When most people think of a simple, happy life, they may picture retirement in the future or living a simple life in the country.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to conceive of a calm life of simplicity while in the midst of holding a career, raising a family, and navigating daily complexities in our modern world—which is why the image of a simple, happy life seems to always take place in the future.
Our vision of a simple life is also influenced by media images that either don’t reflect day to day realism or promote drastic changes in a person’s lifestyle and environment that are not easily attained or achieved.
Ironically, such portrayals can undermine productive efforts to create a simple life and lead to frustration and disappointment rather than a state of happiness.
Thankfully, there are small changes you can make right now to simplify your daily life and allow more happiness to enter your mind, home, relationships, and spirit.
These changes can be incorporated into your everyday routine and will allow you to scale them as needed or as you feel comfortable.
Here are 8 simple living tips to help you on your journey to being happy with a simple life:
1. Stretch Each Day
Almost everyone is aware of the importance of exercise. However, there is an overwhelming amount of information in terms of which exercises are best and their levels of difficulty, not to mention the pressure to invest in gym memberships or home equipment—both of which can complicate your life.
Stretching, thankfully, is one of the simplest forms of exercise and it can be done in your own home without any equipment at all.
Regular stretching offers many health benefits, including improved range of motion, blood circulation, and posture.
In addition, stretching each day can reduce tension in your body as well as the risk of injury, and it can be performed safely at nearly any age. Stretching your body each day is healthy for living a simple, balanced life and enhanced happiness.
2. Slow Down on Social Media
Social media platforms take up a significant amount of our time each day. Whether we are scrolling through material posted by others or creating our own posts, most people devote ten percent or more of their 24-hour day to focusing on social media.
This dedication to such platforms can interfere with everything from healthy sleep to daily productivity and even our sense of wellness and security.
Of course, there are many benefits to these platforms. They bring about opportunities to connect with family, friends, and even strangers who share common interests. However, time spent on social media can also distract us from being present in our actual environment and practicing healthy offline behaviors.
Part of living a simple life in a modern world is setting strict limits and boundaries to lessen the level of immersion in social media and reduce online clutter. You can slow down on social media by establishing firm time limits and/or set intervals during the day for scrolling.
In addition, you can simplify your online life by choosing just one or two platforms with which to engage.
3. Resist the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
With all the media that we are exposed to each day, it can seem as if everyone is upgrading and updating everything from their wardrobes to their homes. This pressure to join in what it appears nearly everybody is doing has recently acquired the acronym “FOMO”—fear of missing out—and it is a legitimate feeling at almost any age.
Of course, nobody likes the feeling of being left out, especially when it comes to important events or necessary information. However, we often let FOMO overcome us when it comes to minor or insignificant things such as trends, gossip, brands, etc.
Unfortunately, the more we allow ourselves to experience and give in to FOMO, the more complicated our lives become. The truth is that nobody can quite keep up, so it’s a losing endeavor from the beginning.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t appreciate certain trends or popular activities. However, your participation should not be based on the feeling that otherwise you would be missing out on something important or exciting.
People who resist FOMO are much happier because their choices come from a place of simple authenticity and patience.
4. Read Books
Research has shown that there are numerous benefits to reading that can add to creating a simple life. Reading books for just a few minutes as often as possible develops empathy, imagination, and mental stimulation in addition to strengthening analytical skills. It is also a quiet and immersive activity that has been shown to reduce stress and improve focus and concentration.
Many adults don’t take the time to read books for various reasons, one of which is the indecision as far as which books to read. In this case, the solution is to return to making simple choices.
Perhaps there is a movie or TV series that you enjoyed viewing that was adapted from a novel. If so, give the book a try and see if you enjoy the original version of the story. Another suggestion is to re-visit books that you loved in your childhood. This can help remind you what genres and/or styles of writing that you appreciate when it comes to reading.
If nothing else, you can search for recommended reading lists online or try a local book club. No matter what book you choose, the act of reading can enhance your happiness and feelings of simplicity.
5. Make Lists
One of the complications of modern life is a busy schedule that doesn’t seem to allow for many calm moments each day. In fact, most people feel as stressed out and unaccomplished by the end of the day as they do at the start.
This aggregate stress and frustration take their toll, making life seem anything but simple. Thankfully, making lists is a beneficial and healthy way to bring simplicity and happiness to your life.
