Our world is obsessed with more. More money, more fame, more frontiers to discover and things to collect. But the greatest frontier is discovering what makes humans truly happy and healthy. Happiness is not about how much stuff you have. The newest techno gadget or other toy is not, at the end of the day, really going to change how you feel about yourself. Happiness is found in enjoying the life that we have. In many cases, that means less, not more. Looking for, well, simple ways to simplify.
Be Where You Are
A lot of mental suffering is caused by getting caught up in fears and fantasies about the future. The most immediate way to simplify your thoughts and appreciate your life is to pay attention to the moment. Bring your awareness into your body and connect with your deep breath. Notice what is happening inside and all around you, in this moment, with as much appreciation as possible. Let the simple things of everyday moments enchant you and keep you in present time.
Kick Out the Clutter
Disorganized spaces contribute to disorganized thinking. They also complicate every aspect of life, as you have to look for things, decide where to put things, and do a lot of rearranging. Create organizational systems that give everything a place of its own. Keep your desk, counters, and tables as clear as possible by using well-categorized drawers and other storage areas. One way to support simplification is to digitize information such as contacts and calendars, using technology in one of the few ways it can make things simpler and not more complicated.
Give Yourself Quiet Mornings
The way you begin your day affects the rest of it. Give yourself time to move slowly and appreciate being alive before you jump into your to-do list. Meditation, tea, reading an inspirational book, going for a walk, and journaling are all great ways to wake up gently and have more mental spaciousness for your day.
Stare Off Into Space
All animals in nature take moments to just be still. They sit on their branches or rocks and stare off into space, and integrate life. Or at least thats what I imagine they are doing. Give yourself time every day to literally do nothing. You dont need to try and force your mind to stop thinking, but dont be actively planning or processing anything, either. Just be. Staring out the window, watching the world go by and the trees dance in the wind, is a great way to let the mind find quiet. As a bonus free-form contemplation time also increases intelligence, creativity, and focus.
Schedule Digital Time Outs
We could easily spend every waking moment looking at some sort of computing device, and many people do. Between email, social media, entertainment, and work communication, we look at screens more than we look at live human beings. Take time away from your screens. Try to schedule at least one day a week, and hopefully the last few hours before bed every night, to turn off all your devices. Take a weekend each month and a week (at least) a year to be out of digital communication except for emergencies, and remember how to have a conversation or just enjoy silence.
Life Is About the Experiences
At the end of your life, you are not going to sigh with gratitude for having purchased the newest laptop each time there was an OS upgrade. But you will fondly remember the trips you took with your family, or the time you went to visit your old friend just because you wanted to see each other. Invest in creating meaningful experiences instead of filling your house with things.
Learning to Say No
It is so easy to try and please everyone, to take on more tasks and responsibilities, to say yes to every pull on your attention. Learn how to say no, to anything that is not aligned with your true needs and wishes.
We do need a certain amount of things to live, and simplification is not the same as being an acetic. But instead of buying one in every color, or buying low quality items that will need to be replaced frequently, learn the value of preciousness and quality. Buy one high-quality item of each thing you need, knowing that the initial investment will pay off in the long run.
Learn to Discern a Want from a Need
This may be the key to leading a simple life, being able to tell what you actually need from what you just want. There is no hard set of rules, as true needs are defined differently for everyone.
Grow a garden. Learn to cook the dishes you like. Learn to sew, to at least repair the clothes you have if not make your own. Ferment and preserve things. Find ways to entertain yourself and your family that do not require technology. Slowly but surely unplug from the system, finding ways to provide for your needs from your own home and backyard.
The simple life may sound like some far-out fantasy about raising goats while wearing homespun cloth and eating only oats. But anyone can benefit from a bit of simplifying. After the initial round of clarifying and prioritizing, you may find that inviting simplicity into your life gives you more free time, more money to work with, and more space to enjoy the beauty of life.