There is abundant value in being a mental and emotional minimalist
My wife and I just got back last week from an incredible three-week road trip. Our first road trip with just the two of us in 25 years with far too many highlights to mention.
We spent the majority of our time in a remote area of the upstate Adirondack region of New York where we rented a one-room cabin for two weeks. While we had all the basic amenities, the one thing we talked about often is how little we actually needed. We came to the conclusion within a few days that with a few minor adjustments that we could actually live in a place like this full-time.
There was not one time during those minimalist two weeks we felt we went without. In fact, what we found with this time and other times like these is that in our minimalist state is when we had the most abundance.
I was sharing our experience with a friend of mine this week, telling him how this short experiment with minimalism had impacted us and our thinking. He replied by saying “I think the struggle people have is we are far too attached to our stuff and what we believe it says about us. People believe that minimalism is going without. What minimalism actually means is going with what is most important.”
I loved his interpretation and definition and if I was to paraphrase, I would say that minimalism is simplifying, slowing down, and basking in the experience of now.
Of course, this seems counter-intuitive especially within our culture of a continual striving for more and accumulation, but most of those I know that those who live life on this trajectory are not any happier. In fact, many of the most discontent and miserable people are those who have accumulated much. I believe this is due to the realization that all of the things that they have pursued are not truly life-giving and in the words of King Solomon are true “vanity”.
I recognize I am not the first to stumble across this idea of minimalism and the impact it can have on one’s life and their health. Many articles, including this one from Psychology Today, discuss the health benefits and positive impact that being a minimalist can have. However, what the two weeks in the less than 500 sq foot cabin did is it got me thinking about life in general and going beyond just lessening the material possession load, but also thinking emotionally and mentally.
I began to ponder the idea and benefits of becoming an emotional and mental minimalist.
We have the tendency to fill our lives with things we do not need emotionally, we waste time and energy on thoughts that offer no real value, and allow things to occupy space in our hearts and heads and that bring nothing back to us. We bring on worry, stress, anxiety, life-sucking relationships, and strive for those things that have no intrinsic value.
We fall into addictions that as a way to avoid dealing with pain and suddenly find ourselves with an accumulation of emotional and mental baggage and like those that strive to accumulate material wealth, find ourselves miserable and discontent.
What would it look like if mentally and emotionally we became minimalists?
If we only focused on those things that brought contentment, spent time cultivating deep, authentic, meaningful relationships? What if we spent time taking an emotional and mental inventory of what we allow to bring us down and took the steps to shed them and committed to not letting them crowd our emotional and mental health?
I for one, after this incredible experience and road trip with my wife, have begun this process of paring down, minimizing and letting go by asking two key questions which are:
- Is it true?
- Is it important?
If I cannot get a yes to either of those and clearly articulate why then out the door it goes.
I am committed to being a minimalist and know that in so doing a life of abundance awaits!