How Minimalism Can Improve your Mental Health
A few years ago, Marie Kondo popularized the minimalist idea of living with only the things that bring you joy. In the era of COVID-19, many of us are now spending far more time in our homes than we ever have before. While we have become more familiar with our surroundings, we have also neglected to realize their mental health impact on us. Living and working in the same space can be overwhelming and stressful. Working remotely during coronavirus quarantine, minimalism is making a huge comeback, both for our mental wellness and for our work productivity. But is there any science behind this popular practice? Research-backed therapy app LIFE Intelligence investigates.
Contrary to popular belief, minimalism does not involve completely purging your living space. In fact, minimalist practices exist with the goal of making you feel more at home. The objective is to rid your home – and your lifestyle as a whole – of items or habits that cause you stress and hinder your ability to be productive and successful in the ways that you want to be. Although the study of minimalism has fairly recent origins, it has been found that there is a significant relationship between decluttering and quality of life (Uggla, 2019). Not only does this involve discarding items that no longer serve a purpose to you, but it also includes modifications to other aspects of your life such as your diet, daily routine, and interpersonal relationships.
Minimalism contradicts materialism, instead existing with a focus on quality rather than quantity. The core principle of this concept was born from the philosophy that life is far more fruitful when we have fewer objects around us to distract us from the important things, which rarely involve tangible belongings. In fact, many people who subscribe to minimalist ways of life do so in an effort to develop a sense of self-understanding and further explore their passions (Uggla, 2019). So, for those who are struggling to find a work-life balance – especially right now, when there is little to no boundary between our workspaces and our living spaces – minimalism may be of great help to us.
The practice of minimalism has been linked to many personal benefits (Lloyd et al., 2020). For instance, improvements in the following areas have been discovered in relation to the application of minimalist practices:
Given that minimalism is viewed as a holistic lifestyle, both the practices and the benefits are inextricably linked (Lloyd et al., 2020). The ideas behind discarding unnecessary belongings are the same ideas that support changes in other areas of life, making it so that minimalists are able to take a simple approach that allows them to grow in many different ways.
For instance, when it comes to discarding physical objects, it is recommended that people look for things that no longer hold much value to them. This often involves removing things that you hardly even notice anymore, such as little tchotchkes that you forgot you even had or items stuffed in the back of a closet that you no longer have any use for but just haven’t gotten around to donating. According to minimalism, unless an object serves a clear purpose in your daily life or provides you with some kind of pleasure – whether it be a nostalgic photo, sentimental gift, stuffed animal, or aesthetically pleasing piece of art – there is no reason to hold on to it.
This same rule can be applied to several other areas of life.
When it comes to daily routines, minimalists subscribe to the same ideas as they do when discarding physical objects: unless it is useful to you or brings you joy, don’t do it. This suggestion primarily refers to habits that many of us have that we don’t even realize contribute to our wasting significant amounts of time. For instance, wasting hours on social media without any true purpose. It is important to recognize that the goal isn’t necessarily to be productive during every second of each day, but rather to do things that have some kind of meaning to you.
For many minimalists, this involves following a similar schedule every day – of course, assuming that their work and personal lives allow for it. When we’re not stressing ourselves out by trying to adjust to an ever-changing schedule, we can focus more on each task, each interaction, and the effects that they have on us. Here, we can see the vast potential for all of the benefits that were previously discussed; if you fully immerse yourself into each experience that you have throughout the day, you will certainly become more aware.
Minimalist practices have many implications for the world today, where so many of us are working from home. In thinking about the work week, how often do you address each item in your workspace? Does each object in your established or makeshift office serve a purpose or elicit some kind of positive emotion from you? When working in the same space every single day – the same space that you live in – it’s easy to ignore things. If you were to walk through your home, would you be able to predict the placement of each object? Would you even remember that you had it?
These can be helpful questions to ask yourself if you’re looking for ways to maximize your productivity and happiness while you’re working from home. The same goes for your everyday habits.
All of these changes can feel tedious and exhausting. It’s certainly easier said than done to address each of your belongings and effectively decide which of them are no longer of any use to you. Once it’s done, however, you’ll have adopted a totally different mindset and will no longer have to concern yourself with the minutiae of quotidian life, focusing more on meaningful tasks.
As we can see, personal discipline and self-assurance are key elements of minimalism (Uggla, 2019). If we’re able to actively change our surroundings so that they’re more conducive to our success and overall well-being, we become more agentive, more capable of making little lifestyle alterations that can have powerful implications. Given that the goal of minimalism is to focus more on the important aspects of our lives rather than distracting ourselves with useless items and tasks, it serves as a way to holistically maximize our lives. Especially right now, when we are almost constantly surrounded by our belongings, we are faced with the perfect opportunity to reassess our relationships – not only with each other, but with our things.
Altering our lifestyles to subscribe to minimalist practices can certainly seem like a tall order. We’re all in the midst of unprecedented experiences right now, coping with feelings we’ve never felt before and learning how to deal with changing times. With all of this in mind, it’s important to set time aside for ourselves, for finding ways to make the most of the situation we’re in. LIFE Intelligence, a holistic wellness app, can help you start meeting some of these goals. By becoming more in touch with your experiences, you can work to find ways to change them for the better. Follow along with 9 core topics, from mental health, to self awareness, to productivity, relationships, and leadership, help you improve each facet of your life. Let LIFE Intelligence guide you, whether it be toward a more minimalist lifestyle or simply toward one that resonates with you. Download for iOS or Android.
Lloyd, K., & Pennington, W. (2020). Towards a Theory of Minimalism and Wellbeing.
International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 1-16.
Uggla, Y. (2019). Taking back control: Minimalism as a Reaction to High Speed and Overload
in Contemporary Society. Sociologisk forskning, 56(3-4), 233-252.