Mental minimalism frees up space for the things that matter. Mental minimalism means saying no to anything that clutters and slows down the mind… and saying yes to happiness and focus.
To practice mental minimalism…
- Go back to the present moment whenever the mind is overwhelmed
- Feed your mind consciously until it becomes a subconscious habit
- Do less and own less so that you naturally worry/stress less
What is mental minimalism?
Minimalism is all about focusing on what truly matters so you can make the most of all your precious resources — time, money, energy… and your mind.
Superficially, the minimalist owns less things. Like, physical items. That’s great, but it doesn’t end there.
The greatest benefit of the minimalist approach is that it clears the mind, it removes all the unnecessary toxic chatter that goes on in your head.
Your mind is exactly like a room, an empty room. What do you fill the room with? Positive or negative stuff?
The art of choosing your thoughts wisely and detaching from those that don’t add any value to your life is one of the pillars of mental wellbeing.
Your mind, like a sponge, will absorb anything you throw at it. It’s vulnerable, it has no filters, no barriers.
Remove all the mindless distractions. Say goodbye to toxic thoughts. Ditch perfectionism and overthinking.
Feed your mind consciously.
I officially discovered minimalism thanks to Goodbye, Things. Since reading the book almost a decade ago, I gradually became a minimalist myself.
I then began to notice all the positive effects of minimalism, not just in terms of convenience and practicality, but also and most importantly when it comes to mental health.
Here’s what the author — Fumio Sasaki — writes about our 50,000 year old mind and its inability to cope with the endless distractions of the modern world…
We humans are like pieces of hardware that haven’t changed for fifty thousand years. Think about all the changes just since the Edo period four centuries ago, and then consider that we’re coping with all that with a brain that’s fifty thousand years old!
Without an upgrade (…), we’re stuck filling up our old hardware with too much information and too many things. Our limited hard disk space is overloaded with unnecessary information.
We turn to all sorts of entertainment for temporary relief. And eventually, even that becomes too overwhelming and we start to reach for the easiest and most mindless distractions like smartphone games, gossip, and alcohol.
Five benefits of mental minimalism
1. Less stress and anxiety
It’s very difficult to find peace of mind when the mind is constantly overwhelmed.
Let’s go back to the limited disk space analogy. Do you really think your brain can handle all these things at once?
By removing the endless chatter that pollutes your mind, you give the mind a chance to relax.
It’s a bit like intermittent fasting, but for the mind. Less thoughts = easier to regenerate and rest.
2. Clarity and determination
What do I want in my life? What gets in the way of happiness and wellbeing? What is my purpose?
These are the questions you should ask yourself on a regular basis, ideally every day.
Clarity is power. Unless you’re clear on what you want in life, you probably won’t get it.
If you don’t know what is important to you, society will decide for you, and it probably won’t work in your favor.
Mental minimalism helps you reach that clarity by removing anything that interferes with it.
3. The end of FOMO
Your biggest problem isn’t that you don’t know enough. Your biggest problem is constantly chasing new information.
You’ll never figure it all out. There will always be things you “miss out” on. It doesn’t matter.
More information won’t change your life. Focusing on what matters will. Give yourself permission to consciously ignore all the noise.
Once you embrace mental minimalism, FOMO (fear of missing out) disappears, and it’s a truly liberating experience.
4. Conscious living
By consciously feeding your mind, you automatically become more conscious about your life in general.
In practice, this means stopping doing the things that don’t add value to your life (or other people’s) and focusing on what’s important.
Mental minimalism is the guardian that protects you from negative automatisms, addiction, and compulsive behavior in general.
And no, you’ll never be completely free from bad habits — mental or physical. The goal isn’t perfection, but constant improvement.
5. More willpower and focus
You have learned to say no to all the noise, all the mindless distractions, all the thoughts that hinder your growth, that fill up precious space.
What remains? The answer is simple: tons of willpower, focus, and mental energy to do what you (actually) want!
We all have limited willpower, but if we learn to preserve it (by not investing it in unnecessary stressful thoughts), then I promise it’s enough.
Choose mental minimalism and watch your “willpower bar” magically go back to 90+ percent. Less mental clutter = more mental energy.
How to practice mental minimalism (3 tips)
You may say, okay, this sounds great, but how do I actually implement this into my life?
At the end of the day, it all boils down to these three things…
1. The present moment
When eating, just eat; when walking, just walk. It’s an old zen proverb that reminds us of the importance of focus.
How did multitasking become a thing? I’m not even talking about productivity, just the habit of doing multiple things at once.
We eat and check the news and worry about that meeting tomorrow and reply to that text message… that’s bad.
Be zen — when eating, just eat; when walking, just walk; when working, just work; when relaxing, just relax…
Allow yourself to focus only on the present and do one thing at a time. Because the present moment is all we have, and we can only do one thing at a time.
2. The right environment
In a way, “physical” minimalism (having less stuff) helps you practice “mental” minimalism (worrying less about stuff).
By consciously doing less and owning less items, you automatically have less thoughts associated with such items.
Specifically, you will have less anxiety, the anxiety that comes from having to protect, organize and/or manage them.
Start from what’s tangible (e.g. discard what you no longer use, be more selective in terms of social interactions) and see how it then benefits the mind.
3. The right habits
Third and most important tip to practice mental minimalism — make it a habit. Habits shape our life, that’s why we should choose them carefully.
Yes, silencing the mind can be hard at first. Yes, those unhelpful toxic thoughts will resurface from time to time and when you least expect it.
However, the more you make it a habit to be mentally disciplined and ignore those unhelpful thoughts, the easier it gets.
Then one day you wake up and realize your mental health has improved tenfold and you no longer give power to your inner demons… and don’t even know how.