Last weekend I was pounding the treadmill at Planet Fitness while watching Minimalism, a documentary on Netflix. The story was about a young man asking his also young friend, “why the hell are you so happy?”.
It was because of his own unhappiness that he posed this question. This conversation led him to realize that his idea of how peace was gained, was actually destroying his mental health. He was convinced that by owning “things”, he would find happiness, but in reality it was the root of his pain. He was stuck in a lifestyle of over-consumption. A lifestyle many of us buy into ($pun intended$).
Produce and Consume
The story continues to scrutinize how Americans are programmed to live a life as producers and consumers. Produce for the companies that want to make money, where you will be compensated and then use your compensation to consume from the companies that want to make money. Want, want, want. More, more, more. Now, now, now.
Want. More. Now. I can relate!
Want, more, now. Bloody hell, can I relate. In my late twenties I found myself asking why the hell am I so unhappy? I had everything I wanted, everything my neighbors had, everything I was programmed to desire and achieve. My life was exactly what I had built it to be – so what was missing?
This desire I had to build the perfect life, full of all the perfect things, nearly destroyed me. And, I felt guilty for feeling so unhappy.
But, sadness and pain is not today’s story.
Today’s story is about finding fulfillment and happiness, not about overcoming the pain. However, I do want to preface today’s story with a note that, as I said above, I haven’t always been a happy camper. In my late twenties I climbed the Mount Everest of depression. I walked a struggle I thought at times to be insurmountable. However, the pain I endured let to internal changes that made my life infinitely better.
If you struggle with depression or anxiety, please keep climbing your mountain. You can read my story here, I am also happy to talk in private.
Anyway, this story of minimalism got me thinking
- Am I a minimalist?
- What have I learned in my 30s that brings me peace?
This is my friend Jena, she is a minimalist.
Am I a minimalist? As I was watching that documentary and wake surfing through my thought bubble, I recalled a time about three years ago when I overheard a close friend of mine tell a new acquaintance that I was a minimalist.
“Hmmmm. That’s new.” I thought when the conversation registered. No one had ever called me a minimalist, nor had I ever thought of myself as one. I shrugged and thought, maybe I am.
- Over the past five years, I have in fact, stopped spending money on anything that doesn’t serve a purpose in my life. At 35 I already have everything I need, want and more. I don’t need to shop.
- I am frugal and never buy anything that’s not on sale.
- These past years I have driven a vehicle most people from my neck of the woods would deem a “res runner”. Zach and I only own one vehicle now.
- I spend my money on experiences rather than clothes and niceties.
- When we were selling our house, during the initial walk-through my realtor asked, “where is all of your stuff”. Hi Hiedi (she reads my blog). We only have what we need and very few extras.
- Oh yeah, I freaking live in a fifth wheel…
- After living in our fifth wheel for 6 months now, we actually want to downsize our possessions even more. We brought way more than we need into our fifth wheel.
We do have extras stored in our shed on my parent’s property in Montana. Zach wants to get rid of a lot of those items. However, we will have a small house again someday, so I want to hang on to the things that hold memories and will be useful when we live in a house again. So, maybe we are minimal-ish?
Catching a sunset in Southern Alabama – free!
Wakesurfing brings me joy. It gets me outside, physically active and brings my family together. This is a healthy consumption.
I do completely relate to the idealism of minimalism and what it represents. Gaining joy internally, not from external goods and consumerism. So, I guess the proof is in the oreo pudding.
My unintentional minimalism has championed my happiness
I just turned 35 and as you have just read, I have made a complete 180 from where I was emotionally in my late twenties. I think my unintentional minimalism has championed my happiness. This is what I have learned that led me from unhappy camper at 28 to happy camper at 35.
I have learned:
- owning things does not produce joy.
- I am one of the lucky ones. My gratitude list grows every day.
- how to make decisions based on faith and not on fear.
- people and circumstances don’t control the way I feel. I do. As long as I work to be at peace, I can keep my peace regardless of my surroundings.
- how to turn my life over to God every single moment.
- the meaning of my life. I’m here to bring joy, spread my light and help others win.
- I am not perfect and no one expects me to be. Pride does not come from God.
- acceptance does not mean approval.
- to trust myself.
- I cannot control all circumstances. It is up to me to do the work and leave the results up to God.
- how to enjoy vulnerability and how to embrace fear.
- not all has been revealed. As much as I think I know now, I love the fact that I don’t know it all. There is more to be revealed and I am in no hurry to understand it all.
I have worked hard to earn my unshakable faith and peace of mind.
I still have bad mental health days
Even though I keep happy most days, every now and then I will admit to a bad mental health day. The difference for me now, is that I am aware of it. I am aware that I am irritated at things that don’t normal phase me or stressed about a situation that is not life or death. I can recognize this, take action and get my happy back.
I can pinpoint what leads me to these bad days
I can attribute bad mental health days to my behavior leading up to those days. These are some things that can bring on the irritation and stress:
- I’m drinking too much coffee (coffee gives me fear based thinking and leads to stress)
- I’m physically inactive
- I’m thinking about myself too much
- I’m not connecting with God. The more I focus on my relationship with God, the better everything in my life is.
- I’m isolated. I need people and relationships to feed my joy.
- I’m not getting good sleep (ha, when do I ever?) Anyone else sleep next to a bear?
The sure fire way for me to get out of a bad mental health day, is to put my needs aside and go find someone who needs my help.
What brings you joy?
I hope this message leads you to really think about what brings you joy in life and what doesn’t. If something doesn’t bring you joy, kick it to the curb. It might not be easy to change a bad habit or eliminate toxic relationships from your life, but it will be worth it.
I wish you endless joy. I will be happy to share some of mine with you next time we’re together.