Minimalism & Mental Health

Loneliness is often attributed to excess materialism. Is minimalism the way forward?

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so one can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. It assists us in finding the freedom that we all long for. We all have a desire to be free from the clutches of fear, worry, guilt, depression, and thoughts that overwhelm us. To be free from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom. This doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem stems from the importance and meaning that we assign to our stuff: we tend to be overdependent on our things, often forsaking our health, relationships, passions, personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. Minimalism simply allows us to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately along with pursuing a more purpose-driven life.

Minimalism can help us to –

  • Eliminate our discontent
  • Reclaim our time
  • Live in the now
  • Pursue our passions
  • Discover our missions
  • Experience real freedom
  • Create more, consume less
  • Focus on our health
  • Grow as individuals
  • Contribute beyond ourselves
  • Rid ourselves of excess stuff
  • Discover purpose in our lives

Minimalism isn’t about living with as little as possible. It is about discovering what is important. Taking a mental inventory of our belongings, and deciding what enriches our lives and what does not, is the first step toward a more minimalist lifestyle. Once we have rid ourselves of all those extra belongings that are bogging us down, we have the opportunity to achieve the minimalist lifestyle.

Minimalism and Mental Illness

However, minimalism isn’t just a concept that helps us reorganize our homes and lives in a more effective and aesthetically pleasing manner. In fact, minimalism can be a helpful way to combat mental illness of all degrees of severity, from anxiety to schizophrenia. By having fewer things to distract or trigger us, our mental health will be positively impacted. Minimalism gives us the chance to tune out all the noise in our lives and change for the better. Below I’ve illustrated some broad reasons why minimalism is beneficial to our mental health.

1. Brings Peace & Clarity in Life.

Over-stimulation caused by too much “stuff” might even trigger schizophrenic episodes among people who are prone to them. Thus, a minimalist approach eases this problem and makes way for a life of peace and clarity. We don’t think of our physical possessions being linked to mental and emotional health, but the connection between the two is undeniable. When we de-clutter our living/office space the same effect extends to our minds. Minimalist environments promote peacefulness. When our minds get overstimulated and cluttered, we are unable to think clearly. When our homes are filled with stuff, we tend to get bombarded with visual cues triggering numerous thoughts and memories, creating a lot of stress for people dealing with some sort of mental issue.

2. A Step Toward Self-Realization

Although getting rid of a huge amount of our material possessions will seem like we’re losing a part of ourselves, it’s just a step in finding our true selves. When there are no longer so many things around to distract us from who we truly are, the most enlightening and radical self-discovery will take place. Keeping our minds busy with useless things might seem like a good way to cope with mental illness, but its effects are only temporary. In the long run, knowing our true selves is the best thing one can do, giving us the energy and fuel to carry on.

3. Refocus to what really matters

Having less stuff leads to having fewer distractions. With the freedom to focus on that which matters, comes the removal of all other thoughts from our mind, and thus we are to find a spot at our home in which we no longer feel torn in a thousand different directions, which will, in turn, help our mental health. Our attention can now be focused to learn or share something. Having the time, space, and focus necessary for such an accomplishment can give one that extra push towards a more peaceful life. Just like this, by tuning out the noise and focusing on what is important, we will soon be able to realize what counts and what does not. Removing ourselves from situations that are not beneficial, can be very healing, and helps to reconnect with oneself on a deeper level.

4. Space to Unwind

We create an open space by eliminating all unwanted clutter in our living area. Intuitively, the more open space is, the more peaceful and less constricting it feels. So, making our home feel more spacious is beneficial for our mental health. The home will become a blank canvas where we can unwind in whichever way we want to, instead of having to take care of our numerous belongings on a daily basis, thus keeping us preoccupied. Using that space to do something enjoyable also releases endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that makes us feel good. Instead of having visual cues all around us that trigger unwanted thoughts, it’s better to make something new.

5. Practicing Self-Control

Owning a lot of material goods is incredibly tempting, which is why most of us fall into consumerism so easily. Thus, transitioning from a cluttered and materialistic lifestyle toward the exhilarating simplicity of minimalism is a tough decision to make. But if one decides to go down this road and follow through to the end, one will not only be more at peace but also more in control of our own lives. A huge part of mental illness is comprised of feeling a loss of control over various aspects of one’s life. This is the reason why regaining control over life is crucial for people. By not focusing our attention on material possessions that we don’t require, such as too many cool clothes or a new car, we are able to face all problems with more awareness and courage. All pestering distractions will be gone.

6. Better relationships.

Ultimately, when we stop competing with our friends and your family to have the nicest car or biggest house; when we can stop trying to impress people and just begin to connect with them; when we start to just be ourselves, our relationships are bound to improve. Great relationships are not built on guilt or competition. They’re built on shared experiences and great memories.

7. Extra money.

By buying less and doing less we would have a little extra cash on hand. Fewer birthday parties to attend, fewer meals out, fewer impulsive purchases, etc. Then, when we do find something we really do want, we would have the money to buy it.

8. Self-confidence.

We might have the latest and greatest style of clothes, or brand-new boats, luxury vehicles to feel good about ourselves. But imagine how freeing it would be to feel good about oneself without those things. This is an unexpected benefit of living with less. We start to feel good about ourselves, not because of what we own but just because of who we are.

9. Greater purpose.

When we clear out the unnecessary activities and items from our lives, a clear sense of purpose is born. We start feeling motivated to do what we’ve set out to do as our direction is clear and there is no confusion. When we only have a few commitments, we can take them seriously.

Conclusion

Living a minimalist lifestyle does many wonders for our mental state. Minimalism provides us the time, space, clarity, and freedom to cultivate our true self and fully engage with everyday life. Starting our journey towards minimalism in all branches of life can help one deal with the mental illness of all sorts. Fighting mental illness is a sustained effort that you have to put in every day, so making your environment more pleasant can be highly beneficial. Start small, with being mindful of new purchases. The road to minimalism has no predetermined length; it will be as long or short as it needs to be. We should keep the benefits of minimalism in mind and stop going through the motions, to be on the right track. When we begin to shift the focus from possessions to memories, we might not only have more space in our closet, but we’ll also have enough great memories to be smiling for a lifetime. This is the stuff a great life is made of. Design a simple life. Start here. Start now. A person should design a life of less—and more. More of what we love, less of what we don’t.