Let me start by saying that what I state throughout my articles is the reflection of my opinion, I don’t mean to be dogmatic I am just sharing my thoughts with you guys.
That said, I think each of us should determine what we mean by a « simple life ». Why ? Because what seems simple to me might not be for someone else and vice versa. It’s obvious, but it has to be said. For me, a simple life consists in only keeping in my life the objects, ideas, acquaintances which make me grow and which I realy need. I said need and not desire, or fancy, they are different concepts eventhough they are sometimes used as synonyms.
A need is Something that is necessary to our Survival and that has to be satisfied or else we die.
That definition limits the number of things that qualify for it. I need to eat, to drink, to sleep. I don’t need the last smartphone, to do my make-up, to drink a coffee or to smoke a cigarette for instance. The last actions are not vital. But they can become so, society proves it Everyday. You hear people talking about al kinds of needs that are actually desires, fancy, wishes.
How do you differenciate needs from the rest ? Look at a baby and whatch it to see what are its needs : eat, drink, play, communicate, interact with the surroundings, be cuddled, rocked, amused. Without those things the baby cries, doesn’t develop well and might even die. Those are the basic needs, what happens next is that we grow around people who use all sorts of goods, have all types of habits and we adopt those attitudes and habits. Little by little, our needs mingle with our desires and fancy and soon enough, we are unable to tell the difference. People are paid to make us want things, to triger the desire, create the need. We are exposed to advertisement all day long and we end up actually needing these products.
Many people will tell you they need their coffee or cigarette. I Believe them, given the addictive potential these substances have, in addition to the fact that they contribute to create social links among the consummers. Where does that need come from? I’m not a psychologist so I won’t try to explain it here. But what I can say is that it’s easier to not create a new habit than to give up one. It’s easier to not create new needs than to abandon the superfluous needs. The first thing to do is thus not to fall into the trap of temptation. We should Always ask ourselves what we really need in our lives, what are the things which bring us joy, allow us to feel in harmony with who we are. If those things are reachable, often free, belong to the sphere of the being rather than the having, then they might nourish us deeply and longlastingly.
How to simplify our lives on a daily basis ?
To simplify our lives is a process that can take time or come radically. I did it gradually, for in adulthood the habits are aready deeply rooted and it’s more difficult to come to the basics.
- The thoughts : we all want a flourishing spiritual and intelectual life, isn’t the idea of simplicity the opposite ? No. We are Always thinking, most of the time we have negative and limiting thoughts. » I can’t do this or that. I’m not good at languages, maths. It’s awful. Why did he / she do this to me ? I lack of self-confidence, etc. ». We spend our time dwelling on the the past, paying attention to the negative aspects of our existence and that begins from the Morning. Simplifying our thoughts consists in training to directing our attention towards the kinds of thoughts that make us feel good. We must learn to change the way we look at situations, every coin has two sides. It needs training and there are several techniques in order to achieve it. The more we practice an action, the more it becomes a habit. We strive in the beginning, but then it becomes easier, and natural to us. Instead of complaining about Something, I can ask myself how I could turn the situation into an opportunity even if I don’t like it. If I’m in class, at a conference or a meeting and I’m bored, I’ll benefit more from it by taking notes, by asking questions, by deciding to be interested. The fact that I’m more active in the process makes the things more interesting. Gratitude which consists in aknowledging our gifts is a good way to simplify our lives because in doing so we realise that it is the simplest things that make us joyful and positive. Magical ? No, change of perspective.
- Consumption habits : whether it’s about consuming food, objects, activities or even relationships, it’s the same thing. Our society consumes too much of everything, and that phenomenon doesn’t only reach those with the highest purchasing power. We are invited to buy and acquire more leasures, services, objects, which are supposed to make us happier and important in society. The reacher societies are also those with the highest amount of depressed people, consumers of antidepressants and people who loose themselves in artificial paradises (gaming, sex, alcool, drugs and so forth). How come, since we are supposed to be happier by consuming? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t buy stuffs, the Economy needs us and it’s good to innovate and develop new techniques and products. What I’m aiming at is the excess and the avidity with which we all consume. Simplifying our consumption habits means to pay attention to the quantity and the quality of the things we buy. When I go to a shop, am I sure that I need to buy this twentieth pair of pants, sweat-shirt, pair of shoes ? When I’m eating, do I really need to take more food ? Tons of food are thrown away Everyday in one part of the world while the other part is starving. I’m not saying that by not wasting here, there will be more there. But by being aware of that, I fill my plate less, I cook the necessary amount, I buy what I need and not because there was a discount « buy 2, get 4 ». 1) I save money, 2) I waste less. During the day, do I need to fill my planner with tons of acivities (using my phone in the toilet for example 😉 ) ? The part concerning consumption habits is one of the most complicated, it needs a strong will but we can do it. I used to be the kind of person that owns about thirty pairs of shoes (nothing for some people, huge for me now), hundreds of clothes, I would change my phone every year, etc., I was a regular consumer. Now I go shopping and get out of the shop with empty hands, not because I can’t afford, but because I choose not to buy.
- Relationships : interactions are filled with misunderstandings, quiproquos. The communication specialists tell us that the message that we send goes through several filters before it reaches the target. Which means that there is a difference between what is said, what is heard and what meant to be said. In addition, we tend to interpret what the other person says and lend them intentions. You may have heard yourself saying Something like « that’s not what I meant. You got me wrong. I thought … ». Simplifying the relationships goes through asking the others for clarifications, asking the others if we understood them well. Not only does it show that we actually listened to them, it also allows us to react to what was said instead of what we think we understood. Simplifying our relationships also means paying attention to the others. Who has never been in a conversation with somebody who was typing on their computer, telephone, tablet or whatever ? How did you feel then ? When you spend time with someone, make sure you are with them and you give them undivided attention, show some consideration. A common mistake lies in treating strangers better than our loved ones. We treat those who are closest to us with rudeness, less courtesy, whereas we are very polite, caring, with unknown people. It’s a paradox we should try to minimize. Our acquaintances can have a negative influence on us. We should pay attention and avoid toxic people who invade our space and fuel our negative thoughts about ourselves and life. I read that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. We’d better choose well.
- Time managing : we all have 24 hours at our disposal ; while some of us manage to do all they wanted, others feel they need 24 more hours to do less things. Time is precious and it’s our duty to manage it wisely. Simplify our life in this sphere consists in knowing how many sleeping hours we need in order to be operationnal. We are unequal regarding the amount of sleep needed, see what works for you, but sleeping less can help you gain more time to do the things you like. In the course of the day, it’s also possible to gain more time here and there so that you can spend more time with the people you love doing the things you want. Do you spend too much time watching TV, on the computer, playing, on your phone, social media ? Do you have a single activity that takes all of your time ? Try and slowly reduce the wasted time where you are passive most of the time. The extra time can be used for reading inspiring books, blogs, creating things, exercising, spend quality time with your friends and family, learn a new language, a musical intrument, you name it.
Nowadays, there are two tendencies, on one hand some of us get lost into dozens of distractions, are everywhere, run after the latest products, productivity, and all kinds of pleasures. On the other hand, other people engage in a movement of slowing down, we have realised that things are going too fast and we don’t Always know after what we are running. Every year the planet consumes more resources than what we have, we are debtors. Around July / August we have spent the equivalent of resources needed until the end of the year. It’s time each of us enters the decreasing movement and it doesn’t matter if the giants from all fields earn less money than what they could ever spend in a thousand lives.
What about you, how do you simplify your life?
Let us know in the comment section 🙂
Let’s take care of ourselves.
See you around !