Category Archives: Minimalism

10 Lessons Learned from 10 Years of Minimalism

One fateful day about ten years ago, I sat down in front of my laptop and wrote the first post for Minimal Student about embracing change. Back then, as a fresh faced 18 year old, I had little idea about who I was or who I wanted to be.

I just knew the cluttered life I was living wasn’t for me and I had some things to say about that. Most of it wasn’t particularly insightful, but after a decade of documenting my thoughts and reflections, my attitude toward life has evolved with me.

Practising a life of minimalism has taught me a lot. It has shaped who I’ve become and who I’ll continue to be in the future. I’m glad I discovered it when I did, but if I were to talk to someone just starting out, there would be a lot I would want to tell them…

1. Minimalism starts with yourself

When you wake up and realise things aren’t working the way they are, that you need to make a change. You decide to take responsibility for getting what you want out of life. The letting go begins first inside you, and goes from the inside out.

2. Decluttering stuff is easy, decluttering life is hard

A lot of blogs and Youtube videos about minimalism talk about things like clearing out your wardrobe or how to store things neatly, but what’s not as fashionable to talk about is that it’s easier to donate a sweater or label boxes than it is to say no to a lot of the things in life you used to say yes to without thinking. Minimalism is about all the things in life that you don’t make you happy, not just stuff.

3. Costs and distractions come in many forms

Most people don’t think hard enough about the price they really pay for distractions. Buying too much stuff doesn’t only cost more money or rent/mortgage to fit it in your house, it costs time to earn and all the opportunities that you could have had instead. Scrolling through the news or spending time on social media or generally doing things that don’t add to your happiness takes an emotional toll people don’t even realise.

4. Most things are replaceable, the best things in life are not

When you have given away stuff you thought you might need one day but ended up not missing it at all, and repeated that a few hundred times, you’ll realise that those are the kinds of things that people work so hard for but don’t really matter in the end. It’s the things you can’t buy or that you can’t ever get back once lost that are truly valuable.

5. Minimalism isn’t just about taking away

It’s not about getting rid of stuff so that you can have a tidier house. It’s about making room for the good things in life, those irreplaceable things—for memories and experiences that add to your happiness, relationships you would have otherwise neglected, and for opportunities and lessons that will shape you in to a better person.

6. Minimalism is a happiness philosophy

With the study and practice of minimalism, you discover the ingredients of happiness—how to find contentment, how to value quality, how to feel abundance, how to be mindful of small momentsredefine success, and how to be grateful. Indeed, learning to be happy is one of the hardest things you can do.

7. Minimalism is an ongoing practice

The first stage of getting out of the cycle of thinking buying stuff will make you happy is pretty difficult, but once you’ve gotten out of that mindset, the harder part will be staying off the hedonic treadmill. It doesn’t end with a weekend of tidying up. Your practice is making dozens, if not hundreds, of small decisions every day to not slip back into old habits.

8. Minimalism gifts you time

The best thing about minimalism is that it gives you your time back. Where once you spent it on working to pay for fancy cocktails or a house or car that’s flashier than you can afford, now you can take the time to do things you enjoy, like taking care of yourself, or doing things you enjoy with the people you love.

9. Minimalism gifts you freedom

When you let go of caring so much about what other people think you, or needing to prove yourself over and over again, the biggest burden you didn’t know you were carrying your whole life feels lifted away.

10. Minimalism is yours

Your definition and purpose of minimalism is unique to you, and will change over time. You’re not ‘doing it wrong’ if you don’t have less than 100 things or whatever measurement someone made up. There’s no such thing as a true definition for minimalism because it’s different for everyone at different times in their lives, don’t feel you have to follow arbitrary rules to be defined as a minimalist. Minimalism is completely up to you.

Ten years ago, I embarked on a journey without a destination. To be honest, I still don’t know where I’m going or where I’ll be. Minimalism isn’t a magic wand that’s supposed to take you somewhere special. Rather, it’s an ongoing realisation that the special place you’re looking for is right here, right now.

Book I’m currently reading: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Like this? Check out Minimalist Meditations blog for more!

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook |email

Related Posts

When Minimalism Matters Most

Retro alarm clock on table on office background

 

Earlier this month, my mother was going about her normal life when suddenly she doubled over in intense pain. She was rushed to hospital and had to have an emergency operation. It was pretty serious, but the doctors were amazing and she made it in the end. She had to stay in hospital for several days, most of it in a daze falling in and out of consciousness because of the pain medication.

