Simplicity is an important part of better mental health because it’s all about getting back to basics and focusing on the stuff that really matters, and in this post I’m going to share six simple ways to do just that (see what I did there?!) So… get comfortable and let’s talk about better mental health!
Want to watch the video version of this post? Here it is:
I’m no Marie Kondo and I can’t profess to be a minimalist, but I can say with certainty that ever since I started making simplicity a priority in my life (in terms of my mental health and wellbeing) I have found it much easier to maintain a more even footing most of the time (I live with anxiety and spent 2011-2017 living with depression as well). For me, simplicity is all about making choices that enable you to focus on the stuff that matters most to you so that you can then frame everything as less of a priority. Why does that help? Because when you’re dealing with anxiety, being more pragmatic about the stuff that actually matters allows you to let go of attachment to the things that just don’t matter (or that you can never hope to have any direct control over), which leads to a less-complicated way of life. It’s not infallible, and it may not work 100% of the time, but in my experience it takes away 85-90% of the stuff that can distract you from what is really important to you… and that makes it much easier to deal with the remaining 10-15%!
So here, in no particular order, are some of my best tips for incorporating greater simplicity into your mindset and your life:
- Reflect on where you are today — and I mean this in terms of simplicity and your overall happiness. Are things too complicated in your life? If you’re dealing with dramas and crises on a regular basis, then I’m going to guess the answer is ‘yes!’. Ask yourself these questions in an objective and non-judgemental way: What’s working well? What’s not working well? What do you need to stop/start/continue? Bear in mind that you cannot change what has or hasn’t happened in the past, you can only deal with things as they are in the present, so rather than beating yourself up over complications or whatever, choose to be kind to yourself and treat them as learning opportunities. Which leads to my next point…
- Identify your top 3-5 priorities in life — and this is about understanding what truly matters the most to you so that you can then choose to focus mainly on those and begin to step back from the things that just don’t matter that much. I’ve used this as a tool to help me to reshape my life over the past decade, because when I had a breakdown in late 2011 I then found myself spending a few years dealing with severe depression and anxiety which forced me to completely reconsider how I was approaching every aspect of my life. When you know what really matters to you, you can focus your attention on your priorities and let everything else be background noise (and I talked about priorities in Episode 3 of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast if you would like to explore the topic in more detail). Next…
- Take your time thinking through your choices — Why? Because when we rush our decisions it can very often lead to messy outcomes rather than more considered ones. That doesn’t mean that it won’t happen with more thoughtful ones, but at least you’ll have time to think through the pros and cons a bit more! And let me say here that it’s best to find balance in all things, and that means not rushing your decisions but also not taking too long (because that can also open up a whole can of worms if you put off making choices that need to be made). Next…
- Know the difference between need vs want, — and I say this because most of what we think we need are actually just wants in disguise. Look, I need a phone but I don’t need the latest model (and in fact my iPhone is three years old and still working perfectly well). If all of your time is spent chasing after things that you think you need then you’ll find yourself having to make choices that may make life more difficult than it needs to be. At the very least, be honest with yourself about labelling things as a want rather than a need because that enables you to be more objective about the choices that you make. I mean, I know I don’t strictly need half of the books I own… but I want them, and so if I’m honest with myself then it makes it easier to be more thoughtful about what I buy in the future. And so that leads to my next point…
- Say no more often — and the thing is that there are so many things in life that demand our attention but only so many hours in the day, so you have to make choices that are right for you. I find that unless I’m really excited about the prospect of something then it’s best to say no, otherwise I’ll probably just wind up going through the motions or feeling annoyed that I’m giving up valuable time for something. I believe in giving more than you take, but that’s about giving to both others and to yourself — balance in all things, my friends! I talked about how to say no for better mental health in a recent video on my YouTube channel, Better Mental Health, which you may find helpful to watch.
- Set and maintain healthy boundaries — which might sound a bit Dr Phil to some of you but hear me out; boundaries are simply about knowing what your needs are and ensuring they are met in a fair, kind and balanced way. That doesn’t mean your needs are more important that other peoples’ needs, but it also doesn’t mean that their needs override yours. Life is all about finding balance and maintaining it, and so having healthy boundaries helps you to do that. I talked about boundaries in Episode 53 of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast and also I covered setting healthy boundaries with family in a video on my YouTube channel, and you may find either or both of those helpful to explore the subject of boundaries more.
Whatever you decide to do, the choice is yours — as it is with all things related to your mental health and wellbeing… so, what choice will you make today?
Want more? Listen to the weekly Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast on your favourite podcast service (click here for links to different services via Podfollow) and subscribe to my YouTube channel, Better Mental Health, for weekly how-to videos.
Thanks so much for joining me today, take care and talk to you next time!
Jeremy Godwin (@jeremygodwinofficial on Instagram) is an Australian writer, content creator and coach who focuses on better mental health. His weekly podcast Let’s Talk About Mental Health has more than 540,000 downloads and listeners in over 150 countries, and in it Jeremy shares practical advice for improving and maintaining mental health that is grounded in quality research and personal experience. He also hosts a weekly show on YouTube, Better Mental Health, which focuses on simple advice for how to manage different aspects of mental health. Jeremy’s style is direct-yet-supportive, and his own experiences with depression and anxiety (along with his formal qualifications in psychology and sociology) allow him to provide advice that is both impactful and sensitive.
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