“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” – Plato
Is that what it means by simple life? Being minimalist and having fewer possessions. Will that make us happy and content?
Let’s look at this topic from another angle. Let’s see what most of us normally do in our lives and where and how we end up feeling.
If you ask anyone what they cherish the most in their lives, the answer most probably would be happiness and contentment. We are chasing these feelings all our lives and very few of us actually manage to feel anywhere close to what we think is happiness and contentment.
Joy and fulfillment seem to be as elusive as the forbidden fruit. In this pursuit, we look for it in all the wrong places – fame, wealth, and materialistic possessions. The more we manage to amass them, the further we are from our goal.
So, does it mean we should not pursue any of these and live the life of an ascetic? Is that even possible for a regular person?
This article attempts to find answers to these deep questions and more. Read on to learn about the simple lifestyle and how to simplify your life.
What is a simple life?
The term “simple living” is used a lot nowadays. Does it mean to give up your possessions, not to have ambitions and goals, and abstinence from self-indulgence?
A simple lifestyle has featured prominently in religious teachings. The Buddhist school of thought tells us to lead a simple life dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and good deeds.
Others tell us that a rural lifestyle is the essence of simple living as opposed to city life. The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus promote their own version of simple living.
So, which is the right one?
There is no definitive answer to this question. What you feel is right and works for you is the correct approach to simple living. There is no one-size-fits-all.
Some may find that having fewer possessions gives them peace of mind and contentment. Some others may find this by moving away from the rat race of city life or by living off the grid. Still, others may find happiness by practicing gratitude for the blessings received and valuing what they already have.
The ideas of simple life may differ from person to person. But one thing is for sure, the mad pursuit of money, status and materialistic things can only make you unhappy and discontent. You can never have enough of them.
Let’s see the changes you can bring to your lifestyle to live simple.
How to live a simple life?
As mentioned before, there are many approaches to living a simple lifestyle. What works for one may not work for others.
Here is a list of changes you can adopt to simplify your life. Choose the ones that you believe in and suit you.
1. Changes in habits
Smiles and happiness work both ways. When you are happy, you smile and laugh more. When you smile and laugh more, you feel happy.
This doesn’t mean you should force yourself to smile more. You can smile more by embracing opportunities that come your way. Or, you can actively seek opportunities to laugh and smile more. When smiling and laughing become part of your habit, you naturally feel light-hearted and happy.
When you work out and stay active, your body obviously benefits from it. The invisible beneficiary is your mindset.
When you exercise your body, the presence of chemicals known as happy hormones witnesses a spike in your body. Endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline, and endocannabinoid can make you feel happy, content, and confident. They reduce the negative feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear.
However, you should take care, not to overexert. Just because exercising helps you doesn’t mean “the more the merrier”.
Ensure good sleep
When you are in the mad race for wealth, status, and goals, your sleep often takes a back seat. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day. Whatever you do, you can only stretch it so much. When you need more time for your pursuits, you will cut down on sleep time.
Sleep deprivation has numerous consequences, both physical and mental. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for your overall well-being. To ensure a restful sleep you can take simple steps like regular sleeping hours and avoiding heavy food and drinks before bedtime.
Soft lighting, soothing music, and relaxing books can help you with a night of good sleep.
Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing
All of these are meant for your physical and mental wellbeing. When you are feeling fit and great, happiness and contentment will naturally follow.
When you meditate, practice yoga, or do deep breathing exercises, your focus improves and you are aware of what is happening around you and within you. This gives you better control over your emotions.
Keep a daily journal
When you are leading a busy life and you are hard-pressed for time, you often forget to pause and look inward to see how you are feeling. Having a dedicated journal to record your thoughts and feelings for the day will force you to think about them.
A journal can also serve as a record of your feelings. You can always refer to the journal entries to understand the changes happening in you. This will allow you to correct mistakes and regain the right approach to living.
Related: 65 Journaling Ideas for Adults
2. Changes in attitude
Intentionally staying away from messy situations
None of us wants to complicate our lives with chaos and confusion. However, we may get caught in the middle of it at times. Even then, if you want to, you can avoid getting involved and stay away.
In the process, you may lose certain advantages or opportunities. It is all about prioritizing. Sometimes you have to lose to win. You can prioritize your happiness and mental well-being over other gains.
Cutting back desires, commitments, and possessions
Make a mental inventory of all your possessions, tangible and intangible. Do you actually require all of them? Most of them give you nothing in return. You have it because everyone else is having it. You are just going with the flow and following the dictates of society.
If you consciously decide that you will limit them all, that is all there is to it. You will discover that you can be happy even without any of them. In fact, you can be happier because you can avoid the stress of acquiring them.
Without these distractions, you will have more time, money, energy, and mental faculties to do things you enjoy.
Connect with people you love
In hectic daily life, one thing that suffers the most is the relationship with loved ones. Living simple offers you more time and energy to spend with family and friends.
Emerging technologies are making life easier. However, our overdependence on digital media bordering on addiction is creating new monsters in our lives. The superfluous “friends” online are doing nothing for your well-being. Disconnecting from social media can help in numerous ways.
Follow sustainable living practices
Our consumerist mindset has wreaked havoc not just in our lives but also destroyed nature and beyond. To slow down the degradation and help preserve the planet for future generations, all of us can contribute our bit by opting for sustainable living.
This means consuming as little as possible and only what is regenerative and replaceable. Buying local products and avoiding the use of single-use plastics are all part of sustainable living.
Appreciate simple things
It is a myth that only bigger achievements can give you pleasure. It is all in the mind. Train your mind to enjoy simple pleasures and you will have it easy the rest of your life.
It is your choice to cut back on frivolous indulgences and practices and lead a simple life. It will give you more freedom, energy, time, and money to do things you really want to.
But living simple doesn’t always come easy. At times it is harder than what you were used to as you are swimming against the tide. Let this not deter you from your decision to live simple. You need to work hard for anything worth having.