Recently, downshifting is becoming an increasingly popular phenomenon as more and more people attempt escape the rat race of the modern life, thereby decreasing the amount of resources they consume and enjoying the added benefit of living a simpler and less stressful lifestyle. While extreme downshifting may involve living “off the grid” and is certainly not for everyone, there are certain steps we can take to make life simpler that can be beneficial in increasing our well-being and helping us attain more peace in our daily lives.
- Re-evaluate your priorities
What do we really need to be happy? According to the psychologist Abraham Maslow, one of pioneers of the psychology of happiness, humans have only a few basic needs that can be presented as a hierarchy: physiological needs (such as the need for food and water, and other needs for the function of the human body), safety needs (i.e. the need for personal safety and security), social belonging (the need to belong to and be accepted by a social group), esteem (the need to feel respected and valued), and the need for self-actualization (the need to realize one’s full potential).
However, consumerism now also holds an important place in our modern society, and we are becoming increasingly focused on the acquisition of goods and services without reflecting upon the real cost of these acquisitions in terms of time and effort that we will never get back. Closely examining your priorities in life will help you determine what is really important and is the first step to simplifying your life.
Becoming more minimalist in terms of how many possessions you own is one of the best way to simplify your life. Taking a close look around your home can help you identify the objects that take up space but that you no longer use, and selling or donating them can help you to free up more space. Clutter in our homes and workspaces can overload our senses and make us feel stressed and overwhelmed, while impairing our ability to focus. In fact, scientific research has demonstrated that decluttering can help you concentrate better.
- Track your time
Two of the most valuable resources we have are time and money. Tracking the way you spend your time can help you spend it more efficiently and to determine how to “make” more free time. Most jobs now require our time and presence beyond 40 hours a week, and commutes to work can significantly cut into our time off work. Working from home, using traffic apps to determine the least time-consuming route to work, or using your commute time to accomplish work tasks can all help to free up more time.
- Examine your expenses
Do you pay for a monthly gym membership but never actually make it to the gym? Do you have a cable subscription to hundreds of different channels that you never watch? Do you pay for more mobile phone services than you need? Many of us pay for monthly services that we actually never use, and it’s a good idea to take a close look at your monthly spending and get rid of the unnecessary expenses. Tracking your expenses will also help you to better understand how you spend your money.
While social media can be a great tool to stay in touch with our friends and family, using it too much can also have negative consequences for our psychological well-being. Recent research has revealed that heavy social media use is associated with lower self-control, and ultimately, with higher spending. Other studies show that heavy social media use is associated with increased susceptibility to peer pressure and with lower self-esteem. Indeed, browsing the newsfeeds of our social media accounts can make us compare our lives with others, and often, it can lead us developing the urge to consume more products or to feel envious of others’ lives. Limiting your presence on social media is a great way to simplify your life and to free up some time you can use for other purposes.
- Buy less
Is your shopping habit draining your finances? Do you really need to buy the latest version of your smartphone? Did you know that once you drive your brand new car off the dealership parking lot, its value immediately drops? We live in a consumer society, where we are constantly bombarded with attractive advertisements of things that we apparently need.
It is, therefore, not surprising that many of us end up buying objects just to keep up with the latest trends and unfortunately, this is a battle that is impossible to conclusively win. Eventually, the consuming “hamster wheel” could enslave us to continue buying things we do not actually need, and to overwork ourselves in order to earn the money to buy the said objects. Making a conscious effort to buy less material possessions is a great way to liberate more free time and money and to live a simpler life.
Eugenia Petoukhov is a Canadian-based researcher and scientific writer. She is particularly interested in the inner workings of the brain, as well as in molecular and experimental medicine.
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