Pillar 1 - Presence & Mindfulness Pillar 11 - Meaning & Purpose Pillar 12 - Positive relationships

Live more, need less: The link between minimalism and happiness

Minimalism and happiness
“Disciplined pursuit of less”, “focusing on what really matters” or “simply owning only stuff we love” is how some of the leaders of the minimalism movement (more about them a bit later :)) describe the idea in the core of minimalism.

Today’s topic at first might seem a bit of a surprise – it is not one of our 12 pillars, nor it is something that is our big focus at Happiness Academy.
But as the topic develops, I am pretty sure links will more clearly emerge 🙂

What is minimalism all about?

Stepping into more minimalistic lifestyle is all about reassessing your priorities so that you can strip away any excess – being it in stuff, obligations, relationships, activities or ideas – by simply asking “Does this bring value to my life?”.

First and perhaps most important, minimalism is all about intentionality and deliberate choices – building our life and priorities about what matters most to us.
But it is also about reclaiming our time in a busy world and recreating our freedom in a world full of requirements.
Last but not least, minimalism is all about mindset and how we approach life – from big questions to everyday small choices and habits.

Let’s have a look into each of these, before diving into what does minimalism have to do with happiness and positive psychology, followed by a list of great places to find more inspiration 🙂

What is hiding under the hood of minimalism?

1. Intentionality and deliberate choices
The main question in minimalism are “Do I need this?”, but also “How is this adding value to my life?”.
Minimalism is all about intentionality. It looks for clarity, purpose, priorities – and strives to promote things we most value, while removing everything that distracts us from it, or steals our time and energy.

Intentionality gives us more joy, but also more sense of meaning.

Can you notice connecting with mindfulness and mindful living? 🙂

2. Freedom and space
Minimalism is freedom from excessive stuff, but also freedom from need to possess, freedom from consumerism, freedom from saying “yes” to things by default…

“I don’t say no because I am so busy. I say no because I don’t want to be so busy.” – Courtney Carver

It is opposing the messages of the modern culture that promote how the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible.

It dares to seek happiness in other aspects of life. It puts relationships and experiences in front, it supports soul-care and listening to ourselves. And, more than anything, it puts living in focus.

“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.” – The Minimalists

3. Knowing yourself by listening to yourself
By always asking the questions of true priorities and intentions – which require tuning into own emotions and values – but also by creating more silence and space, minimalistic approach is allowing us to connect to ourselves more deeply and to hear ourselves more clearly.

There is no hiding, or burying our feelings under the pile of stuff, in shopping, TV , food and other distractions.

By facing ourselves more deeply, we learn to understand what is truly important for us and explore what is most meaningful, valuable and enjoyable.

4. Mindset more than a lifestyle

Although often people get into the minimalism by having a need to have less – less stuff, less obligations, less stress – minimalism in it’s core is not just external action and habits. External signs of minimalism are just the consequence of internal shift in the mindset.

It is mindset of making deliberate choices in life, and one of simplifying, cutting back on the complexity of what you do and what you own.

5. It is highly personal and individual
Exactly because it starts with the question “What is it that matters to you most?”, minimalism pulls our your own uniqueness. What is essential and truly important will vary from person to person – and that is why now two minimalists are the same.

Make it your own!
Within minimalist movement there is also a huge range of differences and individual stories that we find. Sometimes also shows up, that if you are leaning towards minimalism, you should somehow have almost nothing, fewer than 100 things, or a house that’s empty and white. But this view is one that pushes away the freedom that is in the core of minimalism itself – and at the same time is putting unnecessary high pressure and potentially impossible aim in front of the ones curious in exploring the approach.

That is not what minimalism is all about. It’s not about making people get rid of clutter, or all of their possessions. It’s about constantly asking a simple question: what is important to you?

And we can play out that question – and that mindset – on so many levels: from figuring out who you want in your life, to deciding how you want to fill your day. It might be about what gives you meaning or joy. Or about which food you eat, and in which way. Which habits your build. What has an impact on the lives of those around you, or your community.

Many of inspiring minimalists share their stories – but, in reality, their answers are not the ones that really matter. What really matters is asking yourself the question, and exploring what you find.
Even when you don’t find a definitive answers, just the start of exploring this question can be a huge shift in your life.
It can mean moving from the usual way of doing things to one that is more conscious, intentional, more curious, more focused on what makes us alive.

Exploring the link between minimalism and happiness

Benefits of minimalism are many. It lowers stress, saves money, it means less cleaning and maintaining. It gives more time and space for enjoyment. More clarity, focus and time for creating, for loved ones, for “me time”, for doing the things that give us joy. It is also more sustainable and offers more time to focus on healthy habits. It feels more organised.
Of course, at Happiness Academy, the link we are most interested in is: how does it contribute to our happiness?

Let’s explore that through our favourite framework of 12 pillars of happiness and look for connections.

The pillars that minimalism supports strongest are the Pillar 1 – Presence and Mindfulness and Pillar 11 – Meaning and Purpose.

Minimalism and mindfulness
Minimalism both starts with mindfulness – asking ourselves how do we want to live every moment in our life and asking that questions from moment to moment – but it also creates much more space for mindfulness. It is all about slowing down, reflecting and noticing our priorities and wishes, and being fully present in those few things that we choose to dedicate our time and life to.

Minimalism and meaning
With meaning and minimalism, it is again the full circle: minimalism makes you start from meaning – by asking “What matters most?”, “What is most valuable for me?” and “How do I want to spend my time/life?” to uncover more about what is truly meaningful for us, but then it also creates space and time to spend it into most meaningful activities. Even though “getting rid of stuff” sometimes get more of attention when talking about minimalism on a superficial level, meaning is really in the core of minimalism.

