Your Brain on Minimalism. Techniques to Help Boost Your Mental Health.

When I started my minimalist journey, it was mostly because I became hyper-aware of how much I had let stuff dictate my life and how I saw my own worth as a person. Living your life for things won’t get you very far, especially when there is always some new cool thing you want. It’s a vicious cycle of spending and unhappiness. However, as I began practicing minimalism in every area of my life, I began finding that along with it, I was gaining more mental and spiritual clarity. I was less stressed and had developed a bigger vision for what I wanted from my life. It’s insane how much minimalism can affect our brains and mental health for the better. Here are a few ways you can make massive change today.

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Your brain on minimalism

Our brains naturally gravitate toward simple. The fewer decisions we have to make in a day, the better. On top of that, if you are struggling with things like anxiety and depression, there’s a good chance your brain is already working overtime.

Why complicate things more than necessary?

When we consciously work to simplify the tasks our brains need to accomplish on any given day we give ourselves back peace of mind, time and of course, brainpower that can be put to better use.

In short, practicing minimalism can:

  • Increase energy levels
  • Reduce decision making
  • Eliminate over-stimulation
  • Remove feelings of guilt or shame
  • Free up your schedule
  • Improve your financial situation — See my minimalist budget plan

Let’s start right at the beginning of your day. I will walk you through how the first thing in the morning minimalism stands to benefit your mental health.

Make mornings minimal

With each new day, we are given the gift of renewed energy and brain power. However, most of us can blow through a good chunk of our brain power before we even get out the front door.

By cultivating a more minimalist lifestyle you can instantly save brain power in the following areas:

  • Avoiding phone notifications
  • Having less clothing options to choose from
  • Leaving all toiletries in plain sight and clutter-free
  • Always being able to find your keys

Turning off notifications

There is nothing that can add more stress to our day than instantly checking all of the notifications on our phones. Sure, you can try to get in the habit of just not looking, but chances are, if this is already a habit you’re used to, you’re not going to be able to give it up.

Reducing phone distractions is something I have almost mastered over the years with the following techniques:

  • Deleting and re-downloading social apps every day at a set time to avoid distractions
  • Turn off all notifications
  • Remove notifications from group texts
  • Make email hard to access — put it in a folder within a folder rather than right on your home screen

While I chose to delete and re-download social media apps every day at 3pm (after work and homeschool), I got the email idea from the book The Happiness Advantage that talks about making our time-sucking habits more difficult to access.

Reducing clothing options

Some of the most successful people, like Steve Jobs, wear the exact same outfit every day. They don’t do this to be like cartoon characters, but rather to save brain power for better things.

While I personally think it’s more likely that men would stick to a very simple uniform, I too have found that a basic minimalist uniform works in my favor as well as a woman.

Simplifying bathroom time

Just like less clothing options is a good choice, simplifying the time you spend rifling through bathroom stuff (again, more likely for women) is a good idea as well.

Sticking to a simple makeup routine can be highly beneficial as well as styling your hair the same way. I cannot tell you how many mornings I used to spend trying out a new hairstyle and being so exhausted and angry by the end of it I just wanted to go back to bed.

Try out new makeup techniques and hairstyles in your free time so that when you want to add them to your morning routine, it isn’t sucking any of your energy.

Having a key spot

We all know that not being able to find your keys is probably the biggest stressor at the beginning of the day. Having a unique spot for your keys can be helpful, but so can making sure you have less clutter to filter through to find them.

Less stuff, less stress

Our brains naturally seek patterns to help us improve our decision making. When we live in houses full of clutter, it’s more difficult for our brains to find and recognize patterns.

In other words, just looking at clutter can take up a lot of our brain power. Not to mention the immobilizing guilt we often feel when we see our clutter.

There have been fascinating studies conducted that have found a link between clutter and lower life satisfaction especially in older adults and women.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that clutter can negatively impact mental well-being, particularly among women. Clutter can also induce a physiological response, including increased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

The New York Times — Read Article

How to eliminate clutter

Because clutter is naturally draining to our mental health, we can feel immobilized by it and therefore, never really do anything about it.

I have shared a post on how to declutter your home one room at a time that I feel is the most effective because it starts with small increments.

There are of course more grandiose methods, like The KonMari Method of cleaning where you make yourself hyper-aware of the amount of clutter you have. However, that method doesn’t work for everyone and might even add to that mental drain/fear and guilt that stops you from making any changes at all.

My biggest recommendation is to take small, practical steps in the right direction.

Value your time

Minimalism doesn’t just have to be tied to your space and wardrobe as many people believe. You can begin to cultivate a more minimalist lifestyle by being more particular about how you spend your time.

Sure, by reducing clutter you will naturally find yourself with more time because you will not be cleaning as often, but just as you can select which clothes you want to wear, you can also become more selective with how you spend your time.

How to evaluate your time

The following steps have been the best method I have found for really looking at and evaluating how to build a more minimalist schedule:

  • Eliminate the stuff that you feel resistance toward – Do you dread showing up for that coffee date? Does attending that weekly function at work always increase your anxiety? Start with these areas of your schedule. Work to remove the commitments you already have that you know are not beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
  • Decide how you want to spend your time – On the flip side, take the time to ask yourself how you love spending your time and who you love spending your time with. This isn’t selfish. If there are events and people you enjoy, choosing that is choosing your health. That’s a win for everyone.
  • Get good at saying no – If you are a natural people pleaser (like me) then you might get anxious at the idea of having to turn down people when they invite you to something you don’t want to go to. My best advice is to get good at saying “no” to things that you know are not aligned with how you want to spend your time.

Eat only what you love

Creating a more minimalist diet plan can be highly beneficial to saving time in your morning routine as well as lunch and dinner.

Instead of constantly trying to come up with something to eat (and then maybe bailing and just getting fast-food), try choosing one meal per week. This is easier to do if you are a single individual but is also something you can do with a family.

Breakfast

Select one breakfast and get it prepped for the week. I personally love pre-making these gluten-free oat waffles from Cookie + Kate. I can easily prep them for almost 2 weeks (for both my kids) in an hour or less on Sunay. And, because they are just sitting in a waffle iron I can read, watch a show or just enjoy chatting with hubby in the kitchen.

Lunch

What is something you absolutely love eating for lunch? Do you have a favorite restaurant near work? Are you a big fan of heating up last night’s leftovers? Either way, whatever it is that you love, just plan on these things in advance.

Be sure to put your leftovers in a container you can easily grab the next morning or be sure to include takeout lunch in your budget every week.

Give focus to a few

Minimalism can also apply to the people in our life. Often times we feel a pang of guilt when we desire to limit our social outreach, but truly, we shouldn’t.

We as humans have a limited number of relationships we can maintain so there is nothing wrong with being selective about the top people on your list.

Our pastor once put it this way: “Who would attend your funeral. Those are the people whose relationships you should work to build.”

It’s easy to get caught up trying to impress other people or even try to maintain long-term friendships that have run dry. While you can still show love and kindness to these people, they don’t need to be getting your undivided attention.

Choose the people in your life who mean the most to you and work to center your time and attention around them. More and more studies show that negative people can suck your energy. Choose wisely for your own mental health and wellbeing.

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More and more studies are showing the benefits of minimalism when it comes to our mental health. Here is how to slowly make the transition.