This website, and the associated book, are dedicated to every woman who’s ever broken through a barrier, violated a taboo, or overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve what seemed impossible, but was merely difficult . . . without even breaking a nail, or whining about it if she did.

Can Sustainability and Minimalism Improve Your Happiness?

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

 

In Graham Hill’s TED talk, he asks if having less stuff can lead to more happiness. He makes the case that when we own less, and in turn need less space, we will have less debt, more money, more freedom, more time, and we’ll also be leaving a smaller environmental impact. He believes that these things combined would lead to less stress and a happier life.

 

You can move into a 600 square foot home and eliminate most of your stuff, but you only have to do a little bit in order to make an impact on your happiness and positivity. In this article, we’ll discuss how bringing minimalism and sustainability into your life can improve your overall happiness.

Happy Communities

Your home makes a big impact on your happiness. Like Graham states, a bigger home is more expensive and leaves a greater footprint on the environment, leading to more debt and more stress. But the size of your home isn’t the only factor impacting your life. Your community, location, and accessibility all play a major role.

 

Sustainable living, and sustainable communities, commonly boast a higher quality of living, not in luxury but in fulfillment. Sustainable living can help nurture economic and environmental health, and social equity. In sustainable communities, everyone is expected to do their part and everyone works toward a healthy lifestyle for all that live in the community. But it takes work.

 

Look for sustainable communities, or community groups in your area to get involved and become a happier person by working with others toward the same goal. Or start one in your own neighborhood. Do a self-evaluation of your home and find out what you can do to make your home, and your community, more sustainable for the environment and for your own finances.

Minimalist Living Tips

Sustainability and minimalism often go hand-in-hand. Minimalism is known to improve your life in many ways, but at its core, minimalism leads to more time, money, and less stress. These three simple changes can end up providing more memories with your family, new hobbies, more adventures and travel, and more creativity. But you don’t have to move into a tiny house to be a minimalist. Here are a few simple tips to live a more minimalist life:

 

At first, it is important to remember minimalism is a mindset. It’s not only about minimizing your material possessions. A big part of minimalism is working to focus on individual things or activities one at a time. Instead of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, minimalists stay in the present moment in everyday life. It’s easier said than done, but here are a few tips to help:

 

  • Actively take note of what is happening in the present moment.
  • Meditate.
  • Take a technology break.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Start a journal or just write down your thoughts.

 

Next, it’s time to cut down on the clutter. But you don’t have to go through your whole house with a fine-tooth comb. Start with the one room you use every single day, where happiness and relaxation are important. That’s right, we’re starting in the bedroom.

 

Your bedroom is meant to be your personal escape from the hectic outside world. So take a look at it now. How does it make you fee? Do you feel relaxed and maybe even a little sleepy? Or do you see the pile of laundry, the unmade bed, and the old dishes on your nightstand and feel stressed? Let’s fix that and turn your room into a cozy escape. A minimalist bedroom design could improve your sleep quality, make it easier to keep clean, and even get ready for the day faster. Here are some tips for a creating a minimalist bedroom design:

 

  • Remove all electronics from your bedroom including the television, phones, tablets, etc.
  • Get a bed fit for optimal comfort, whether that means a firmer or softer mattress is up to you. Or, invest in good linens for a cozy night’s sleep.
  • Find simple curtains, or thrift them, to create solitude and ambiance.
  • Remove busy posters or any pieces that aren’t soothing and relaxing.
  • Get basic accessories, like a rug and lamp, and stick to just the necessities.
  • Organized your clothing and sell or donate any items you haven’t worn in at least a year.

 

Sustainability and minimalism can absolutely improve your happiness. Many people have proven it before. But the impact often depends on how you approach life changes. Are you open to positive new changes or worried and nervous? Relax and let these tips guide you to a happier, simpler life.

What do you do when it’s done

Structures

We spend our youth in a specific structure called school.

