Minimalism is not just dumping things you don’t need. Here is how practicing minimalism helps you to live more mindfully and happily.
Mindfulness and minimalism share much in common. One often leads to the other. Once you begin reflecting inwardly more often and tune into your inner world, you seek to manifest externally by harmonizing your environment.
Better yet, these practices offer multiple benefits in our modern world. Crises like pandemics and homelessness make people recognize how little of life lies within their control and how much is up to chance. These techniques remind you to focus on what you can manage, imparting a necessary sense of agency amid the chaos.
People typically think mindfulness leads to minimalist ideals, but the effect can happen both ways. It’s more of a symbiotic relationship. Here’s how practicing minimalism can help you live mindfully.
What Are Minimalism and Mindfulness?
Table of Contents
Before discussing the many ways practicing minimalism can help you live mindfully, let’s talk about what it really means.
Mindfulness refers to a state of awareness about yourself and what’s going on around you. It entails your five senses but much more.
You also remain conscious of your mental and emotional state and physical sensations from within (interoception) and how they affect how you interact with the world.
Mindfulness helps you stay grounded in the present instead of ruminating about the past or losing yourself in fears for the future. It helps you fully appreciate the good moments in life rather than blindly reacting.
You can think of minimalism as a trustworthy rake and hoe set in the garden of life. It helps you clear away the weeds so the plants you want to nurture can thrive.
Minimalism doesn’t necessarily limit the number of possessions you own. However, it requires a thorough reflection of every item around you.
Does it spark joy, serve a useful purpose, or simply bring more work and frustration to your life? It’s all about focusing on essential and timeless items and cutting out anything that doesn’t serve a meaningful purpose.
Furthermore, minimalism doesn’t confine itself to physical objects. It’s also a mindset — what do you want to cultivate more of in your life? What could you do without?
For example, can you quit a second job that takes precious hours away from family and loved ones if you spare your budget a bit?
5 Ways Practicing Minimalism Can Help You Live Mindfully
These definitions might help you start to see how practicing minimalism can help you live mindfully. Here are five ways these two concepts work together to help you create the rich, meaningful life you deserve.
You Tune Into Your Physical Self
Think of the last time you snapped at your kids or spouse to quit making all that racket, perhaps speaking harshly and spurring resentment.
Physical sensations from within our bodies often drive our behavior. Yet, we don’t make the connection between the pain and our outwardly cranky attitudes.
Practicing minimalism helps you become more mindful of physical sensations and how they affect you by reducing unnecessary distractions.
The discomfort of wearing certain clothes might be caused by improper fitting or itching fabric. When you realize that, you can get rid of them and make yourself feel better.
Eliminating the things that don’t serve you lets you more mindfully tune into those that do.
For example, many people wake up each morning with a headache and distract themselves with grave pronouncements of suffering they can do nothing to solve.
As a result, they might mistakenly blame their low mood on “how bad things are,” not their aching head. And they spend the whole day feeling grumpy when a couple of aspirin might have done the trick.
Using minimalism to become more mindful helps those with mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
For example, people who experience panic attacks manifest physical symptoms like chest pain, increased heart rate, and dizziness. These sensations can cue you into what’s happening and how to fix it if you’re aware, but they can spur further fear and worsen your symptoms if not.
Such scenarios can create a negative feedback loop where your fear feeds into itself. You feel convinced you must be having a heart attack, exaggerating your perception of how bad the pain is. That’s not to say it isn’t real — your panic could make your chest muscles clench, creating genuine agony.
You should always seek emergency care for new and unusual chest pain, but you also get to know your body over time. When recurring episodes strike, you can first turn to mindfulness therapy techniques to quell your panic and reassess whether you require additional treatment.
- Boxed (or square) breathing: In this technique, you inhale for four counts, pause for four, exhale for four and pause again before inhaling. The U.S. Navy Seals employ this method to steady their nerves. Drawing awareness to your breath helps you shut out distractions and engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Five senses: In this practice, you calm yourself by listing five things you can see. Follow with four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste.
- Mindful pause: Anxiety can cause you to behave in unwise ways. A mindful pause lets you examine the stimulus — what’s creating the panic? — and consciously decide how to best respond instead of flying by instinct.
You Crave Knowledge and Nurture Your Mind
Another way practicing minimalism can help you live mindfully is by feeding your mind with useful knowledge about topics that interest you. It keeps you engaged in life instead of passively letting it pass you by as you lie on the couch watching Netflix.
For example, you love gardening. After cleaning your garage, you realize you aren’t ready to part with your rakes and hand trowels. Almost automatically, your brain begins planning your next planting efforts as you mindfully explore questions like:
- What should I plant? Should I stick with strictly food crops or throw in a few ornamentals? What types of vegetables does my family enjoy the most?