As she was lying in the hospital bed, connected to tubes and drips, I spent several hours a day by her side. We talked deeply about the important things in life. Through something like this happening to someone close to me I could finally see that too often it’s not until you get close to death that you finally wake up. 

She told me as the pain took over her, all the priorities in her life narrowed down. The first things to go were thoughts of money and possessions. She would have traded all the money in the world to make the pain go away. For my mother, who was raised in a society that is intensely materialistic, this was a revelation. When it comes down to it, the things that were supposed to be important, like how much money you have or how big your house is, meant nothing at all.

If something did happen to her, she thought, what a shame it would have been to have spent most of the best years of her life chasing after things that didn’t really make her happy, while neglecting the people and things that did. She could never get the time in the past back, but she was lucky enough to have a second chance going forward.

Of course, this is what practising minimalism has taught us from the beginning, that life is not about impressing others with your fancy clothes. Your net worth isn’t your life worth. Sure, it’s easy enough to agree in principle, but many of us dedicate our lives to doing exactly this—getting into debt or working long hours at jobs we hate to earn money to pay off the credit cards for things that don’t actually add value to our lives.

You don’t have to live like a monk, or go backpacking around the world, everyone has their own happy medium. Most people live on autopilot, going about their cycles of hedonic adaptation without stopping to question what kinds of things are most worthwhile. Unfortunately they don’t realise they’ve wasted their life until the very end, by then it’s too late to do anything about it.

If we’re lucky and open minded enough to discover minimalism before we’re near death, then we can count ourselves in the fortunate minority. Starting today, we can make wiser decisions on how we will spend our limited lives so that when we reach the end, if there is one thing we will have, it’ll be fewer regrets.

Book I’m currently reading: Time and How to Spend It: The 7 Rules for Richer, Happier Days

On Waking Up’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook |email

Related Posts

How living in a scarcity mindset changes everything

As a child growing up in an immigrant family, I’ve always been taught to treasure every hard earned penny. Whenever I did make a big purchase, whether it was for something fun like going out with friends, or even for something I genuinely needed, instead of enjoying it I would feel guilty about it for days.

Looking back, I understand now that I was operating under a scarcity mindset. I was taught by my parents that you couldn’t be sure that there would always be enough, so you better make every penny count because one day you might really need it.

To be fair, this kind of attitude was true to their experience. There were times in their childhood when they genuinely didn’t have enough to eat if they didn’t work hard for it. So they did everything they could to set up a life where that wouldn’t apply to their children.

It worked, because fortunately I’ve never had to go hungry. But I inherited their scarcity mindset about everything, including their attitude towards money and possessions. Growing up, we would hang onto everything we had, including furniture, clothes, toys, everything and anything, and hardly threw stuff away, even if we didn’t need it anymore.

It wasn’t until I discovered minimalism as a teenager, and spent the next decade writing and developing my own life philosophy around it that I was able to change. I was motivated from being able to see that my parents weren’t much happier, even when they were surrounded by all the money and stuff they earned and saved over the years.

Thanks to discovering minimalism, I got rid of things I no longer used and didn’t feel guilty about it. I stopped caring as much about what people thought of me, so I no longer felt the need to buy things I didn’t need. With my savings, I was able to quit my job and start my own business. Now I never have to worry about not having enough, and that makes me feel more free than ever. I am thankful every day for that.

Living in scarcity feels like having a daily dose of fear. It helps you survive, and sometimes it’s what you need. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve learned now that it’s only by living with a mindset of abundance that you can thrive.

Book I’m currently reading: Scarcity: The True Cost of Not Having Enough

On Scarcity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts

How imagining the worst can make you happier

treadmill

What phenomenon happens to every person on earth every day of their lives without anyone realising it or learning from?

The answer is hedonic adaptation. It’s the tendency of humans to go back to a stable level of happiness, even after something good (or bad) has happened to them.

If you’ve ever dreamed of doing or buying something that seemed unobtainable at the time, thinking, “I’ll be happy when I have that”, then after getting it you find yourself getting so used to having it that eventually you move onto wanting something new, you’ve experienced running on the hedonic treadmill.

