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This week marks the final installment of our 30-day Matcha Challenge. It's been full of health hacks, lifestyle improvements, and even a couple changes to mindset.
As promised, these recommendations are cost-free or easily accessed by virtually everyone. Better yet, it’s not too late to participate; our simple hope is that you’ll find a few of these keys to better living actionable within your own life.
Specifically this week, see if you can get at least one of these ideas to stick as a frequent habit. Keep in mind, sometimes the most critical change one can make is within their frame of mind, a flip-of-the-switch if you will. An important reminder from our current time in Japan, is to foster gratitude and health through simple additions to your day.
Three ways to join this week
1) Itadakimasu (いただく) — A simple shift in attitude. This Japanese phrase is said at the beginning of each meal, intended to remind ourselves and those around us of humility and gratitude. Itadaku is a polite form, translating as “to take,” and doubles traditionally as the appropriate response when accepting anything from those of a higher authority than oneself (especially gods). Also, this phrase is accompanied by important body language; the head bowes while hands are held above in honor of what’s being received. Ultimately, this daily practice offers a rejuvenating sense of sacrality, said at meal times as an opportune reminder of the gift of energy and life taken from another organism.
With origins cultivated through Buddhist spiritual beliefs, this gesture maintains a respect for one’s place amongst all living things. As such, by using the life of another as replenishment, it’s also necessary to honor and revere the life that spirit embodied.
Practically speaking, this custom is akin to many other cultures’ mealtime blessings, but here it speaks as a precedent in optimizing our wellness: to be grateful, to develop mindfulness, and to consume consciously. These characteristics are commonly associated with improvements to health, mood, and outlook, and anyone can strive to cultivate them. 
2) Kuzu Root — Just like above, this opportunity for improvement isn’t overly complicated, and should be plenty easy to access as well. Kuzu (sometimes Kudzu) is a vine plant native to Asia, specifically believed to originate in Japan. While now an invasive species in the United States, kuzu (and roots generally) hold important energy reserves and key nutrients that our bodies can make excellent use of — somewhat of a quasi-food group in their own right. Like other popular roots such as turmeric and ginger, the use of this root dates back for nearly 2,000 years as both a source of food and Eastern healing.
As a culinary additive, the root is ground into a starch and used as a thickening agent. Typically it’s included in the base of broths and sauces, providing a pleasant texture, all the while believed to aid digestion and balance glucose metabolism. Relatedly, its long history in natural healing suggests the use of the root in health issues like alcoholism, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.
Kuzu powder can be found locally in most health food stores. This simple addition to your weekly cooking will open the door to flavorful Asian recipes, work as an excellent substitute for other starches, and overall fuel your body the way it needs.
3) Green Tea (honestly) — We might be here for the matcha, but in Japan, teas of all types are everywhere! It’s part and parcel to life itself, the average person living in Japan consumes 4-5 cups of tea, especially green tea, per day. What’s more, most who travel here enjoy the simple addition of tea as a quick means of increased vitality in their daily lifestyle.
Not entirely coincidental, Japan is also home to some of the world’s healthiest people, particularly the greatest per capita centenarian population. So, between the tea and their healthy foods (unlike the Western diet), we all should take inspiration and at least set our longevity on a handful of cups of tea per day (or at least 2 bowls of matcha).
Like the other tips this week, tea is widely accessible and makes for a powerful and pain-free addition to our healthy lifestyle. It’s an unparalleled fuel for mindfulness and gratitude — right down to the cellular level.
Side Note: Tea in Japan is rarely served with additives like milk, creamer, or sugar. For one, the protein in milk interferes with antioxidant absorption, a distinction in-part believed to separate the country’s positive health outcomes when compared to others with comparable tea consumption.
The bottom line
Each week of this 30-Day challenge, we’ve focused on minor changes or simple additions that anyone can make, whether each day or a couple times a week. These suggestions have all either been time-tested, scientifically well-established, or at the very least harmless to try.
That said, most every improvement that any of us can make is reliant on the right balance of will, intention, and attitude in order to find success. That’s why this week we’ve left you first with a practice of gratitude, and then two simple and healthy ways to fuel it. Again, over the course of this month, our hope is that at least two or three of these tips, health-hacks, or attitude changes can harmonize together in your unique lifestyle to create an optimized and happier way of living.