The Don'ts of Minimalism
Though there is no one way to practice minimalism, there are inspiring examples to take cues from – such as the life and words of Epicurus.
Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little — Epicurus
When you think of Epicureanism the first thing that may come to mind is the pursuit of pleasure. To many, pursuing pleasure means living lavishly, acquiring as many things as possible, and engaging your senses without moderation.
However, this is in direct conflict with the actual philosophy of Epicurus.
To Epicurus, the pursuit of pleasure meant alleviating pain, removing things that brought about suffering, finding tranquility of mind, and staying in balance. His philosophy was not about asceticism but it wasn’t about overindulgence either, and it can be interesting to see simple living through his eyes.
So how do you become better at discerning true sources of happiness? How do you craft a pleasurable lifestyle that also gives you peace and serenity of mind? Consider what not to do.
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DON'T HANG ONTO STUFF
If it makes you cringe or evokes any type of negative feeling when you look at it, it should go immediately. If it doesn’t bring about a feeling of joy or other positive emotion, toss it. Since I was a child I've always used this intuitive approach to evaluate what stays in my space so have never been overwhelmed by having too many things.
For those who are struggling to dig themselves out of a clutter rut, or have a contentious relationship with their possessions, a more hands on approach could be a life changer. Marie Kondo's best-selling book became an instant success because she identified the suppressing emotion behind clutter and provided a simple remedy for alleviating it.
DON'T DO THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNHAPPY
There are always times when you have to do something you may not necessarily want to do, but if doing something causes you to violate your values or consistently makes you sad, angry, or frustrated, find a way to eliminate it.
I always thought being happy was easier said than done. I think it is because we often look at happiness with an additive mindset: what can we start doing, what new technique can we introduce, etc.
However, sometimes it's easier to start by focusing on what you can remove. When I started to identify and stop adverse habits and activities I became much happier without having to do anything new.
DON'T BE PERPETUALLY BUSY
Something is out of balance if your sense of value is based on how many appointments and activities you can pack into a 24-hour period. Perpetual busyness keeps you from slowing down and savoring all of the wonderful moments that make life worth living.
As I discuss in A Realistic Routine, being too busy is a result of not being intentional with your time and exercising a higher level of consciousness when it comes to planning your day.
DON'T BEFRIEND PEOPLE SUPERFICIALLY
The ability to regard yourself highly, instead of depending on approval or acceptance from others, is requisite to living a simple life. If they don’t add meaningful value to your life (and more importantly you don’t add meaningful value to theirs) then it’s not a relationship worth having.
I'm sure you've had experience with the grade school or high school clique phenomenon: trying to fit in with a person or group whom you deem popular or cool. Unfortunately, so many people keep up that mentality – driven by low self-esteem – when they get older.
Strong human connections require a balance between giving and taking. If you have a relationship that feels forced and out of sync it impacts your feeling of worth and permeates in other areas of life. If that relationship can't mature to one of mutual regard then phase it out.
DON'T STAY IN UNPLEASING ENVIRONMENTS
People underestimate the extent to which surroundings impact their mood, thoughts, and behaviors. This includes both the aesthetic and atmosphere (i.e. the aura or energy it exerts). It’s important to understand the type of environments that inspire you so you can choose where you spend your time wisely.
For example, I love spending time in cafes. The combination of the aesthetic and ambient sound makes it an ideal workplace. I'm particular about the types of cafes I work in because I recognize that all the little features and details that are so easily taken for granted, actually add up to create a mood that can make or break my flow.
DON'T BE PERPETUALLY NEGATIVE
You don't have to be a New Age disciple to believe in the power of thought. In fact, you can ignore all of the woo and look at science: namely Neuroplasticity which is the phenomenon by which our brain rewires itself.
It has been shown that negative thinking releases stress-producing hormones that can be destructive to our brain's normal functioning, having a significant and lasting effect on our physical and emotional well-being.
On the contrary, positive affirmations such as when meditating seem to change our brains for the better and can be responsible for less stress and anxiety, increased memory, and a stronger sense of self.
In short, a simple way to practice these rules is to don’t do anything, own anything, be anywhere or around anyone that you don’t love. If it makes you feel bad (or doesn’t make you feel good) it has no place in your mind or life.
The Epicurean life, in its true form, is a type of minimalism that doesn’t force you to get rid of the things that bring you pleasure, but enables you to wisely differentiate between what is really happiness and what is just suffering in disguise.
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