When we think about minimalism, oftentimes the first thing that comes to mind is living without excess material objects. Although this is true, it is only half the story. Minimalism has more benefits than just a clean room and an organized cabinet. Minimalism can also lead to a clear mind and better mental health. A minimalistic lifestyle allows for the space to find your own individual priorities of what makes you happy and what you want to fill your life with. It focuses on genuine and meaningful experiences rather than short term pleasures. It also leads to mindfulness about our emotions, thoughts and opinions, who we are and who we want to be. So how can you mentally implement minimalism?
In today’s world, we are told that money equates to happiness. This is because in a capitalistic society, companies profit from selling and convincing people to buy what they think they want. Consumers buy in abundance in an attempt to satisfy the search for happiness, but these pleasures are fleeting. Happiness is an individual responsibility and cannot be fulfilled with a new sweater or a sparkly bracelet. Money holds too much weight and often becomes a major source of stress as it does not provide purpose within our lives no matter what we buy. We often put a price tag on our relationships and experiences and worry about the cost, rather than what we can gain from it. Happiness can only be found within the connections we make with one another and the experiences we fill our lives with.
Mental illness has been deemed a silent killer as it is invisible from an outsider’s perspective, yet one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Studies have shown that in the US, more than 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder. Anxiety and depression are the two most common types as they often come in pairs and anxiety alone, affects 40 million adults in the US every year. These alarming statistics prove that people are suffering in the society we live in and we lack a meaningful component to our lives which provides drive and purpose. This is likely because money is the dictating factor of how we live our lives. Where we live, our careers and free time are determined based on our financial freedom. This does not mean, however, that we have to let this control us. If we focus on experiences and relationships rather than monetary value, we can find happiness.
We also live in a society where an “on the go” lifestyle is promoted and we stay so busy that we barely have enough time for ourselves. We fill our lives with countless distractions and rather than putting time into ourselves, each day is a repeat of the last. Research has shown that in the US, 33% of people feel as though they have reached a dead end in their career and another 21% want to change careers. Yet despite these startling numbers, countless people continue to work long and stressful hours in positions that they have no passion or drive for. This can then lead to anxiety and depression because we continue to put energy into things that will not make us happy. We chase after the next best thing without taking the time to ask ourselves if this is something we truly want, or is it what we have been conditioned to think we want. The extreme rise in mental illness within our population, particularly in the West, is a clear indication that this busy way of life is not working.
Minimalism to the Rescue
It is evident that living a lifestyle filled with distractions is unsustainable and unfulfilling. Minimalism combats this by ‘decluttering’ your life in more ways than one. Although cleaning out your closet and donating the things you no longer need is an excellent first step, it is key to also declutter your mind. It is found that overall, minimalists are happier because they have less materialistic worries and stress in their lives. Rather, they place emphasis on their relationships with others and their own individual priorities. Minimalism leads to mindfulness about our own emotions because without the materialistic distractions, we are able to take the time and space to figure out what our own passions and desires are and what will truly make us happy. Rather than spending our lives chasing after ‘the next best thing,’ we can appreciate what we already have. As well, understanding our emotions is key to forging better relationships with the people around us. With mindfulness, we can learn how to better connect with one another and place value on the people in our lives.
How to Declutter Our Minds
There is no one way to begin your journey to minimalism. Different methods work for different people, but the following are helpful steps to get started.
1. Take the time and space to get to know yourself
This is perhaps the most important step because no one knows you like yourself. Oftentimes our lives are full of so many distractions that we lose sight of our original hopes and dreams. It is imperative that you take a step back from the materialistic problems and focus on what matters: you. Ask yourself, what did you want to be when you were younger? Would your younger self be proud of you if they saw you now? How did you end up where you are? And most importantly, who do you want to be?
2. Cut off toxic people
When people think about minimalism, it is often associated with decluttering a closet, but the important thing is getting rid of the things that no longer make us happy. Some people are meant to play a temporary role in our lives and that is okay. Take a look at the close relationships in your life and ask if you feel happy with these people. Do you like the person you are around them? What lessons have they taught you? Distancing ourselves from people we were once close to is hard, but sometimes necessary. If someone causes you stress and constant problems, it is okay to walk away.
This step can come in a multitude of ways and it all depends on what you feel works the best. This could be doing yoga every morning or going to the gym. They key is doing something that clears your mind and makes you in tune with your body. Meditation is not only about peace of mind, but it has many benefits to your health as well. It allows a period of peace and quiet for you to reflect on your day and what you want for tomorrow.
4. Find a hobby
This does not necessarily mean speeding to buy knitting needles or baking a thousand cupcakes. It is important however, to have an activity or interest that you do only for you. A simple pleasure that you can look forward to that benefits you. Minimalists appreciate the simple things in life and so they are able to value the things that truly matter. By working on and taking care of yourself in the little ways, you are able to see the big picture.
5. Be proud of yourself
In today’s society, we often go, go, go and don’t pause to acknowledge all the hard work we have put into getting where we are today. We put a certain definition on what an achievement is and what deserves recognition. We also do not take the time to appreciate the work we have done and instead, launch towards the next goal. This can cause stress and feeling lost, as if nothing is ever good enough. From a minimalists’ perspective, all of your efforts to better yourself should be recognized whether that be starting a new book or finishing a crossword. As long as you are working on loving and taking care of yourself, you have every right to be proud of yourself.
Minimalism cuts away all the excess from our lives that distracts us from the things that truly matter. It is not enough to just declutter our homes from materialistic objects, but we need to declutter our minds as well. This helps us to reach mindfulness about our emotions, who we are and who we want to be. Mental illness and disorders are far too prevalent in today’s world and it is because of the focus on finding happiness in materialistic objects. Happiness is an individual responsibility that can only be found within our individual priorities. These are discovered through minimalism when we step back and appreciate what we have and who we are. Following the steps of taking time and space, removing toxic people and clutter, meditating and focusing on your interests for you and you only, will begin your path to a minimalist state of mind.