Simplifying means getting rid of excess things that do not serve us well or serve us at all. But first, let’s start with why life should be simplified.
Today more than ever we live in a rat race that seems never-ending. From the constant pressure to conform to society’s rules and expectations to struggling to find quality time for ourselves and loved ones, it is no surprise that more and more people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Let’s face it, the economic system is designed in a way to rob us of the freedom we deserve as individual beings. Working 8 hours a day and spending only a few hours with the kids a day (and in some cases much less) does not seem like a normal way to live. It should be the other way around.
While there is little we can do to change this system on individual level, we still hold the power to make decisions to change our lives for the better and make it less strenuous. We must at least try, for the sake of our sanity and for the sake of the generations that follow us.
It goes without saying that simplifying or de-cluttering our lives makes room for things and people that actually matter. Below are some tips to help identify ways you can bring simplicity in your own life and start reaping some of its benefits.
1. Sever unhealthy relationships.
Nobody is worth your sanity and well-being (except maybe your kids). You need to be able to feel good in your relationships so you can spread the goodness to the ones you care about. If you feel like being pulled down by someone, you will have little energy to focus your attention to those that uplift you and make you a better you.
Whether it’s your boss at work who is giving you headaches, your neighbour, an acquaintance, or any person who sucks the blood out of you, they simply need to go (or in the case of the boss, be replaced with another one).
If it is a member of the family, well, it gets a bit more complicated. The bottom line is if someone doesn’t share your values or appreciates you the way you are, distancing yourself is your best option.
2. Stop buying things you don’t really need.
Unfortunately, in an overwhelming consumption world we live in today it can be hard to resist the temptations of certain products and services. Impulse shopping is dangerous on many levels. Firstly, it can grow into an addiction. Secondly, it robs people of money. Thirdly, it makes people feel guilty afterwards.
Depressed people are more likely to shop impulsively because they believe the product or service will bring them the happiness they crave, but they get depressed even more when they realize the satisfaction is only temporary and they have just wasted their money.
But there is a simple solution to this. Before you add the next item to a shopping cart, either in-store or online, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” or “Will my life improve with this purchase?” It worked for me many times!
3. Find joy in simple pleasures.
As I write in The Ultimate Guide to Savouring Simple Pleasures, simple pleasures are all around us but we have to deliberately look for them. Eventually, it will become a habit that makes the every day life more satisfying.
To be able to enjoy simple pleasures we need to live in the moment. No dwelling on the past and what could have been or should have been. No dwelling on the future and what could be or should be. It’s ok to make goals, as long as they don’t turn into an obsession that takes away from the joy of today.
Notice the sky, the birds, the people around you. This is your life!
4. Learn to say NO.
Guess what? You don’t have to go out to every event you’re invited to. You also don’t have to work overtime.
The hard part is learning to say NO to ourselves. We don’t have to look perfect or have the perfect clothes or house or car or education. They are things that society made up we should have or how we should be. Just do whatever the heck makes you happy, as long as you don’t hurt anyone in the process (yourself included).
As my dad once eloquently put it, “The only thing you have to do is die.” Food for thought!
5. Get rid of material excess.
Simplifying your life also means de-cluttering your house. Why? Because you don’t have to clean as much and you make more living space. Do you really need 10 sets of towels? Or 20 pairs of shoes? Bags? Clothes? Jewellery? Pots and pans? Tech gadgets? You get the point.
Another reason to de-clutter the house is that it’s good for the kids. It’s been proven that kids are more immersed in play when they are presented with fewer options (read: toys). The bonus is that you teach them that they shouldn’t be attached to material things.
Consider donating your stuff to local charities. It’s a win-win situation!
6. Live with nature.
From the dawn of civilization humans have lived alongside nature and thrived. Today we don’t get enough exposure to sun, fresh air, and physical activity which are crucial elements to our well-being.
If you can’t live in the nature (on a farm, highlands, back country), then live with the nature. Incorporate nature into your life, be it with daily walks through the park, weekly hiking trips, sitting in your backyard, or gardening.
Reconnecting with nature will awake within you a sense of belonging and respect for our predecessors. It will simplify your life by grounding you and clearing your thoughts.
7. Leave the cell phone behind.
I have been guilty of this one for a long time. I know very well how addictive cell phones can be. Having realized that more of my time was spent on the phone than interacting with family and friends, I have limited the use of the cell phone to every 3-4 hours versus every 15 minutes. I even leave the house without it when going grocery shopping or taking kids out to a park. Trust me, this action alone has had a huge effect on my well-being and allowed me to appreciate the present moment more.
Cell phones are not only addictive, they are highly distractive. In addition, they emit small doses of radiation so when they are constantly near our bodies even this dosage can be harmful. For this reason if you have a daily alarm set up on the phone, leave it as far from your head and body as possible, preferably in another room.
Remember your life does not depend on the phone. There are far better ways to spend your precious time.
That’s my list!
Perhaps not all of you will have recognized yourselves in this text, and if that’s the case, good for you! I would love for you to share additional tips on how to live a simple life.