You keep chasing bigger and better things, but you’re not really going anywhere. That’s how people who win the lottery revert back to the same level of happiness after a few years, and even billionaires have their own problems. In the end there is never enough money/stuff/fame/power/achievements/love that you can’t get used to eventually.

It may be in our nature to always be seeking more, but it’s a recipe for perpetual unhappiness.

What can we do about it? It turns out, insatiable human appetite isn’t a new problem. In fact, it’s a conundrum at least 2,000 years old because even in ancient times the Stoics were thinking about it. They may not have been pining for the latest smartphone or sports cars back then, but they had the same issues we do today—how do we find a balance between our unlimited wants with trying to live a virtuous and happy life?

Their solution was simple—imagine the worst that could happen. They called this negative visualisation. Essentially it’s an exercise where you take the things you value the most, it could be anything at all, and imagine for a minute not having it. You’ll realise just how much you take it for granted.

For example, think of a beloved spouse, family member, or child. It sounds horrible, but imagine they will die tomorrow. What will you do on their last day? Would you waste time watching TV or staying late after work? No! You would spend every moment you could with that person, savouring every minute of it.

Compare this with someone who takes the more common approach of banishing all negative thoughts from their mind. They think they’re better off but they are living in denial that their beloved could one day be gone. So they go about their daily lives as most people do, without realising that they’re taking the most precious things for granted. In the end, they will probably have more regrets about how they spent their time.

You might think this is all quite morbid, but who do you think is the person who is happier and more grateful for their loved one? Is it the person who periodically thinks about the fact that nothing lasts forever so they better make the most of it, or the person who doesn’t think about it at all? Who do you think is more grateful? Who do you think will have the fewest regrets?

The same could be applied to anything—you could imagine for a minute losing your home, or your job, or your health, or specific things such as your eyesight, access to the internet, running water, or political stability in your country… there is an infinite number of things that would be terrible or uncomfortable to live without. There is so much to be grateful for.

The Stoics advised doing this kind of exercise every now and again, maybe a few times a week or daily at most. Imagining the worst isn’t supposed to make you worry or become a morbid pessimist. It’s a reminder to appreciate things while you have them, and mitigate utter disappointment when not everything goes your way.

Saying that, exercising negative visualisation doesn’t mean anyone wouldn’t be devastated to lose something that is important to them. It’s not intended to be a magical solution to all problems. But learning to be grateful for what you already have, even for a few moments, will give you a break from running on that treadmill.

Indeed, often when I do this, when I realise I still have whatever it is I was thinking about losing, it feels like I’m waking up from a bad dream. I’m so relieved that it even makes me smile. So I encourage you to ask yourself today—what do you value most that you take for granted?

Book I’m currently reading: A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

On Appreciation’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts

Learning to say no

…is an essential part of living minimally.

Most of the things we’re asked to or recommended to do/see/try/buy etc. are rooted in other people’s desires, needs, and expectations, not from our own.

You only have a certain amount of time in life. It’s a zero sum game—the more you fill it with one thing, the less you have to fill it with something else. It’s a direct trade off.

By saying no, you avoid wasting time and effort on things that distract you from what really matters.

It takes courage and discipline to say no, especially if people are relying on you. That’s when you have to ask yourself the hard questions about what’s most important to you, and then do what you need to do.

If you’re not sure what to do then try this—if it isn’t a ‘fuck yes!’, then it’s a no.

Go on, live your life protecting your time as if it’s your most precious resource, because it is.

On Saying No’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts

Minimalism and the KonMari Method by Marie Kondo

kondo

I’ve been a long time fan of Marie Kondo and her work, so it’s been great to see her gain so much popularity lately.

Over the past few months, I’ve witnessed dozens of people doing big clear outs, giving stuff away for other people to use, or donating bags to charity. It’s great to see the mindset shift towards having less stuff becoming mainstream.

One thing I get asked about a lot is what I think about her ‘KonMari Method’. Essentially, it consists of six basic rules:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

There is so much that I love about her method. While I’m not able to sustain the rigorous folding rules of individual clothing items, I do agree with a lot of her philosophy:

Tidying as a reset button

In her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’, she says, “The moment you start you reset your life”. This is so true. Imagining your ideal lifestyle while committing to having a big clear out makes you rethink your relationship to stuff. You can address your anxieties and begin a new phase in your life where you don’t put as much emphasis on buying and having things. Kondo is careful to say that tidying is not a magic bullet that solves all the problems in your life, but since clutter naturally induces distraction and anxiety, getting rid of it is a good way to start.