It tells us when we have to be certain places and what things we do at those places. Then, suddenly as you graduate from school, you enter into the vast expanse of you now and you in 89 years and there’s practically nothing that’s giving that future a structure.

Many of us like to grab onto dreams as things which guide our future. We think about family, work, home, hobbies, and then somehow after it’s all said and done, it can feel really unsatisfying.

Or maybe you’ve been putting in your time for years and now is your big break where you get to live in paradise, travel the world, and have freedom. Except, you wake up and realize there’s nothing. What happened?

Achievements

Especially in cultures like the U.S. and Japan, we thrive by encouraging ourselves to focus on achievements (ummm anyone have a bucket list?). Yet we rarely are taught to navigate the moments after everything is said and done. The day after you’ve gotten that promotion you’ve been waiting for. The morning after you’re final day of work for retirement.

For me, this reality of the ???? after achieving a dream came after I finished my book, In My Own Skin.

I felt like I had created something so dark and depressing I wondered if anyone would ever read it. In fact, as I was writing, I had people offer to help me review it, and rarely did they ever finish it. I also didn’t know what do with myself now that it was done. Do I just start writing something new? After three years of hard work, is this it?

Then, a friend said, “Why don’t you host a reading?”

What comes next

Much to my surprise, as soon as I started sharing the published book, I have felt just how much joy it brings me to offer my experience and story as a guide to others on these big journeys of transformation.

I went from thinking no one would ever look at what I’d done to a line of people out the door waiting to talk with me. 

As much as I have my experience with finishing a big deal project or losing someone close and suddenly so that a phase of life ends with a big bang, I’ve also found there are all kinds of other ways death manifests in my everyday life, and yours too. Death, in other words, as endings.

The Everyday endings

Most recently, I’ve become lactose intolerant.

When I was a 9th grader fresh after my dad’s death, I LOVED ice cream. I would have said it was my favorite food. I also would have said I never thought there would be anything that brought me closer to my dad again.

Then, I became lactose intolerant as a 24 year old.

Suddenly, those memories of setting 5 glasses of milk for Mom, my sisters, and I and 1 glass of water for Dad around the dinner table have taken on a whole new meaning. I’ve become connected to him in a way I never thought possible.

That is to say, there are so many things we lose in our lives (loss takes on many faces in our lives). Especially with really big things like people we care about, we can get focused on just how much is taken away from us.

We can feel like we get to the other side of an accomplishment and have no idea what comes next. 

But that’s not all that happens with loss. 

When my mom decided to move across the country and go to medical school, I saw my first real example of how being broken open by my loss meant not just things getting taken away but also new things coming into our lives and taking root. 

Now, I am so grateful to work with people like you on your own journeys of transformation.

From Deep Waters Back to Shore – Transition Coaching

I was very good at getting myself out to deep waters as I wrote and processed my loss, but I needed a guide to get back to shore.

I believe that’s true for all of us.

Whether we choose to act on it or not, in those moments of transition we need people to help guide us back to shore.

That’s why I’m here for you. 

If you’re looking for someone to support you like that, I would love to be that person for you. We can do that by working 1:1 together with undivided attention on the face of loss in your life. Together, we find what it means for you to feel fulfilled in your life in this moment, and we grow the ways for you to feel that as often as you can.

Click here to set up a call with me to see if you’re a good fit for my 1:1 program.

After years of feeling under constant attack from my grief, I can finally look at my lactose intolerance and not say I’ve lost another thing, but to instead say, “Thanks, Dad. I know how much you love me.”

Endings are Beginnings

Seeing those grief triggers as love notes is just one of many ways I’ve come to feel at peace with my loss. It is an honor and a privilege to support you in finding that peace too.

There’s so much here for us, even when we think it’s all gone. That’s what I find so amazing. All this darkness we experience is what reminds us how alive we are.

When we can settle into our own aliveness, that’s when the new dreams start emerging and we find the path for our next thing has been there for us all along.

Originally published on Aging Courageously. Kirsten Schowalter is the author of In My Own Skin and a transition coach with Aging Courageously.