Countless doctors have told me on my journey to better physical and mental health that no one thing would be a cure-all. First would come the applause for seeking treatment, then the let down of, “Oh, yeah, but this isn’t the only thing you’ll have to do.”
Annoying at times? Yes. Applicable to all areas of life? YES.
In our journey in the past four posts on simple living and minimalism, I’ve thrown a lot of ideas at you. Ideas on how to adopt simple living, increase daily awareness, build a rhythm rather than routine, and my tips for decluttering both physically and mentally. But there is one last step — it’s not a cure-all, but when combined with everything else, it should bring you even closer to experiencing peace and contentment in your daily life.
And that step is giving joy and purpose to each day.
Throughout my short journey towards simpler living, I’ve had to determine — by myself, for myself — which roads to go down, which journeys to continue, and which to let go. If I didn’t, I would find myself constantly searching for the next thing.
Awareness, rhythm, and decluttering inevitably lose their luster. Creating habits and maintaining them are difficult. There is no shame in admitting you have a hard time keeping up with a practice. But how can we live each day to the fullest when life is in a constant motion of up and down?
Accept Life’s Ups and Downs
I was recently reminded of the fact that if life isn’t full of ups and downs, there is no growing. The trials and joys of life are what shape us, build us, and give us strength and wisdom.
When you recognize that everything can’t be perfect, there is less pressure. When you accept that 50% or more of life is about struggle, you will face it with strength and look for ways in which you can learn. So stop taking things for granted, appreciate both the ups and downs for what they are, and be amazed at the joy and peace that slips into your every day.
Focus Negative Energy into Valuable Activities
I’m a big fan of mental breaks. But it’s easy to fall into a pattern of laziness. When my anxiety flares up, my pitfall is Netflix and YouTube. I have these as back ups, quick, easy distractions for my mind, but they often lead to a wasted day even after my anxiety has passed (they are my potato chips — I can never watch just one episode or video).
There are times we just need something mindless to distract us or calm our mind. But don’t let those kind of activities be your only outlet. Find a way to bring more focus and energy onto things that will bring you (or someone else) value. Find a relaxing activity that is also beneficial (journaling for mental health, making DIY skin care products for friends, learning to repair clothing, etc.). Create a daily or weekly schedule of cleaning so you don’t become overwhelmed with housework but can easily keep your home clean and inviting. (Tip: Put on a favorite podcast or audiobook while you work!) Explore a creative outlet such as photography, fitness, or punch needling — you might be surprised where your side hobbies lead you someday.
Know When to Stop Searching
I love the documentary “Minimalism” by The Minimalists. I think it presents a very ideal picture of minimalism and brings awareness to some overlooked and important societal notes.
However, one commonality presented in the documentary was that everyone found their contentment in something different — extreme minimalism, tiny living, meditation, religion, etc. The fact is, there are so many “homes” for contentment that it could be easy to flit from one to another, constantly searching for perfection. And that journey towards contentment can actually lead you further and further down a path towards disquiet and dissatisfaction.
As I pare down my home, I have less and less to minimize and declutter. But I always still find myself on a minimalism “high” despite reaching my goals. So, what now? Is there something else I should be doing? What else could give me that same feeling?
As funny as it sounds, it’s hard to remind myself that accomplishing my goals is a good thing, and perhaps I don’t need anything else.
Nothing in this world is perfect or the “cure-all.” Use your newfound awareness to keep vigilant on your journey. Have you really not found your niche, or are you stuck in a state of restlessness, always looking for the next best thing?
Value Your Own Purpose — even if you don’t know what that is
I struggle on an almost daily basis with feelings of failure. I’m not even close to where I wanted to be at this point in life. What makes it worse is I don’t often glimpse hope of improvement any time soon.
But this does not mean I am worthless, have nothing to offer, and have no purpose in life. I can’t see the end of my life to be able to look back and say definitively this is why I am here (nor is there guarantee I will ever be able to do this). But I firmly believe I am in this place, in this position, for a reason. As a Christian, I was brought up with the belief that there is no such thing as “coincidence.” Not only is this a belief, but I think this is a very healthy mindset to adopt in general.
At some point or another, everyone struggles with feeling lost. This comes from a rooted belief that we have to busy, financially secure, and on a never-ending “climbing the ladder” journey in order to be successful. The focus is on the big picture rather than the present.
Restore value to your every day. Value your journey, your life, your present, and your purpose, whatever it may be, and recognize you are where you are for a reason.
Use a Gratitude Journal
To wrap up this simple living series, I want to recommend something that has been beneficial in my life. A gratitude journal is a wonderful way to take 5 minutes out of your daily 1,440 minutes to practice mindfulness.
I highly recommend using a journal or your daily planner to physically write out 1-3 things you’re grateful for each day. The act of seeing the words appear on paper makes your gratitude more concrete. It’s wonderful to look back at the end of each month or year and see all the blessings and joy that filled the space between your struggles, and the more you practice daily recognition of these things, the more apparent they will become day to day.
However, if you’re just really not a paper and pen sort of person, use an alarm on your phone. When it goes off, whether you set it for first thing in the morning or as you get ready for bed, take that exact moment to mentally take note of your gratitudes. Practice some deep breathing exercises as you think of your daily list to increase mindfulness and mental peace.
Thank you so much for going on this simple living introductory journey with me! What will you be implementing into your daily life? Let’s chat about it in the comments, or feel free to contact me using the contact form page.
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