My past two years have been a journey toward leading a much simpler life. I didn't even realize when I started this personal journey that simplicity was even a goal. But as I opened my eyes and followed my heart, knowing that some central thing in my life needed to change, I realized that I was working to shed the unnecessary in many areas of my life.
What I came to realize was that many of the things closest and nearest to me were holding me back. This can be a painful and disarming realization, as it's hard to wrap your head around the fact that you are attached to something that is not serving you.
But it's also an empowering revelation: you and you alone are the designer of your life. It's amazing how we as humans tend to make things so much more complicated for ourselves. Why? It's usually when our egos get involved.
If you look at some of the happiest people in the world, it's not the concrete things that are bringing them joy. It's about a lifestyle and way of being. And this way of being involves recognizing things for what they are, in the present moment, without the need to overcomplicate things.
Once I came to realize that my calling was leading me to simplify, everything started to feel so much clearer to me. The irony, however, is that just because something is simple doesn't mean it's a cinch. In fact, the quest to simply requires effort — specifically, the effort to tend away from our human impulse to complicate.
During my time "finding myself," I traveled to Mexico for a few months, and found the simple house on the beach that I had always dreamed of. It was beautiful and all that I desired, but I missed home. I had put pressure on myself to live in a certain way in order to simplify, but realized that real simplicity is about appreciating things the way they are. In the present.
Here are five (simple!) tips to start radically simplifying your life.
1. Evaluate your relationships and those that are draining you.
Ask yourself how you feel when you are with the people in question. Do they encourage and uplift you, or do they suck your energy and/or make you feel bad about yourself?
In the transition to simplifying your life, it's important to recognize that your friends and others in your network should help you thrive. Your life doesn't have the space for people who are depleting you. Simplify your social life, and you'll find that your relationships serve your life, rather than causing you further stress. That's how it should be!
2. Disconnect — fully — for one hour a day (at least).
I'm talking no phone, no email, no tablet. No distractions. I don't have to rehash all the negative effects that technology is having on our bodies and our society at large. And yet we all still need to be reminded to take a "digital detox." The first and the last thing most of us do in the day is check our email. It's time to disconnect so we can reconnect with our bodies and ourselves.
You can enjoy the digital detox time solo, or go out with friends, but make a commitment to turn it all off and enjoy the life that is happening right now around you, and not through the filter of Instagram.
3. Sweep every corner of your home.
I am not only talking about using a broom, but also the metaphor "to sweep." Take inventory of your home, do a full sweep. Declutter anything that isn't necessary or that isn't actively making you feel comfortable, clean, inspired and happy. If you have things in your home that make you feel sad or bad about yourself, nix them. Your home is your sanctuary. So treat it that way.
4. Get really, really quiet.
I know a lot of people have resistance when they hear the word "meditate." But the list of scientifically-proven benefits of sitting to just be continues to grow.
When I first started mediating, I was definitely met with a wall of resistance. Of course, this wall was created for me by my own mind. I couldn't sit still. My back would start to hurt and my thoughts would keep coming, incessantly and aggressively. So I told myself I wasn't good at meditating, and that I should just give it up.
But those judging thoughts completely defeat the purpose of mediating, so I kept trying. Each day I committed to simply sitting still without judgment. Some days were easier than others. But I let my ego go, and I got super still. And with enough practice, I realized how simple (but not easy!) it was.
So start small: commit to just five minutes of silence and stillness each day. Without judgment.
5. Shred your "To Do" list, and make an "I Want" list.
I used to focus solely on my to do list. All day. All night. All of the things — big and small — that I was "supposed to do" tormented me. On my spiritual journey, I suddenly realized: "Why do I need to feel tormented?" It was so simple: I could just get rid of my to do list. This didn't mean I wouldn't do the things I needed to get done. But I could literally choose to remove a huge amount of anxiety from my life.
Instead, I started to take note of those things that made my heart smile, the things that took no effort to make me happy. In lieu of my stressful to do list, I created a list of things I wanted in my life. The mere act of focusing on my desires means that I now dedicate more time to those things.
Be spontaneous and leave the laundry for another day. Today, do something that you love to do instead. It's so simple.