Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Minimalism and Mental Detox

Minimalism affects more than just the amount of clutter in living spaces. It has great mental benefits as well. I have been making an effort the past couple of years to get out of my comfort zone--to sort of declutter my stock of anxieties. As an introvert, that means I've pushed myself to go to networking events, work lunches, and more friends' parties. The other night, I went to a creative writing workshop at the new local Creative Healing Space. While there I failed to talk about how I was a blogger, or what creative projects I was working on. I was a bit nervous because I was in a much larger group of people than usual when I go to networking events or hang out with friends. I knew the event would be worth it at least if for no other reason than to support my other friends in attendance. I was not expecting getting as much out of it for myself as I did.

After the event concluded, one of my friends sent me a few messages about the event and things we talked about there. I finally mentioned that I was blogging about minimalism, and she offered a very insightful reply that reminded me of one of the reasons I started a journey toward minimalism in the first place.

"I feel like minimalism can open up a world of satisfaction. I know too many people who spend their money as a dopamine release, then feel terrible when they finally have what they ordered."

Before minimalism...
Reading my friend's reaction to minimalism reminded me that I used to be the kind of person who reveled in retail therapy, but once the reality of having more items set in I would feel empty again. I felt buyer's remorse pretty soon after a shopping spree, and I knew that returning everything would make me feel worse because it meant I would have to acknowledge my mistake and take the time to correct it. I also felt the same about going out to bars as the only way to socialize, always spending and drinking too much, and feeling worse for wear the next day. Buying drinks was the same as shopping for me in terms of getting that dopamine release--I felt great in the moment, but terrible after the fact. In my journey toward finding my own comfortable version of minimalism, I have gradually gotten over the concept of buyer's remorse, and now I no longer use "retail therapy" (or buying drinks just to socialize) to cope with unpleasant moments.

Mental detox à la Minimalism...
Intention matters. When I need to buy something now, I buy with intention instead of buying on impulse. I don't feel the rush of dopamine followed by an emotional crash into feeling empty when I make intentional and necessary purchases.
Look to the past. When I want to buy something, I think of the similar items I have discarded in the past. I realize that generally, I can make do perfectly with an item I decided to keep.
Slow down and think critically. Shopping is no longer my therapy. It's a research opportunity and a chance to make sure that I am bringing the right new thing into my home. I look up reviews, compare the item I want or need to similar items, and make an informed purchase decision.
Shift your focus. I still find joy and excitement in shopping, but shopping is no longer a tool to escape daily stressors. Now, shopping is a means to bring home items that will actually improve my quality of life.
Make your own fun. With social drinking reduced in my life, I've been pushed to make my own fun when I want to socialize. Instead of expensive nights out at the bar, I've asked friends to come over for inexpensive nights in with tea and coffee while we chat and share music. The quality of socializing this way is higher, with a much lower monetary cost.
Declutter your space, then declutter your mind. Decluttering and discarding items means you have fewer physical barriers in your way. There's less to trip over, less to have to move out of the way when cleaning, less stuff to worry about. When you have fewer material things to worry about, you make space in your mind that you can use to rearrange habits and emotions and anxieties. With the different parts of your mind in clearer view, you can start to confront and discard the negative feelings and thoughts.

Because of minimalism...
I'm tethered to and grounded by the things that are important to me, but I'm not bound tightly to them. Minimalism has served as a powerful tool for mental detox, helping to change less-than-ideal behaviors and find new ways to enjoy myself. I can only hope that minimalism will help others in the same ways.

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