Storing is not tidying

Tidying, done properly, should not be mistaken for simply making a house neater. “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved”, she writes. I’ve seen many people make the same mistake—just because things are hidden in drawers or organised in boxes it doesn’t mean it’s gone, and it doesn’t mean the underlying problem has been addressed. First, one must be willing and able to discard the unnecessary, then they can sort out the important items that are left. Hiding things is a way of not being honest with oneself.

Thank something before you get rid of it

It sounds silly but this has actually helped me say goodbye to things that I otherwise would have found hard to give or throw away. If it’s something that I used or wore a lot, it’s nice to say something like, “Thank you for the memories”. If it was something I didn’t use, at least I can say, “Thank you for teaching me that I didn’t need/suit this”. It helps to think that every item has played a role in my life, whether large or small, but nothing is forever and when it’s time to move on I can still be grateful for it in some way.

Tidy by category in the right order

Her method is clear that the best way to address stuff is in the order of clothes > books > papers > komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items) > sentimental items. The rationale is that it goes from easiest to hardest, so that people can start with momentum, and by the time they get to the end they would have honed their ability to sense what sparks joy and won’t find it as difficult to get rid of sentimental things at the end. I do agree with this reasoning, and she does allow a lot of flexibility, which is just as well because people will differ greatly on what they have a lot or a little of, and what they find easy/difficult so the order might change. (See my personal meditations about this).

Keep the things that make you happy

Kondo isn’t a traditional ‘minimalist’ as most people think of the word. The criterion she uses to decide whether or not to keep an item is whether or not it ‘sparks joy’. Put simply, if it gives you a good feeling, then keep it. It doesn’t matter if the item is something that is regularly used or not, which is how ‘minimalists’ tend to decide. This way, you look to keep more happiness in your life, instead of chopping stuff out just because it doesn’t get used.

Minimalism and the KonMari method aren’t opposing ideals if you understand that minimalism isn’t about decluttering for the sake of it. Having a tidier house isn’t what’s important—it’s about getting rid of distractions so that you can focus on what matters most to you. It’s not about the number of things you own, but how much they make you happy.

If you think of it like that, minimalism and Kondo’s method have a lot in common. In the end, they both have the same noble goal—to find happiness beyond stuff.

Check out my personal thoughts/stories about this topic in my post ‘On Tidying’ via Minimalist Meditations

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts

Last Year Reflections & Resolutions for 2019

At the end of each year, I find it a helpful exercise to look back on different areas of my life to see how things have changed, for better or for worse. Thankfully, with time and deliberate effort, this year I’ve managed to make good progress in most areas of my life:

People/relationships—The biggest thing that happened to me this year is that I got engaged! My partner and I have been happily together for six years now, and we’re very excited to move onto the next chapter in our life. With my grandma passing earlier in the year I made a special effort to spend more time with my family, including going on two trips abroad with both of my parents, something they hadn’t done in years.

  • People lesson of 2018: Even though it’s always possible to change and improve, many people choose to see the world as they want to. Whether it’s as a victim of circumstance or an agent of change, it’s not my responsibility (or even within my ability) to help everyone. Also, there is such a thing as people who love you for you are, but at the same time make you a better person for being with them.
  • People resolution for 2019: Don’t waste time and heartache on stubborn people. Make time for those who make me happiest.

Health—Although I managed to train and complete a marathon in 2016 and 2017, with my business taking up more of my time this year I couldn’t fit in the training for another marathon and settled on regularly attending fitness classes instead. So I didn’t participate in any major running events but I have improved in areas such as strength and flexibility. In 2019 I plan to do a yoga teaching qualification—hopefully the anticipation of the course and the training itself will motivate me to get exponentially stronger and more flexible.

  • Health lesson of 2018: A healthy body isn’t just about being slim—it’s about being strong, flexible, durable, adaptable, fast, and eating well.
  • Health resolution for 2019: Inspired by this Instagram, I will do something that contributes to my strength and flexibility everyday, even if it’s only a few stretches. Also, I will try to get my yoga teaching qualification, finally after 5+ years of practising yoga.

