When did life become so full of unnecessary clutter? How did we lose sight of the big picture in order to pursue tiny and meaningless goals? Where did the idea of living simply go, and how can we find it again?
Modern Western culture has become extremely fast-paced. We’re always busy, out of time, rushing. It’s hard to remember to pause every now and then. Breathe.
The joy of living simply is something so many overlook. Lots of people laugh when yogis talk about being “present” and “grounded.” But presence and focus are fantastic tools for overall happiness, and it’s not worth ignoring them and rushing to check off the next item on your calendar. Mindfulness is an invaluable tool in today’s day and age.
Our minds tend to jump rapidly from one thing to another, sacrificing focus. Attention spans are deteriorating, and stimuli are everywhere. We’re overwhelmed all the time, with work or our social lives or any number of things. It’s difficult to be present, to appreciate the moment, to be still.
When we choose to live simply, we cut out the unnecessary worries that plague us daily. We can become calm, and find comfort in stillness.
It may take willpower to discover the benefits of living simply. Technology has made it so easy to see the highlight reels of everyone else’s lives, and allows us to fall into the trap of comparison. Happiness and fulfillment mean much more than always having something new to post on Instagram—we all know that, but that doesn’t stop us from worrying. Focus on yourself before agonizing over whether everyone else knows that you’re happy.
It takes self-awareness to recognize these thought patterns and take action against them. You’ll have to psychoanalyze yourself a little, and really delve into the “why.” Why do I feel like I always need to be busy? Why do I need my phone in my hand right now?
We’re so consumed by the little things nowadays that we rarely stop to appreciate the moment and the world around us. Grounding yourself in the “now” is the first step to creating a simple, joyful life. If you want a taste of clear-headed presence, try this simple exercise:
- Go outside, and don’t bring your phone. You’re going to focus on the tangible world, only for a few moments.
- Be self-aware. Notice the thoughts running through your mind. How do you feel? Are you restless? Content? Pay attention to your own mental state, and try to analyze it.
- Breathe deeply. It’s a truly effective calming tactic. Take in the air around you, and try to notice the world.
- Let your worries go. They’ll arise, but imagine them floating away when you exhale. This time is for relaxation—you can afford these few moments.
- Direct your focus back to your mental state. How do you feel? It may be easier now to notice where any negative feelings are coming from. If you can think of a way to deal with them, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too—you’ll get there.
Allow yourself to really focus on the moment and forget about your worries every now and then. It’ll give you a taste of the peace living simply can bring. Every now and then, step away from technology, read a book, appreciate something small like the fresh air or the smell of coffee in the morning. Remind yourself that some things are not as important as they seem.
This is only the starting point. There are countless blogs out there devoted to simple living and minimalism (such as mnmlist.com by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, who inspires me daily), and there are so many ways to cultivate simplicity in your life. The first step is realizing how good it can feel to stop every once in a while, be still, and breathe. Remember that, and you can build a peaceful world for yourself and others.