Inspired by the Netflix film, ‘Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things’, I started reflecting on the connection of minimalism to mental health. Minimalism can be described as placing less focus and meaning on material possessions and simplifying life to concentrate on what makes a person happiest and most fulfilled.
There are many studies which support the theory that materialistic consumption doesn’t lead to satisfaction. Many lottery winners are disappointed to find that in the long term, money and things don’t make them any happier than they were beforehand. In this film, they describe excess consumption as a hunger that never gets fulfilled and as a hopeless search for contentment. They propose that, when letting go of the need to consume, people can find true contentment by tuning in to their feelings and addressing any underlying unhappiness.
By letting go of anything that is unessential and only keeping anything that adds value to your life in some way, it is possible to lead a more satisfying life. It helps to always ask: “Does this add value to my life?” In the film, Nicodemus and Millburn claim that answering this question focuses the mind on that which is really important and leaves more room to build meaningful relationships and facilitate personal growth.
Minimalism is a way of life which can be having less stuff, or doing less things, or thinking/stressing/worrying less, or having less negative news and social media overload and/or becoming more aware of what you are eating. According to Leo Babauta, author of the blog Zen habits, “minimalism isn’t just about living with little; it is about discovering what’s important.” And for everyone this is different, even though there can be lots of similarities. Many say that close relations is what it is all about. For others it is about more quality alone time. For others it is prioritising their health. And so on. The key is to declutter enough so that what is truly important can become clearer.
But remember, consumption is not an evil force that we need to avoid at all costs. It is possible to be minimalist and have stuff. It is, however, more important to stop and think about why you are buying and what you are buying? Is it adding value to your life? If not why do you need it? If yes, then by all means have it. It is about being more deliberate with your decisions, your time and your energy. Even applying one minimalist principle to your life can make an impact. It can become one more tool in the upkeep of your mental wellbeing. Many people report that minimalism improved their mental health by helping them to see more clearly and to be able to be content because they learned to appreciate more and feel more gratitude. Personally, I loved this saying from the film: “Love people and use things.” Maybe take some time today to ask yourself: is there anything that I can let go of or do less of in my life?
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.