Business—I’ve increased the size and net income of my investment portfolio by a third over the last year which is a great achievement, but I had originally aimed for a 50% increase. Circumstances at the end of the year meant that I couldn’t complete in certain investments before the end of the year, but I should be very grateful for what I’ve accomplished and keep the momentum going.

  • Business lesson of 2018: how important it is to not get involved with things that will cause unnecessary anxiety later on, and how often something that seems like a big deal now won’t matter in a week/month/year’s time.
  • Business resolution for 2019: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep better track of my net worth and focus on the bigger picture.

Self improvement—At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about how I was often unable to concentrate on a single task for longer than a few minutes before being distracted by something else. So I reduced distractions in my life by not reading the news on a daily basis and turning off notifications. As a result, I managed to write at least once every month for this blog, and read 52 books this year.

  • Self improvement lessons for 2018: The power of setting a big goal, then breaking it down to yearly/monthly/weekly/daily tasks cannot be underestimated. Most things can be accomplished through discipline and hustle. Compare yourself upwards with people who you want to become to push yourself to improve, not downwards with people who haven’t done what you have to make you feel better.
  • Self-improvement resolution for 2019: Stay hungry, stay humble.

On Values’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts

How our values change the course of our lives

compass
Ask people what is most important to them—what they think is the foundation for the best kind of life—and most would reply, “love, happiness, and good health.”

They’re not wrong. There’s lots you can live without, but if you don’t feel anyone cares about you, or fulfilled in any way, or if your body is failing, it’s hard to imagine life being that great.

On top of those, there are many other things that people value in life, such as:

  • Security (the feeling of safety and stability)
  • Intimacy (feeling connected or close to others)
  • Adventure (seeking fun/thrills, wanting to try out new things)
  • Freedom (being independent, ability to make own choices)
  • Contribution (making a positive change or difference)
  • Success (feeling accomplished)
  • Passion (doing enjoyable things)
  • Growth (learning new things, self-improvement)
  • Integrity (being honest and having strong moral principles)
  • Comfort (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain)
  • Many others…

What each value means and how important they are varies between each person. How you rank these values can affect everything from what kind of job or career you have, to who you choose for a partner (or, at least, what/who you would be happy with in the long term). One might value passion over security, and choose a job or person they love over one that earns more. Another might be horrified at that idea and do the opposite.

Values can be opposing or overlapping. Contribution might be synonymous with success for some, whilst others believe sacrificing security is necessary for success, in their startup for example.

What’s more, some people have higher values in one area, and a different value in other areas. Someone might seek security above all else in their relationships, but go all out adventurous in their travels.

The whole topic of values can be quite complex, but the main point is that you’ll hardly find two things on the anyone’s list that the majority of people in the modern world are spending most of their waking life on—money and material things.

Money and material things are not really values, but are means to get some of the feelings we do value. Money may give people a sense of security or freedom, and having nice things gives some people comfort, or a feeling of accomplishment.

Rarely are money and things actually valuable to people, deep down. Yes, money can afford you basic necessities and healthcare, but it can’t buy you love and fulfilment. Ask anyone who has bought something that they’ve long dreamed of buying if they would happily die now, you’ll hear a resounding no.

Living minimally is a reminder to focus on our values. Instead of being caught up with keeping up with the latest trends on Instagram, or what people think of us, we instead try to minimise distractions and bring our actions back in line with what’s really important to us.

Would you buy the biggest house on the street if you didn’t have time to spend in it with your family? That depends if you value love over what the neighbours think. Would you get into debt for the latest gadget or designer shoes? That depends if you value security and freedom over appearances.

Our values don’t make us who we are but how we rank them influences everything we do. Our actions should be aligned with our values, but you’ll be surprised by how many people haven’t even thought about it, or spend years ignoring the signs, or even doing the complete opposite of what would actually make them happy.

If we can agree that the best life is spent dedicated to what mattered to us the most, then let’s not waste any more time. Cut out, pare down, simplify. Clear the path ahead. By deciding what we value the most, we create our life compass, pointing us in the direction we want to go.

On Values’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts

On Materialism

An often misunderstood part of minimalism is that it is an all or nothing deal.

With popular books, articles and videos showing ‘minimalists’ living in white boxes with just three shirts, two plates, and one pen, it’s no wonder why most people get the wrong idea.

