Happiness can be elusive when life is too complicated.
As daily commitments multiply, we find ourselves becoming conditioned to shifting between multiple tasks, creating lengthy to-do lists and juggling complicated schedules. When we’re not overwhelmed, we may feel proud that we can keep up with it all. It’s all part of making a living, but in the end it can stand in the way of making a life.
Does your schedule leave you time for things that bring true happiness?
These things vary for each of us, but for most people true happiness consists of spending time with loved ones and engaging in activities that reveal the richness and beauty of the world around us.
To get the most out of these activities, you must approach them from a place of stillness, peace and calm.
A busy life can be personally fulfilling, but it may leave you feeling too frazzled to achieve the stillness and peace that will allow you to connect with deep happiness and the underlying beauty of life. You can’t just walk away from the responsibilities that fracture your time, but you can simplify your life so that your mind is calmer and more open to the hidden treasures in life.
Here are 7 ways to get started with simplifying your life and working towards a more peaceful state of mind.
- Question your dependence on material possessions. Recognize the difference between things you need and things you want. Our culture bombards us with messages about material things that will make our lives better. The reality is that most of these things will clutter our lives without bringing true happiness. Free yourself from the culture of excess and learn to be content with fewer possessions and greater simplicity.
- Think for yourself. If you spend your life playing out a role that society or someone else defines, you’re missing out on the chance to follow your own desires. Your inner life is diminished when you are limited by conformity. Why give up your freedom and allow all of your decisions to be defined by what you think you “should” do? Become a non-conformist and think for yourself, letting your passions be your guide.
- Rethink your commitments. Life is full of opportunities to earn money, give service, learn new skills and make new friends. Some of us want it all and fill up our calendars with activities and obligations. Over-committing is the surest way to banish stillness and calm from your life. Rushing from one activity to another leaves you with no time to slow down, observe and let things happen. No matter how worthy you think your commitments are, rethink and prioritize them. Keep the ones that are most important and eliminate the ones that are adding to the hectic pace of your life with little return.
- Create more free time. Once you’ve balanced your commitments, find ways to increase your free time. Eliminate time wasters and re-evaluate your chores. If you spend hours each week cleaning house, see if you can do a little less and have more free time. Eliminating clutter from your home will make it easier to clean. Once you’ve created more free time, fill it with activities that develop your inner self. Spend some time alone and spend some with the people you care about most. Focus on calming activities.
- Savor the simple pleasures. How often do you prepare a healthy and delicious meal and then savor every bite of it? Instead of rushing through meals, barely tasting what you’re eating, take time to enjoy them. Invest time in other simple pleasures – work in your garden, take a relaxing soak in a hot tub or bath, bike or hike through a nature preserve. Unless you’re retired, you probably can’t do these things every day, but fitting them into your schedule even once or twice a week will have a calming effect on your life.
- Focus on the present moment. When you’re over-committed, you can end up rushing from one thing to the next without enjoying or even being very conscious of the world around you. There’s always the hope that when things slow down you’ll have time to enjoy life. Maybe you look forward to the weekend or an annual vacation, thinking that you’ll be able to find a way to slow down. Instead of looking to the future, learn to focus on the present moment. Enjoy what you’re doing in the here and now. You can find serenity in even the most mundane task if you really give it your attention and do it mindfully.
- Give up some control. No matter how much we plan, we can never predict what the future will bring. Trying to exercise too much control can just lead to frustration, in addition to frustrating the people around you. Since you never know what the future will bring, it’s futile to try to control events. Instead of attempting to control the outcome of events, learn to relax and enjoy the journey. Letting go of the need to control will give you more freedom to live in the moment. By planning less, you’ll be more open to unforeseen opportunities that come your way. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have goals, but that your focus shifts from the ends to the means.
Remember that simplicity is a process, not a destination.
For most of us, there is no escaping the inherent complexity of our lives. However, by deciding to simplify your life and spend more time seeking true happiness, you’ve started on a road that can lead to profound changes in your life.
There is no final destination at the end of this road.
Because life is forever changing and evolving, and you are evolving along with it, you will never reach a point of perfect simplicity and endless happiness. But each moment you spend on the path to simplicity does have the potential to bring more serenity and happiness into your life.
“If you want happiness for an hour – take a nap. If you want happiness for a day – go fishing. If you want happiness for a month – get married. If you want happiness for a year – inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime – help someone else.” – Chinese Proverb
Photo by: EJP Photo
Dayne | TheHappySelf.com says
Thank you again Marc and Angel for the opportunity to guest post on your wonderful blog. 🙂
Great article! Thank you!
I started reading your blog almost a year ago and I just wanted to say it has changed my life and my perspectives on certain topics. Just wanted to say thanks. I look forward to my Monday mornings reading your new blog each week…
Dr. Frank Bonkowski says
I would add an eight piece of advice: develop a sense of inner security. I like this quote from “Inner Security and Infinite Wealth: Merging Self Worth and Net Worth by Jared Rosen and Stuart Zimmerman: “In a state of inner security, you are at peace regardless of the external reality. You have a strong and ever-growing sense of self-love and self-worth. You are free, free as your will, to feel and to love as completely as you are able in the moment. You have trust and faith that this moment is perfect, even with its seeming imperfections. You know you are no longer bound by the past. Your trust and faith are so great that you are free from worry about the future.” Dr. Frank at http://www.happiness-after-midlife.com.
Thank you for this post :). It is very applicable to what I’m having trouble with in my life right now, so thanks.
If you’re interested in a new approach to boost your happiness based on the latest positive psychology research, check out our iPhone app: Live Happy; it’s based on the work of Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness” and provides a unique method to create a personalized program to increase your happiness.
You can also learn more about the iPhone app on our Facebook page.
Great thoughts Dayne. Each one seems so simple, yet they are indeed the ones that lead to a more authentic, rather than fleeting, sense of inner peace and happiness.
I like all the points listed here, especially point 7.
Stephen - Rat Race Trap says
Thanks again for all the profound wisdom. These are great tips and I love the quote as well.
Mike King says
While I agree with most of the points here, I think the title is not reflected in the content. 7 points on how to bring peace of mind, sure, but happiness is not something to seek, its a choice. There are ways to decide to have happiness and you can have happiness with all of the points existing or not from the article.
Simplifying life can help some keep happiness on their minds more so they are therefore happy more, but it isn’t required at all. One can decide to be happy and still live a life in any way they feel. The complexity has nothing to do with it.
Wonderful post. I have found in my own personal development that by breaking things down to what really matters, my actions become more simple and clear. This helps.
Nea | Self Improvement Saga says
A list so wonderful that I couldn’t even pick a favorite. Great work, Marc.
Street Saint says
Being a student does not always allow me to have control over what I do with my time, but I’ve found it extremely valuable to always commit to doing something I really love.
It makes getting through each week a whole lot more enjoyable!
Nice post on creating simplicity in your life. The less possessions you own, the simpler a life you can lead. It is a refreshing approach to take.
I agree with choosing the route of simplicity whenever possible. However, in my life coaching instruction, I try to help people focus on CONSISTENCY. Simplicity, after all, must be practiced across our life- consistently, to become a factor in daily life.
We have found simplicity is the way to make all aspects of life better. Fewer choices, less stress, and fewer bad decisions made. The more simple a business plan, the more successful the company. Live life simply and abundance will follow.
Such an amazing article. Thank you so much.