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Can Simplifying Your Life Lead To Happiness?

Updated on October 9, 2013

Happiness, what is it? How can we get it and hold on to it? It seems that after our basic needs are met, the next most important thing that we do is pursue happiness. We spend a great deal of time thinking, planning and actually doing things that we believe will make us happy. We put a great deal of time and effort into the pursuit of our happiness, but are we really happy? The answer may lie in how we are defining happiness. We have attached the idea of happiness to things that we can acquire or task we need to complete. We often assume that we will instantly become happy if we get something; if we buy these shoes, if we get this promotion. . . we will finally be happy. Or if we can just get past something; a meeting a work, a final exam, an interview. . .we will be happy. All of these things can bring some transient pleasure, but do they bring true happiness? At first, we have some initial elation; however, it is quickly replaced by that same old feeling of being incomplete, a feeling that something is missing.

We live in a driven society. We are driven to succeed, to acquire things, to keep moving physically and mentally. The messages we are continually receiving from advertisers, the media, bosses and sometimes friends and family, is to keep achieving, keep acquiring, and keep moving upward. Don't stop. If we stop we lose ground. We will be out of sync, out of pace, at risk of falling behind. At some point we begin to lose sight of why we are doing, what we are doing. We are on auto pilot and moving at a tremendous rate. We realize that we need to stop, but we become too afraid to stop, and we are not even sure how, or if we can stop. If we continue in this manner we risk losing touch with the things that can truly make us happy. Often when asked what would make us happy, we have no answer. We seem to have lost the ability to see the little things around us that used to bring us a few moments of happiness.

We fail to appreciate the little things, the things that are happening in the moment, the things that can trigger our happiness. Think of a child and their reaction to what is around them. They live in the moment and are truly absorbed by what is going on around them. The little things that surround them, the things that we as responsible adults, with complicated lives, appear to have lost the ability to see, seem to trigger a happy feeling in them. Research identifies people who appreciate the small things and live in the moment as healthier, less stressed, and living longer. This group of people is also identified as more successful, however, their success is not defined by material possessions.

So what do we need to do to pursue true happiness? Continuing to seek material success and possessions is not the answer. It appears that the more material success we obtain the more stress we place on ourselves to maintain and to continue to succeed. The more possessions that we obtain seem to further complicate and clutter our lives. The little things that can bring us happiness become more and more impossible to identify with each purchase. What kinds of lives are we living if our lifestyle and possessions lead to stress, feeling unfulfilled, disappointed and lost? Are the things we possess distracting us from what is important in life? How can we see and be happy with what is right in front of us? The answer is to simplify our lives.

Simplifying your life is not simple. It is extremely difficult to even imagine your life being different, let alone actually trying to change it. We live in the midst of busy, complicated lives, we are torn between work demands, demands from our family and friends, and every other demand that comes at us on a daily bases. Any change begins to sound like just another thing that we have to do; and we have no time or energy to do it. Simplifying is a process. It took years to make our lives cluttered and complicated, so it is unreasonable to expect that we can simplify them in one day.

5 Steps To Begin Simplifying Your Life

1. Begin by trying to remember a time when you were truly happy. Think about a carefree time in your life. Maybe before your career started, or before you had a house or car payments. Start to focus on these memories and let them take you back to a happier, simpler time in your life. Begin taking notice of the things that make you smile or laugh. It can be as simple as the way the wind feels on your face, or the smile of a person who walks past you. What are the things that you are drawn to, what are you truly interested in? Begin to take note of these things and before too long you will begin to notice, that there are many more of these little moments that make you feel good, that make you smile, than you originally thought.

List 5 Things That Are Important To You That Are Not Money or Material Related

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2. Since simplifying is a process, begin small. Begin by slowing down, cutting back and making time for you. Having more "me" time will allow you to experience and identify the things that make you happy. Start by freeing up an hour a day. One extra hour a day will help you slow down.. Just freeing one hour a day will give you 5 to 7 hours a week of free time.

5 Ways To Free One Hour A Day

  1. Get up earlier.
  2. Reduce the amount of TV you watch.
  3. Work realistic hours. Work as close as possible to your assigned work hours. If you are a salaried employee, it is very tempting to stay late and catch up on work, but do you ever really catch up or are you just adding to the length of your work day.
  4. Reduce your social networking, phone, or other electronic gadget time.
  5. Reduce your shopping time. Shop for only the things that you need.

3. Be willing to change how you do things. Change can be a source of anxiety in out lives. So we need to look at change as growth and movement towards a goal: Happiness. Adjust your standards. Adjust your pace. Start with simple chores that you do every week. House cleaning task can be readjusted by reviewing your standards. Do you need to do a thorough house cleaning every week? Does the floor need to be washed every week? Do you need to grocery shop every week? Is it possible to shop every other week or once a month? Laundry is another area to look at. There are endless task that can be reassessed in order to begin simplifying your life. Adjusting how you do things will allow you the time and opportunity to begin to enjoy the moment more and truly begin to identify the things that lead to happiness.

4. Get off auto pilot. When you lead a fast paced, complicated life, you are on auto pilot most of the time. You get up in the morning and your body automatically seems to know what to do. You have so much you need to do, you just seem to react and respond to each activity. In order to get off of auto pilot, you need to begin to change your routine. You need to introduce enough change so that you are not mindlessly going about your day. Even a small change in routine will require you to pay attention to what is going on around you, and this will lead to a reduction in you automatically responding to activities and situations.

5. Assess your buying habits and de-clutter your life. First, look at why you are buying something; do you need it, or do you want it because it might make you feel good, momentarily. When you see something that you want to by, don't buy it for two weeks. Placing a hold on your purchase will help you determine if the item is an impulse purchase or something that you truly need. Reviewing and possibly changing your buying habits will not only reduce what you acquire, but it will also reduce the amount of things in your life. Things that you need to take care of, look after, maintain or store, which leads to de-cluttering your life. Once again, this is an area where you need to begin small, or the task will be too overwhelming. One shelf at a time, one drawer at a time. Often times reviewing what you already own and seeing how little you actually use many of the items, will help you adjust your buying habits.

Can simplifying your life lead to happiness? Possibly, but you will never know unless you begin to take the first difficult, but rewarding steps. Who knows, you might just find that simplifying your life is the road to true happiness.

© 2012 susiempn


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    • susiempn profile image

      susiempn 5 years ago from Michigan

      Isn't it amazing how the world gently pushes you in the direction you seem to need to go.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      We have a TV, but we use it to just watch movies. We don't miss the "real" TV with it's unbearable commercials. I do miss TCM (Turner Classic Movies). I like old movies, but I can get all I want at our library. When the world went digital, we lost our signal, and it is so nice. It's quiet, and we actually spend more time together.

    • susiempn profile image

      susiempn 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for the validation and your kind words. I am working on the de-cluttering, however I'm not sure I'll ever get the TV out of my house.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I have already taken steps to simplify, and I can vouch for the fact that it feels awesome!

      I don't have a TV.

      I work from home...the hours I want to work. I can nap in the afternoon if I feel the need, or just sit outside in the sunshine!

      I decluttered my house, and got rid of the "stuff". Did you know clutter causes anxiety?

      Great hub! Voted up, awesome, useful, and interesting.