There are hundreds of things we can do, devices we can buy and diets we can follow to supposedly “improve” our quality of life and become a healthier human being.
The bad news is, nine times out of 10, after a few weeks we still feel unsatisfied with our lifestyle and/or the thing we wanted to change about it.
We all know this, yet sometimes we need a reminder of just how true it is that buying a new outfit or starting a crash diet will not bring long term satisfaction. Eventually, the newness and excitement of it all will fade and we find ourselves back at square one—trying or buying something new in order to improve our body, image, or happiness level.
Yet, have we ever paused to take a break from this cycle of consuming and looking for answers, to ask ourselves if we really need all of the clothes, products, Fitbits, and apps we have acquired?
Surely if those were the answer, then we would already be happy and healthy and there would be no need to continue buying them.
I’m not immune to this lifestyle either. Of course I still enjoy new things and reading articles about the next supposed miracle diet for entertainment.
But what I’ve found to bring more happiness and satisfaction into my life is not anything new that I’ve added into my life. Rather, it’s cutting things out of my life. Less really is more. The more stuff we have, the more time we have to spend taking care of it. The more time we have to dedicate to cleaning, folding, putting away, buying, selling, and moving all of our belongings—the less time we have to actually dedicate to living a healthy life. And by that I mean the less time we have to be outdoors, to be active, to be with friends and family, and to work on our passions or hobbies. All of these things consistently contribute to our happiness, but if we are spending all of our time looking for the new thing to make us happy, we will miss what’s right in front of our eyes.
Whittling down our belongings, needs, and habits helps to cleanse the mind, body, and soul. Not only is it of benefit to ourselves but it is of benefit to the planet that we cut down on our consumeristic attitude on life. Here’s a starter list of 5 things we can all live without, one that has worked well for me that I hope can be of benefit for you as well. Maybe you already cut some of these things out of your life, or maybe some of these are things you can’t live without.
- Your car
Most people are not willing to give up their four wheeled best friend. However, if you aren’t willing to give it up, consider toning down how much you use it. Biking to work, the grocery store, the local coffee shop, or to your friend’s house not only saves you money but also helps you to get more exercise in. Not a biking type? Fine, take a run or a walk there instead. Exercise is scientifically proven to raise our dopamine and serotonin levels, putting us in a happier mood. Cars don’t make us happier or more fit, they simply can bring us from point A to point B; while emitting greenhouse gases that are contributing to the ever growing issue of global warming. “If 5% of New Yorkers commuting by private car or taxi switched to biking to work, they could save 150 million pounds of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to the amount reduced by planting a forest 1.3 times the size of Manhattan.” ~ Transportation Alternatives, 2008.
This is another commodity we are all used to having at the tip of our tongues whenever we want it. We love it so dearly in fact, that according to Forbes magazine, the US is second in annual meat consumption with an average of 201 lbs a year per person. In fact, on average, going vegetarian for one year saves 1,609 lbs of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere and 202 animals from being killed. Not only does the meat industry have a large negative impact environmentally, but on our bodies as well. Those who consume a vegetarian diet are much less likely to develop serious diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Magazine subscriptions
Magazines are filled with advertisements telling us that the new and improved version of our old cotton t-shirt will make us marathon runners. They are also is filled with photos of unrealistic expectations for our body and lifestyle, and can contribute to feelings of dissatisfaction with the things we are blessed to have in our lives. Ditching the celebrity gossip and fitness fads and picking up a book worthier of our time is not only better for our minds, but also for the planet. Help to save the wasted paper that the 350 million magazines published annually in the US creates; save your magazine subscription money and go to a used book store instead.
- Technology in the bedroom
Keeping phones and televisions out of our bedrooms can do miracles for our sleeping patterns. Longer, deeper and more uninterrupted sleep will lead you to a better day to follow. The small amount of light that comes from our cell phones—even with the brightness on a dim setting—passes through our retinas into our hypothalamus, the area of our brain in charge of most sleeping activity. This delays the release of the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin. If the technology is out of sight and out of mind, hopefully it will help you to reduce the amount of time spent on your cell phone and watching TV during the day time as well.
- Old, not-in-use belongings
If we haven’t worn a sweater or pair of jeans in over two years, it’s likely that we won’t be wearing it ever again. Unfortunately, the same goes for the boxes of your college belongings sitting in the basement. If you don’t use something regularly, then get rid of it. Ever seen the TV show about hoarding? If you haven’t—one episode will make you want to get rid of half of your belongings immediately. And I’m not saying you need to go to the extreme here, but at least regularly getting items you don’t use will help to simplify your mind, and your life. It’s less to be carrying around with you through this lifetime.
I am currently wrapping up my four-month internship with Elephant Journal. Although I have learned many hard skills from it such as writing, editing and social media management, I have also learned more about how I want to live my life. Mindfulness, like yoga, is a practice. We must continue to practice bringing mindfulness and simplicity into our lives, because it doesn’t come to us without doing the work.
Through hours of conversation and collaboration with fellow interns and Elephant editors, I have learned about the beauty of whittling down the habits we put energy into in our lives. Whether it be less TV, less time on social media, less time sleeping in, or any other habits that we tend to get accustomed to—if they are not benefitting us in the long run, they aren’t worth the time in the short run. With the support of the amazing humans involved in Elephant, they have helped me to become of better benefit to others by starting with my own self and habits. This is just one blog about how we can further our journey of living a life of benefit to ourselves, others, and the world. But I guarantee there are thousands of other incredible ideas and reads on Elephant, and there will always be something there that you might not have even known you needed.
That being said, these are my suggestions for furthering your journey. There is no need to carry around extra baggage in this lifetime, emotionally or literally. This is the list of things I have gotten through so far, and I challenge you to try and rid your life of one habit or set of belongings per month. Less really is more, and you will not only feel relieved through the process of simplifying—but it will bring you more happiness and satisfaction than all the things in the world could. Consume less, and free yourself.
Author: Esther Fiore
Editor: Sarah Kolkka