Happiness can be elusive when life is too complicated. As daily commitments multiply, we find ourselves becoming conditioned to shifting between multiple tasks, creating lengthy to-do lists and juggling complicated schedules. When we’re not overwhelmed, we may feel proud that we can keep up with it all. It’s all part of making a living, but in the end it can stand in the way of making a life.
Does your schedule leave you time for things that bring true happiness?
These things vary for each of us, but for most people true happiness consists of spending time with loved ones and engaging in activities that reveal the richness and beauty of the world around us.
To get the most out of these activities, you must approach them from a place of stillness, peace and calm.
A busy life can be personally fulfilling, but it may leave you feeling too frazzled to achieve the stillness and peace that will allow you to connect with deep happiness and the underlying beauty of life. You can’t just walk away from the responsibilities that fracture your time, but you can simplify your life so that your mind is calmer and more open to the hidden treasures in life.
Here are 7 ways to get started with simplifying your life and working towards a more peaceful state of mind with less.
- Question your dependence on material possessions. Recognize the difference between things you need and things you want. Our culture bombards us with messages about material things that will make our lives better. The reality is that most of these things will clutter our lives without bringing true happiness. Free yourself from the culture of excess and learn to be content with fewer possessions and greater simplicity.
- Think for yourself. If you spend your life playing out a role that society or someone else defines, you’re missing out on the chance to follow your own desires. Your inner life is diminished when you are limited by conformity. Why give up your freedom and allow all of your decisions to be defined by what you think you “should” do? Become a non-conformist and think for yourself, letting your passions be your guide.
- Rethink your commitments. Life is full of opportunities to earn money, give service, learn new skills and make new friends. Some of us want it all and fill up our calendars with activities and obligations. Over-committing is the surest way to banish stillness and calm from your life. Rushing from one activity to another leaves you with no time to slow down, observe and let things happen. No matter how worthy you think your commitments are, rethink and prioritize them. Keep the ones that are most important and eliminate the ones that are adding to the hectic pace of your life with little return.
- Create more free time. Once you’ve balanced your commitments, find ways to increase your free time. Eliminate time wasters and re-evaluate your chores. If you spend hours each week cleaning house, see if you can do a little less and have more free time. Eliminating clutter from your home will make it easier to clean. Once you’ve created more free time, fill it with activities that develop your inner self. Spend some time alone and spend some with the people you care about most. Focus on calming activities.
- Savor the simple pleasures. How often do you prepare a healthy and delicious meal and then savor every bite of it? Instead of rushing through meals, barely tasting what you’re eating, take time to enjoy them. Invest time in other simple pleasures – work in your garden, take a relaxing soak in a hot tub or bath, bike or hike through a nature preserve. Unless you’re retired, you probably can’t do these things every day, but fitting them into your schedule even once or twice a week will have a calming effect on your life.
- Focus on the present moment. When you’re over-committed, you can end up rushing from one thing to the next without enjoying or even being very conscious of the world around you. There’s always the hope that when things slow down you’ll have time to enjoy life. Maybe you look forward to the weekend or an annual vacation, thinking that you’ll be able to find a way to slow down. Instead of looking to the future, learn to focus on the present moment. Enjoy what you’re doing in the here and now. You can find serenity in even the most mundane task if you really give it your attention and do it mindfully.
- Give up some control. No matter how much we plan, we can never predict what the future will bring. Trying to exercise too much control can just lead to frustration, in addition to frustrating the people around you. Since you never know what the future will bring, it’s futile to try to control events. Instead of attempting to control the outcome of events, learn to relax and enjoy the journey. Letting go of the need to control will give you more freedom to live in the moment. By planning less, you’ll be more open to unforeseen opportunities that come your way. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have goals, but that your focus shifts from the ends to the means.
Remember that simplicity is a process, not a destination.
For most of us, there is no escaping the inherent complexity of our lives. However, by deciding to simplify your life and spend more time seeking true happiness, you’ve started on a road that can lead to profound changes in your life.
There is no final destination at the end of this road.
Because life is forever changing and evolving, and you are evolving along with it, you will never reach a point of perfect simplicity and endless happiness. But each moment you spend on the path to simplicity does have the potential to bring more serenity and happiness into your life.