Apart from these two “core pillars of minimalism”, minimalism has a positive impact on quite many of the pillars – especially to the following 3:
Pillar 4 – Being own best friend, Pillar 2 – Positive emotions and Pillar 12 – Positive relationships

Minimalism and being own best friend
Exploring minimalism starts by making you really listen to ourselves.
Then, it builds on top of that and strengthens our self-compassion by allowing ourselves to slow down, and listening to ourselves more (Soulful Simplicity is an incredible book to dive into this aspect of minimalism). It creates more time and space for “me time”, but also support us in allowing ourselves to say “No” to anything that does not contribute to our life in a meaningful way.

Minimalism and positive emotions
Harmony with nature, jumping out of the rat race of consumerism, more quality time spent on activities and with people whose company we truly enjoy, and less stress created by taking care of our possessions all significantly contribute to our feeling of freedom, joy, playfulness, serenity and many other positive emotions.

Minimalism and positive relationships
Last but not least, by less attention to stuff, we give more attention to our relationships. This part of our life also becomes more intentional, but also more relaxed and with more time and space to spend with amazing people in our life.

The best places to get inspired and get more ideas about minimalism

There is a long list of amazing writers, role-models and places to look for if you decide to dive into exploring minimalism a bit more.
Here are a couple of our favourites to start of your exploration – or to give you new ideas.

Looking for gentle, loving and smooth approach?
Soulful Simplicity and Be More With Less by Courtney Carver

Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More
Courtney’s wonderful book Soulful Simplicity is not only journey into minimalism but even more journey of renewing the way we connect with ourselves and journey of self-compassion, self-love and self-discovery.

Her blog Be More with Less is another place with inspiring reminders and practical tips on deepening your own journey to more minimalistic mindset.

If you are curious to explore minimalism in terms of clothes and wardrobe, you might be interested in her Project 333 approach to capsule wardrobe. What a liberating idea to experiment with!

Looking for simple and straightforward?
The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

The Minimalists Joshua and Ryan are leaders of the minimalism movement and trend. While they might be a bit more extreme in their approach to minimalism then most of other authors mentioned here, they are all about creating more space for what really matters.

If you are curious what they have to say, or wish to explore more about their ideas, their blog The Minimalists is a great place to start.

If you are looking to start of with minimalism, their blog post on “21 days journey” is made for you 🙂

Essential: Essays by The Minimalists
Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things
If you look for a bit of inspiration in a bit more packed format, their book Essential: Essays by The Minimalists is essentially a collection of nice light engaging reading of reflections on minimalism – wonderful to read on a relaxed evening, with a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate. As they say, “Through our essays we intend to present to you ideas of how to achieve a minimalist lifestyle without adhering to a strict code or an arbitrary set of rules.”

If you are more into videos, their movie Minimalism or their TED talk might be a good place to start.

Looking for simple but beautiful and luxurious space?
Life Edited by Graham Hill

Graham Hill inspired millions in his TED talk about “Less stuff, more happiness” by sharing vision and pictures of his absolutely gorgeous mini-apartment, designed from scratch to be a place with not much stuff, but with stuff that you love.
His driving idea if less footprint, less stuff and more time and space for happiness. His take on things is:
“By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we’re going to love for years, not just stuff.” – Graham Hill

Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker
On Joshua’s blog Becoming Minimalist, he mixes between numerous practical list such as 10 most important things to simplify in your life and diving into the midset of minimalism with articles such as Don’t just declutter. De-own.

Check out his most popular posts.

If you like quotes and beautiful visuals that remind you, Becoming Minimalist Facebook page might be a rich source of ideas and inspiration.

Looking for mindful approach or for minimalism in a family?
Zen habits by Leo Babatuta

If you are thinking down the line “ok, minimalism is great, but try it with kids…”, Leo is here as the best role-model 🙂 A father of 6, Leo is all about minimalism in a big family.
He is taking an approach very related to mindfulness, starting from clarity of focus and inner peace to mindful habits and routines.
Read more at his great blog Zen Habits

And if you are curious to read more about his journey, check out his article A Simpler Family Life: Starting Life Anew with Our Six Kids

Looking to start from decluttering?
KonMari (Marie Kondo)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever

Probably the most famous person in the arena of minimalism, clearing space and declutter, Marie and her book The life changing magic of tidying up keep on inspiring people to tackle their wardrobes and clear the clutter from their space, while following joy and with a rich toolbox of practical tips and tricks.

If you prefer to hear it from her, her youtube channel offers plenty of tips, ideas and inspiration.

Looking for an easy, gentle and very simple way to start – and maybe not go all in, but just tapping into minimalist mindset?
Pick Up Limes by Sadia

I would definitely recommend to start with her beautiful video WHAT I WISH I KNEW BEFORE STARTING MINIMALISM
– it will give you a nice food for thoughts, as well as a bit of understanding just how non-black-and-white minimalism is, how many shades it has, and how can you personalised and create the approach that is the best for you.

Then, if you decide to go practical, dive into BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO MINIMALISM » inspiration to get started

And in the end if you decide to dive in deeper, check out her article on 30 DAYS TO MINIMALISM» + printable guide

Disclaimer: Some of these are affiliate links, meaning that for every click and purchase I will earn a small fee. I am strictly only sharing products, books, and blogs here that I truly believe in and use myself. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.co.uk and affiliated sites. For more information read here.

What is your take on link between minimalism and happiness?

What are your thoughts on minimalism and it’s relation to happiness? Who are the minimalists that inspired you or the best articles you read on that topic? And, most interesting, what is your own way of minimalism, what are the principles that appeal to you most and that you are using in your own life?

Do share in comments – but also to start a conversation in our Positive Psychology Tribe virtual community for meaningful conversations.

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