaper and a lot of bike shops will help you out for free if you buy the parts from them.

6. Faster. Have you ever been stuck in a traffic jam and watched the cyclists weave between the cars? Things go even faster when there’s a cycling lane. In the early mornings and evenings, it’s quite normal for me to zip past all of the stuck traffic and get to uni/home before the cars do. Sure, it’s not faster all of the time, but it’s always faster than walking, so it’s a great compromise.

7. Versatile. There are places you can’t drive, and there are places you can’t walk. But a lot of these places allow cycling. So if you want to get close into a busy town centre, take a bike. If you want to go for a leisurely ride through the park, take a bike. Unlike cars, which are restricted to roads and parking lots, bikes can get through pedestrian short cuts but can also be parked almost anywhere, for free.

8. Portable. If you have a longer distance to cover, you can cycle to the station and take bikes on buses and trains, and when you arrive, cycle the rest of the way. I’ve found this to be a really efficient way to travel, not to mention cheap! And if you know how to take them apart, they’re surprisingly compact-able, making them great to take in the backs of cars for road trips.

9. Quieter. What can be more Zen than a bit of silence? Imagine the morning rush with no horns or beeps, engine hums and roars or people venting their road rage. Just a few cyclist’s bell tings and the quiet clicks of the pedals running. I bet people will arrive at work or school much less stressed! (see video below)

10. More mindful. Some people spend too much time boxed up from the outside world. They go from their houses, to the inside of a car, to the inside of an office. A grand total of a few minutes spent in the outside world, even when the weather is good. And so what if it’s raining? It’s just water. It’s natural, embrace it!

I’m just going to go all out and say it. Cycling is awesome. Sure there’s walking (which is great too!), but cycling is much faster, and contrary to popular belief, very safe. I’ve mostly compared bikes to cars here, but whilst I’m not exactly a tree-hugger, I would love to live in a city where people cycled more than they drove. Can you imagine how great that would be? Check out this video for inspiration (notice how peaceful it is):

Cycling feeds my minimalist fetish. Do you cycle? Do you have any more reasons why we should start? Please share them in the comments!

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