I recently had the good fortune of traveling to Paulo Coelho’s setting for his famous book The Alchemist in Andalucia, Spain. There, I spent a good 3 months living in an old rustic villa that overlooked the sloping mountains and the beautiful Mediterranean sea. It was there that I was also introduced to a slower, more simple way of living.
With very little furniture, no internet connection (apart from that of the local library’s), no mobile phone and no car, my way of living was completely changed from a busy suburban lifestyle, to a slow-paced country one.
In those three months I experienced many changes within and also without myself. Today, I’ll share with you the most important lessons I learned first-hand from a minimalist lifestyle.
8 Lessons, 90 Days of Minimalist Living
We wear the “I’m so busy and overworked” badge like it’s a gold medal. Somehow, we got confused and started thinking that always being busy is impressive. Little did we know that “being busy” doesn’t mean shit. ~ Simple Ways To Be More With Less
1# Lighting Psychologically Affects You
The house I stayed in, in Spain like most European houses was open, spacious and painted white inside and out. Soon I discovered that the large quantity of sunlight that I was exposed to made a great mark on my psychological well-being.
In Australia, I was used to living in a dark atmosphere, with the blinds drawn for most of the day like some kind of vampire. In Spain, I discovered that not only does a bright room contribute to positive mental health (e.g. more optimism, happiness, good-humor), but it also serves to create a clean, unobstructed mind. This is especially useful for people who work at home (employees, writers, artists etc.) and who rely on their minds to work.
If you live in a gloomy house, consider opening the blinds or curtains of as many windows as you can. Simple and easy.
You may like to try this sometime: sit or stand inside a small room for a while, carrying about your daily activities. Then, after an hour or two, go outside and look up at the sky for a few minutes. Chances are you will feel a lot less constricted and distracted by your constant flow of thoughts.
I was fortunate in Spain to have expansive views to the sky, sea and mountains, and this greatly influenced my clarity of mind and inner sense of calmness and peace. Science and psychology has told us that our environments greatly affect the way we function and think. So the more we expose ourselves to the world outside of our brick and wood boxes, the more likely this is to affect the way we approach the world, interact with people and live our lives.
3# Lack of Stimulation Breeds Inner Calm
At first it was really difficult to adjust to such a simplified existence. My days were no longer filled with checking my email 5+ times a day, watching a TV show, surfing and browsing the web, texting, watching some more TV, downloading new eBooks, writing reviews, sending emails, checking Facebook etc. etc. etc.
After a while I grew to highly value such a slow pace of existence, preferring it to the hectic, every-minute-must-be-productive one. If you review everything you do each day, you realize just how much of it is absolutely non-essential. Try reducing the stimulation sources in your life. Like me, you may feel internally healthier, happier and equilibrious.
4# There’s Probably More Negative Energy In Your House Than You Think
The radio, television, music … when we think of “”negative energy” we usually associate it with bad tempers, attitudes and people in our lives. But have you ever considered that the negative energy in your home could be the things we tend to forget about – the background noises in our daily lives?
Our unconscious minds are vast, powerful and extremely receptive, and when we surround ourselves by the background noises of murder reports, the recounts of burglary, sexual assaults, abuse and so forth, we slowly begin to program our minds with fear and anxiety.
The music we also listen to plays a big role in our lives and significantly impacts on the way we think and feel. I’ve often made the mistake of surrounding my work environment with melancholic music, and although it does not immediately impact my way of being, it manifests itself in the way I think and behave later.
In Spain, the only background noise was the sound of distant traffic and birds twittering outside, otherwise, the house was silent. The silence was pure and beneficial, something I had rarely experienced in Australia.
If you have a lot of background noise in your life, consider turning off the TV and radio for starters. Hearing the latest news, or blather from TV/Radio hosts won’t change your life for the better. Also, if you love music, consider filling your space with the gentle sounds of nature.
5# “Minimalize” The Air You Breathe
Yes, this sounds a tad weird, but in my experience, living with “minimalist” air impacted greatly on my health and well-being. Not all of us have the luxury of living in the countryside, where the air is notoriously purer. But we can make the choice to rid the air we breathe of sprays, fresheners and pollutants like dust and mold.
Such a simple decision to live in virgin air can make all the difference.
Living with no car can be a bit of an inconvenience and in Spain, I was forced to walk 2-3km almost every day to do shopping, or to ensure that LonerWolf was running smoothly at the local library. To my surprise, I actually grew to love exercise as a result of a more minimalized lifestyle.
Not only could I learn to appreciate and grow more in touch with the surrounding landscape, but I also felt less of my general fatigue and chronic muscle pain. Exercise has become a bit of a cliche these days, and many of us roll our eyes when we hear people suggest it, sort of like “yeah yeah, I’ve heard it before”. But it works. It really does improve your life.
7# Make Friends With Your Bed
Sleep. It’s one of the greatest joys in life (well, to me at least). In Spain, I was lucky to be able to sleep, a lot, and quickly realized that this was actually very beneficial to my health. Instead of staying awake until late hours watching TV, and occupying myself with all the other simulations a cluttered lifestyle provides, I simply went to bed early.
Soon I discovered that this caused me to be more alert, more good-humored, more resistant to sickness and less likely to rely on constant stimulants through the day.
8# Live Like A Poor Man
The essence of a minimalist lifestyle is no clutter, which is exactly what met me when I arrived to Spain. Oh boy. Basically, the house was near empty, with only the essential table, chairs, beds, stove and washing machine inhabiting the house. After living this way for 90 days, I saw a great improvement in my psychological health.
Basically: the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to worry about.
Do you live a minimalist lifestyle? Please share your tips and stories below!