List-making not only enhances your organization, productivity, and efficiency, but it offers health benefits as well. Seeing your list of goals, tasks, etc., provides perspective and a positive sense of motivation. Lists can also help you avoid procrastination, which is a significant source of stress and complexity in our lives.
Here are just a few of the benefits of making lists and achieving a greater feeling of happiness:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Improve focus and critical thinking
- Enhance feelings of accomplishment and sense of well-being
- Organize thoughts and actions for greater productivity
Lists can easily be made on paper or digitally with your phone or computer. No matter how you form your lists, they will bring you feelings of agency and peace.
6. Plan Meals
At the end of the day, it can be stressful to decide what to do about dinner. This can lead to eating fast food, ordering take-out, or resorting to frozen dishes several nights a week. Of course, these options are fine occasionally. But last-minute stress, and a lack of fresh ingredients, can take its toll on your physical health, energy level, and lifestyle.
One way to simplify your weekday eating habits is to prepare to cook a few easy meals—whether it’s for just yourself or your whole family.
Planning meals, even just a couple times each week, not only reduces the stress of last-minute food decisions, but it encourages variety in your diet, limits consumption of processed foods, and is more cost-effective.
This enhances your overall health and can be a preventive measure in terms of chronic health problems, allowing for a more active and enjoyable lifestyle. Planning meals can be simple way to spend time together as a family as well.
Even if you don’t love to cook, there is a natural sense of satisfaction and happiness that comes with a simple meal prepared at home.
7. De-Clutter a Little
There is quite a push these days in the media for minimalism and other behavioral approaches to consumerism and the “stuff” that we have, whether it’s physical items in our homes, emails in our in-boxes, or thoughts in our minds.
Of course, owning less stuff and paring down all the things that call our attention away from the present is good for the environment, mindfulness, and even our bank accounts.
However, it can be difficult to attain the pristine, pure, and perfectly designed look portrayed by the media in before and after demonstrations of de-cluttering by professionals. This can be discouraging to those of us who would like to get rid of unnecessary stuff and create a simpler home life, but don’t have a team of experts to help.
Instead, a better and more reasonable approach to working towards a simpler and happier home life with less stuff is to de-clutter a little. This sets realistic expectations and leaves room for interpretation; you can de-clutter a little each day, or in each room, once a season—whatever works for you.
You’ll have the reward of simplicity and less stuff, but without the pressure to make your home look like a magazine feature. One tried and true de-cluttering method is to have a separate box or bin for trash and one for donations. Once the container is full, then you can dispose of the contents or take them to a donation site. This will give you a feeling of accomplishment as well as a home that is simpler and happier.
8. Avoid Perfection
Nearly everyone has a perfectionist streak, whether in terms of work, their appearance, organization, home aesthetics, etc. Striving for perfection can be a healthy motivator in some ways. However, when it comes to developing a simple life and being happy, the ideal or image of perfection can be very counter-productive.
That’s because this “perfect” ideal or image is elusive and an ever-moving target, creating exhaustion, stress, and frustration for those who are determined to reach it.
To avoid perfection, therefore, is to avoid the complexities and detriments that come with its resulting stress. However, avoiding perfection doesn’t mean giving up reasonable standards or letting chaos take over.
A healthier and simpler way to approach perfectionist tendencies is to determine what is “perfect” in the moment, knowing that good enough is good enough.
For example, if your spouse folds towels imperfectly (according to your standards), it’s much simpler and healthier to avoid the desire for perfection and reassure yourself that it’s good enough—and you can always fold them perfectly after their next use.
This perfection avoidance will reduce your overall stress and allow happiness and simplicity to take its place.
Life is unpredictable, and there will always be complications in the form of stress, illness, grief, and even happy events such as promotions, graduations, newborns, etc.
It’s unreasonable to anticipate that you will feel your life is simple and happy at every moment, no matter what. Instead, a vision of long-term simplicity and happiness is the answer—and that may change depending on your age and circumstances.
Making small changes each day that allow you to embrace a simpler and happier life will give you the chance to adapt and adjust. The only way to truly determine what a simple life means to you is to reflect on what you feel is important balanced with an overall sense of peace and joy.
Ultimately, the goal of a simple life is a happy life.