- What can I do to enhance my soil? Where could I fit a compost bin in my backyard, and how can I build one on the cheap? Do I need to use chemical pesticides, or would a bag of ladybugs do the trick while treading more lightly on the planet?
- How can I indulge my love of gardening in a tiny space? How can I plan my landscaping to make maximum use of the room I have? Will containers and raised beds increase my planting area?
Minimalism can even make you more mindful about what you put on television.
For example, you might discover that you often run the box for background noise, barely paying attention to the messages bombarding your ears. Why not switch to some soothing music instead to calm your nervous system?
When it’s time to sit back and watch something, pick a show or movie that captivates your interest, transports you to another world, or teaches something new.
You Engage With, Process, and Honor Your Emotions
Emotions alone won’t harm you if you recognize and process them healthily. Feelings such as grief can have dire physical repercussions if you ignore them or push them down. Even worse when you try to drown them with unhealthy behaviors like overindulging in drugs or alcohol.
Another way people often seek distraction from uncomfortable feelings is through pointless consumerism, the endless pursuit of the “next best thing.”
However, this focus on materialism often pushes you away from the support you need through difficult times. Those who remain in your circle may do so for the most superficial of reasons — what you might spend on them — leaving you unbearably lonely.
You might not have learned how to identify and honor your feelings if raised in a toxic environment. Fortunately, you can develop this skill as an adult by incorporating mindfulness. Try some of these exercises to identify your emotions — then consciously decide the best way to act on them:
- List your physical sensations: In this exercise, you tune into your body and list what’s going on with you physically. For example, you may have a pounding heart, a nagging headache, or a clenched jaw. What do these sensations tell you about your emotional state?
- Talk to your emotion: Imagine your feeling as a separate entity. You’re a journalist, sent to discern more about it. What is it trying to tell you? What message is it sending, and how do you want to respond?
- Color your body: Draw a simple outline of your body, then use markers or colored pencils to color what your emotion feels like and where you feel it. For example, a broken heart may feel like a big purple and green bruise spreading through your chest.
You Develop Your Spiritual Side
Minimalism can help you live more mindfully by connecting with your spiritual side.
For example, sorting through your belongings can be a spiritual experience.
Minimalism encourages you to embrace one-in-one-out living, where you surrender one old object before replacing it with something new.
So what do these transitions tell you about the different stages of your life and how you’ve grown?
If you just quit a well-paying but toxic job, donating an old business suit can symbolize spiritual freedom and liberation. It also gives back to the community, helping others.
You can transform heartbreaks into acceptance using mindful minimalism. For example, why not give your wedding gown to a needy bride, clearing that old energy and negative connotations from your closet post-divorce?
This way, you let go of the past with love instead of hate. Moreover, it frees you from painful memories and restores a sense of hope.
You Discover What Brings True Meaning
Minimalism helps you live mindfully by reminding you of what brings true meaning to you. With minimalism in mind, you ask yourself, “do I need this and why? Does it spark joy?”
It forces you to contemplate your likes and dislikes, what you value, and what you can do without.
Viktor Frankl writes about the necessity of meaning to mental health in his landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
He built on Friedrich Neitzche’s philosophy that “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how” to survive the horrors of the concentration camps during World War II.
More and more research proves him right, demonstrating how your emotional and even physical well-being rely on a purpose for your existence.
Spend some time in meditation contemplating your answers to the following questions. Of course, you don’t have to find them all at once, but mindfully exploring these self-awareness questions on occasion can help you find greater meaning and purpose in your life:
- Who do I want to be? If you could overhear a friend secretly describing you to another, what would you want them to say? Would they call you honest, dependable, creative, or inspiring? What adjectives do you hope others use, and how can you cultivate those qualities?
- If I were a character in the story of my life, what would be my quest? Narrative therapy is a technique that psychologists sometimes use to help their clients determine the best course of action. You can use it to help you find purpose. What would your main objective be if you were writing a story about your life? How would you go about accomplishing your quest?
- What people do I most enjoy being with and why? You can often learn much about yourself from the folks you associate with. Who are you drawn to and why? What qualities do they have, and how can you emulate them?
Practicing minimalism can help you live more mindfully in several ways. You improve your physical and mental health by narrowing your focus on what brings you joy and eliminating distractions.
Try some of the techniques above to employ these strategies in your daily routine. They will help you see the impact a mindful, minimalist mindset can have on your quality of life.
This is a guest post from Cora Gold. She is the editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine, Revivalist, where she writes about life, adventure, and happiness. Connect with Cora on LinkedIn.
Our sincere thanksto the Source link