Does Minimalism Make you Happier? My Experience with Minimalism (Not what you think)
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Hello beautiful soul!
Today I'd like to talk to you about minimalism; what it is, how it works, and does it make you healthier and happier?
Let's find out.
First and foremost, I'd like to answer the question, what is minimalism?
The type of minimalism I'm addressing here today is not the new trend where homes and outfits use as few colours and objects as possible to beautify, but the lifestyle of owning as few items as possible.
I discovered the minimalist lifestyle very organically when I went on my first backpacking trip, where I spent 40 days in Peru.
If you've never gone backpacking before, backpacking is when you travel as much as you can with nothing more than a big backpack on your shoulders. This means that unlike lavish trips that consist of a suitcase and endless outfit choices, you take as few items with you as possible.
The 40 days I spent backpacking was hands down the happiest time of my life, and the minimalism that happened by default certainly played a huge part in that happiness.
Being surrounded by others all day, being occupied all day, not being on social media, and being around people who also had minimal items made me feel like it was ok to have less.
Unlike that time I got made fun of for wearing the same clothes often in elementary school, I didn't feel judged for having little, so I didn't even feel the need to have anything more.
Travelling around with less stuff made me feel more relaxed because I had less to worry about, and that destressing temporarily cured the insomnia I've had for over 10 years. I slept really well those 40 days because I was just so relaxed the entire time, and insomnia is a physical manifestation of stress and anxiety.
I don't have words for how freeing it felt to not have to worry about doing my makeup or taking it off, what outfit I would wear, changing my jewelry...etc. I was just able to be fully present all the time, and enjoyed the health and happiness benefits of living in the flow state day after day.
What's interesting is that after spending those 40 days with so little, but enjoying life so much, my perception of beauty also changed.
Instead of focusing on everything I didn't have, the way we tend to when we have so much, I started to view life through the lens of fullness instead. Without the automatic thoughts of comparison that we're so programmed to have by the media, everything and everyone became more beautiful to me.
This played a particularly important role in healing my mental health, because prior to this trip I was actually experiencing the opposite.
I spent a lot of time around people who were obsessed with social media, heaps of makeup, and chasing the next cool item; so I was feeling depressed, anxious, and desensitized to beauty.
I became obsessed with meeting an impossible standard of looks and coolness all the time, so I felt like I was never enough, I never had enough, and I was consistently stressed about keeping up with looking perfect and having the new things everyone else did all the time.
But after my trip to Peru, I was even blown away at what makeup looked like when I put it on again. I all of a sudden started to see fake eyelashes as weird looking instead of beautiful, the same way I did before I entered the world of social media and makeup.
Once I was home, I really tried to remain in this minimalist mindset, but it started to dwindle after a while.
Although I consciously tried to use social media less often, engage in more activities with others, and use as little items as possible, I quickly found myself back to where I was before.
This is because the people I was around were not interested in living life the way I wanted to, and their consumerist desires started to rub off on me. I was no longer around people who wouldn't judge me for looking a certain way, nor was I around people who weren't interested in chasing the next new items.
This led me to the epiphany that minimalism isn't just having less stuff, it's a lifestyle and mindset change.
If you just have less stuff while continuing to hang around people and places where the things you have are of utmost value and influence most of your activities, you'll just be more unhappy.
I also realized that minimalism doesn't have to be extreme for it to make you happier.
After trying to be super minimalist at home for a while, I noticed that there is a part of me that truly enjoys some of the experiences I get out of my items.
There's a part of me that loves making new outfits, and gets excited to do her hair and makeup from time to time. And although I feel imprisoned if I have to meet a certain beauty standard every day, no matter how uncomfortable I feel, there is nothing wrong with going shopping and getting done up at the times I feel it resonates with me.
To solve the problem of having too much stuff to keep track of, I cleared my space of all the items I'd never use, simplified my wardrobe, and changed my shopping habits.
I got rid of all the clothes I knew I'd never wear, and purchased styles that I knew I would actually wear. I made sure that most of the new items were practical and matched each other, so I'd have less decision fatigue when choosing what to wear. I also promised myself to not cut out shopping all together, but to shop less frequently and more mindfully.
Additionally, I slowly started finding new activities to fill my day with, so I could feel happy and present even if I had no friends to go out with. I started doing yoga more, going to the library more, and watching educational YouTube videos more.
I learned how to enjoy my own company instead of relying on the people around me to focus and have fun, and I stopped frequenting places that required me to look a certain way despite being super uncomfortable. (Goodbye heels and lashes, hello sneakers and bare-face!)
So to recap, minimalism isn't just getting by with as little stuff as possible. Although you can choose to do so, you don't have to do so in order to experience the benefits of minimalism. The key is to change your mindset and lifestyle in a way that makes you feel more full despite owning less.
I hope you'll incorporate anything you've learned in this article to invite more joy and fulfillment in your life the way I have managed to do in mine.