Minimalism has become a bit of a buzzword lately. As we choose to live more mindfully, it is natural to take stock of what we have.
When we are no longer merely going through the motions in our daily lives, we begin to think more deeply about the objects that surround us in our homes. We realize how much we need and, in turn, how much we don’t.
What Is Minimalism?
According to Leo Babauta, author of several books on how to be more Zen, 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 and back.
By having fewer things to distract or trigger you, your mental health will be positively impacted. Minimalism gives you the chance to tune out all the noise in your life, and change for the better.
Here are five ways in which minimalism is good for your mental health.
1. Peace And Clarity
By decluttering your living and/or office space, you are doing the same for your mind. Minimalist environments are peaceful, allowing us not to be overstimulated.
Overstimulation is an enemy of mindfulness, as one cannot think clearly when we are bombarded with sensory information.
What is more, an abundance of stimuli cluttering up our homes or offices means that there are plenty of visual cues that can trigger thoughts or memories. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be hell for someone dealing with mental illness.
Thus, a minimalist approach eases this problem and makes way for a life of peace and clarity.
2. A Step Toward Self-Discovery
Although getting rid of a huge amount of your material possessions will seem like you’re losing a part of you, it’s just a step in finding yourself.
When there are no longer so many things around to distract you from who you truly are, the most enlightening and radical self-discovery takes place.
Keeping your mind 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 who you are is the best thing that you can do for yourself.
An awareness of your true self will help you on your path to recovery because it will give you the necessary fuel to carry on.
3. Focus On What Is Important
When you have less stuff, you have fewer distractions. It is so easy to lose focus when you’re surrounded by reminders of other things you could, or should, be doing.
With the freedom to focus, you begin to remove the inner clutter from your mind.
You have the option to find a place in your home in which you no longer feel torn in a dozen different directions, which will, in turn, work wonders for your mental health.
This focus could be used to learn something, or share something. It might be used to write a book or learn a new language, giving you a sense of pride and accomplishment that will permeate into other areas of life.
Having the time, space, and focus necessary for such an accomplishment can push you along your path toward a more peaceful life.
What is more, by tuning out the noise and focusing on what is important, you will soon realize what truly matters and what does not.
By emptying your living area of unneeded clutter, you create open space.
Intuitively, the more open a space is, the more peaceful and less constricting it feels, and there is some evidence to suggest that the human mind is influenced by the distance between objects.
So, making your home feel more spacious is likely to be beneficial for your mental health.
The home will become a blank canvas where you unwind in whatever way you see fit, instead of having to take care of your numerous belongings on the daily.
There is a chance to do what you want with this space. Your home or personal corner could become a place of creativity, for painting or working with clay.
According to one study, creating art reduces cortisol levels, which is one hormone that contributes to stress, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses.
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 you that trigger unwanted thoughts, it’s better to make something new.
What is more, expressing yourself in creative ways might help you recover from the deep lows of mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
5. An Exercise In 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 you decide to go down that road and follow through, you will not only be more at peace, but also more in control of your own life.
This is all the more important if you are struggling with mental illness.
A huge part of mental illness is comprised of feeling a loss of control over various, if not all aspects of your life. Anyone knows how disheartening this issue is and how it can send you spiraling.
This is the reason why regaining control over at least some aspects of your life is crucial for you.
And that’s not all. By not focusing your attention on material possessions, such as too many cool clothes or a new car that you don’t really need, you are able to face your problems effectively.
There will no longer be any distractions that allow you to deflect from what you should have been acknowledging all along. Knowing what’s weighing you down is the most important step toward successfully coping with it.
Living a minimalist lifestyle does great things for your mental state.
Minimalism gives you the time, space, clarity, and freedom to cultivate your true self and fully engage with everyday life, but it can do even more than that.
Starting your journey toward minimalism can help you deal with mental illness of all kinds.
Although minimalism is not a cure in itself and you should still seek out professional help if you are in such a situation, it is a valuable ally.
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.
Becoming a minimalist may seem like an overwhelming task, but it doesn’t have to be.
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.
If we keep the benefits of minimalism in mind and stop simply going through the motions, then we are on the right track.
Mike Jones' interest in mental health began early in his childhood. He's fascinated by how mental illness affects our overall wellbeing. Mike's latest project, Schiz Life, is meant to be a useful resource for anyone looking for answers regarding schizophrenia. For more, check him on Twitter @mike_jones35.