A minimalist lifestyle is defined by each individual’s own terms. For some, owning less than 100 things is their definition. It’s not wrong, but it’s doesn’t fit every aspiring minimalist. Rather than being defined by how much you have or don’t have, it’s about being mindful of the things we introduce and keep in our lives.

Sometimes things have a use, and that’s okay.

A case for stuff

It has become fashionable to demonise acquiring material things as a waste of money and a pointless exercise. Most of us know that buying more won’t keep us happy in the long term, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it.

The feeling of satisfaction or superiority that comes from buying certain things is superficial, which is why the rush doesn’t last long. But some possessions can actually be meaningful to us.

A new suit gives us a much needed confidence boost at work, a set of paintbrushes reveal our creative side, a language course booked to learn something new, a tablet computer connects us to family and friends, a skiing holiday pushes us to take risks, a photo album full of memories makes us smile, a full bookshelf reminds us of how much we’ve learned over the years…

Things like this are needed as part of a life well lived. It may be an unpopular conclusion to come to on a blog about minimalism, but perhaps sometimes buying stuff is not a complete waste after all.

Importantly, however, is the realisation that just having useful possessions is not enough by itself to transform us for the better. Even religions like Zen Buddhism which encourage the use of mindfulness bells acknowledge that a bell by itself is not enough to make us paragons of calm. But for many monks and laypeople, every ring feels like it’s tuning them little by little into the kind of person they aspire to be.

Approached in the right way, material goods can help us become happier people, but achieving the right balance can be difficult. Here is where minimalism as a practice comes in—helping us become more disciplined with our desires and mindful of distractions that tempt us away from the kind of life we want to live.

On Materialism’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Minimalism and our natural biology

brain

Based on thousands of years of evolution, our bodies are biologically hard-wired to reward us when we feel pleasure, and punish us when we feel pain. If you do something that your body likes, it rewards you with a rush of dopamine, endorphins, and other chemicals making you feel happy. It hardly matters what the consequences are in the long term.

The major flaw in this system is that any pleasurable feelings that you initially felt for doing/eating/getting something will always fade away. This is so that you’ll go out of your way to get it again.

Imagine if a chimp ate a banana and felt happy about it for the rest of his life. He would eventually die of starvation whilst his chimp friends whose dopamine hits faded away would go on to seek the feeling again. The most well fed chimps would be the strongest and most likely to find mates, thereby passing on their dopamine seeking genes. Meanwhile our chimp who got everlasting happiness from his first banana wouldn’t be motivated to do much else, and would likely end up dying without having passed its genes.

Multiply this by thousands of generations of evolution and couple it with the fact that we can get dopamine fixes as easily as buying a new pair of shoes and we begin to understand why living a minimalist lifestyle is so difficult.

To intentionally abstain from the fun and flashy things that wins us social approval is basically going against human nature itself. Indeed, humans are especially difficult to please because it doesn’t take long for our brains to become normalised to the hit of buying the latest gadget before having it is no longer enough. At least chimps are happy with bananas—if they were human they would inevitably get bored and find a way to upgrade to the latest version.

What can we do about this? Unfortunately, short of reprogramming our evolutionary biology, we can’t do a whole lot about the way that our brains react to pleasure, or absence of pleasure. But as Homo Sapiens we do have the ability to override our biology using our intellect. We can look back into the past, come to conclusions about our decisions, and make predictions about the future.

We can look back and see that for almost every material thing we have bought in our lives, the ‘happiness’ we felt in that moment eventually faded. From this we can conclude that continually buying new things may not be an effective or sustainable way to obtain happiness. Instead, we can decide to concentrate on the kinds of things that make happiness last, such as our hobbies and achievements, memorable experiences, and close relationships.

Being human can be both a curse and a blessing. When I see how happy a pet dog is playing in the grass, or how satisfied with life a house cat is, I sometimes wonder why we humans have to make things so complicated.

Maybe if we spent half as much time and effort learning how to be happy as we do on buying stuff, we could actually do it. Just as we can choose to have carrots over cake, our biology can be overcome—it’s a factor, not an excuse. Perhaps the real determinants of happiness are how ready we are make the most of the situation we’re in, and our willingness to make the hard choices. That’s what makes a difference.

On Nature’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

Written by Jessica Dang
Subscribe – rss | twitter | facebook | g+ |email

Related Posts