How Minimalism Can Improve Mental Health
Minimalism can have a positive impact on your mental health, which includes your stress level and your ability to enjoy and appreciate life. This discussion of minimalism refers to a lifestyle or philosophy (it’s a toss-up as to which category it falls into) and not the artistic or architectural concept of minimalism.
What is minimalism?
The concept of minimalism is a way of living (that’s the lifestyle part) in which you eliminate the “stuff” in your life that doesn’t add value to it. Perhaps one of the best explanations of minimalism comes from Joshua Fields Millburn who, along with Ryan Nicodemus, has been practicing, lecturing, and writing about minimalism for years.
Millburn states that “Minimalism is a tool I use to get rid of unnecessary stuff and live a meaningful life—a life filled with happiness, freedom, and conscious awareness. Because I strip away life’s excess, I’m able to focus on the important parts of life: health, relationships, passions, growth, and contribution.”
The idea—and I discovered years ago that it works for me—is that by getting rid of stuff and clutter and simplifying your life—and this can include unhealthy relationships and commitments--you are free to do more rather than less. A significant amount of tension and stress are lifted from your shoulders.
Of course, some stress if a necessary part of life; that’s just part of living. The critical lesson here, however, is that by reducing things you decide or discover to be unnecessary, restrictive, and stress-producing, you can experience better mental health and more freedom.
These are some of the benefits noted by individuals who have adopted a minimalist approach to life, regardless of what that approach looks like for them.
The philosophy part of minimalism is that adopting this way of living helps you see things, people, and situations in a different way. Typically, when tension and stress are stripped away, there is more room for self-awareness, consciousness, happiness, and empathy.
However, minimalism isn’t really a philosophy because it doesn’t dictate or tell you what to believe or how to see the world—these things happen based on how you choose to utilize the tool. Once you use the tool to evaluate your priorities, you can just keep the things (and people, relationships, situations) that bring value to your life.
For some people, it means not having a car or (in my case) having one I drive only when absolutely necessary. Others decide to
- Have a limited and completely functional wardrobe (less stress about deciding what to wear, takes up less space)
- Have no TV or only one
- Grow their own food
- Eliminate cable
- Opt for the least expensive and most functional mobile phone
- Downsize their living space
- Give away, sell, and/or donate anything they no long need or use (including all that stuff in the garage and attic no one has looked at for years)
- Discover new ways to repurpose things they already have (I personally love this one!)
- Let go of commitments (learning to say “no”) and/or relationships that are toxic
- Forego the need to keep up with the Joneses
- Raise their children according to this lifestyle
Personally, I can vouch for the fact that moving as a minimalist, especially great distances, is much less stressful, inexpensive, and easier.
Remember the old Beatle’s tune about how you can’t buy love? Nor can it buy happiness, contentment, or freedom.
There has been research showing that people who win the lottery are ultimately no happier than those who have enough to meet their basic needs. Plenty of stories have been told of ultra-rich and/or famous individuals who have committed suicide, suffered severe depression, and/or turned to drugs and alcohol—did having lots of money and stuff fulfill their mental, emotional, and spiritual needs?
The idea of minimalism is about living with less and loving it more. If you are tired of crass consumerism and the feeling that your stuff, relationships, and social commitments own you and stifle your freedom, then you might want to consider a shift in consciousness. Adopting a more minimalist approach to life may provide you the mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom you need.