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The Secret to Living a Happier Life? Follow the Rule of Less Is More

The Secret to Living a Happier Life? Follow the Rule of Less Is More

There are a plethora of self-help books that will guide you towards leading a happier life. Maybe you’ve bought the majority of them and even applied a lot of what’s been said. But do we really need all this advice? If there could be one habit we could adopt to be generally more happy it would make our path to happiness and wellbeing much easier.

So what is it? Well, it’s the concept of ‘less is more’ or, in other words, taking a more minimalist approach to life.

What Minimalist Living Really Means

Minimalist living may conjure up images of a bare house or cutting down on the stuff we enjoy – in other words, we must sacrifice enjoyment to be happy. Our modern world offers us so much to choose from and surely living minimally means we’re not taking the full advantage of what we can have, right?

It doesn’t have to mean giving up on our favourite things or getting rid of all our home comforts. As a concept, what minimalist living really means is recognising your worth more than the worth of material things.

We can get very caught up in the things we want – those things that satisfy short-term – instead of focusing on what we need. Another way of looking at it is giving ourselves the sense of freedom – freedom from the external things and freedom from the need for possession.

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This doesn’t have to be a life-changing task but rather a shift in mindset and perspective towards what you consider is important to you.

How Living Minimally Will Benefit Your Life

There are so many benefits to creating a more minimalist life, not just for your physical living space but for your positivity of mind – it’s a process of decluttering and decluttering can do wonders for our general wellbeing.

It allows us to refocus on what’s important, creating more energy and time for ourselves. Buying and maintaining the stuff we have is a real money drainer so eliminating possessions also eliminates worry and stress, opening up a sense of breathing space.

But It Also Comes With Difficulties…

Many of us find this a hard concept to put into practice. As mentioned before, we live in a time when we’re bombarded with a never-ending selection of stuff at our fingertips. Society makes it so there’s a certain expectation – we can’t live without a mobile phone, we should keep up with the latest fashions, we need to continually upgrade to make sure we’re not falling behind.

All this can make it difficult to declutter our lives and take on a new way of approaching how we live. But once you start considering yourself, your self-worth and what’s important to you rather than what’s important to your society, it can be a truly freeing experience.

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Put It Into Action: Ways To Go Minimalist

Becoming minimalist doesn’t have to happen overnight. Making small shifts is a better way to sustain a long-term perspective on decluttering. Starting the process little by little will help you to feel a slow but sure difference in the way you approach life and ultimately make you feel lighter and happier.

1. Clear Out Your Wardrobe

The best way to start is with your clothes. How many of your clothes sit in the wardrobe or drawers only to be pulled out once or twice a year – or more than likely never? This process of throwing out items of clothing can be a very liberating experience. More often than not, they are taking up unnecessary space and you’ll be surprised at how much you won’t even notice they’re gone once you’ve thrown them out.

Give yourself a challenge of getting rid of any clothes you haven’t worn in the last 6 months. Watch as your stressful mornings of outfit dilemmas disappear.

2. Do The Food Challenge

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Eating well is a must but our shopping bills can be way more expensive than they need to be. Enjoying minimalist living doesn’t mean scrimping on good food and eating the same boring meals every day in the name of ‘less is more’. Being savvy with the types of food we buy and finding interesting recipes that use cheap and tasty ingredients, can slash our shopping bill by more than we think. It’s about training ourselves to shop smart and really be mindful of the choices we make.

3. Declutter Your Living Space

It’s very tempting to buy decorations that will look good in our home but over time it can add up. Once we’re used to stuff being around us we’re almost blind to it. Take time to really look around and see what needs to go. Keep the things that are meaningful or really suit the scheme of your home and consider giving away things that don’t have a place anymore. This can include furniture or the accumulation of kitchen utensils – remember duplicates are rarely necessary!

4. Travel Lightly

How often when travelling, do you pack way too much? We think of every possible scenario that could potentially happen that justifies taking much more than we need. Most of the time we don’t use half the stuff we take. So if you’re going for a week then pack for 3 or 4 days. Not only will you have less to carry, but you’ll realise you can live with a smaller choice.

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5. Declutter Your Mind From Social Media

It’s normal these days to be glued to our phone and check social media several times a day but is it really necessary? How many times do you scroll through your Facebook feed and think why am I looking at this again?!

This approach to minimalism is purely for your mind. Give your brain a rest and make a conscious effort to not check social media. Don’t beat yourself up when you do, but just note when you do it and question yourself. Over time you will notice you check it much less and you’ll feel happier for it.

So, adopt the ‘less is more’ philosophy and see how decluttering your life will work wonders for your mind and perspective on what really makes you happy.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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