The Simple Life: 3 Ways To Find Contentment in Simplicity
How to let go of social expectations.
What is Therapy? 11th Feb, 2021
The simple life is not something we automatically thrive for. Personal and social expectations of where you think you should be in your 20s/30s/40s etc can be an excellent driving force, however, they can also be very damaging to your mental health. Particularly as most of the time they are goals you have set, or believe are expected of you, that may be impossible to meet. Perhaps your life has taken a different turn and you are not married, or earning a set amount by a particular age, or in the career you wanted as a child. Whatever the goals are, or were, there is a fundamental flaw in the way people think about them.
This flaw is not knowing they are a story you have told yourself you have to achieve, not things you actually need. Just pause and think about that for a moment, everyone needs the basics of shelter and food, beyond that, material possessions, jobs, relationships, are things you want. Everyone tells themselves society expects you to have fashionable clothes, or a big house. However, when you break down what you mean by ‘society’, most of the time it is people we don’t know well. It’s who you see in the lunch queue, or in the park, who don’t care, or even notice what brand your phone is, or what car you have, or don’t have.
When it is people you know like parents, or friends do you judge them on their possessions, can you even remember what phone they have, or the brand of their car? Unless it’s something you are passionate about you probably have no idea what other people own and they do not know what you own either. When you make the mental shift to accept this, you can start enjoying what you have, instead of what your expectations tell you you should have. Then you can find true contentment.
The Simple Life:
Look At Goals From A Fresh Perspective:
If a friend told you they were a failure for not meeting their goals, what would you say to them? You would not agree, you would offer words of comfort, or perhaps even tell them off for being so hard on themselves. Most people have much higher expectations of themselves than everyone else, if you wouldn’t let a friend say something about themselves, don’t let yourself either.
The next time a thought crosses your mind that you are a failure, because you haven’t met a goal, or any other reason, challenge it as you would for a friend. It’s just a thought, or story, which isn’t acknowledging all your other achievements in life, it’s not the truth. When you see this it becomes easier, over time to let go of these thoughts and expectations and enjoy the life you have.
Consciously Ignore Old Expectations:
There will be some expectations that you carry around without realising you are doing so. Do you ever finish work on time? It is likely other people in your company do, so why not you, try it once a week and see if you can break the expectation you have that you need to work late. Another common expectation is buying branded goods, from clothes, to phones, to food. Do you ever buy the own brand food, or other groceries at the supermarket? If not, why not? Have you told yourself a story that they are for people who are struggling financially and you could not possibly buy them because of what the person at the till would think?
Realistically the cashier will scan so many groceries they don’t really look at what the product actually is. Often the supermarket, low cost, own brand is made in the same factory as the branded products, with the same ingredients. They just have different packaging. Try a few own brand products and see what you think. The more you do this, the more expectations you will notice and perhaps, change.
Live In The Moment Once A Day:
Your brain is constantly predicticting the future, or thinking about the past, in order to work out what will happen next. This goes back to when humans needed to be aware of predators, what your mind does is sacrifice accuracy, because it was more important to react and not get eaten! So your mind exaggerates fears, makes leaps and makes things up. When you know this, it becomes easier to ignore these made up predictions and stories, which are so often about what you ‘should’ be doing.
One way of taking time out from that is living in the moment once a day. When you eat a good meal, don’t have the television on, chew and taste each mouthful, this allows you to really appreciate and enjoy the food. If you go for a walk in the park, stop from time to time and think about what you can see, smell, feel (like a breeze/rain/sun) and taste. When you find contentment in simplicity, you can slow down and relax, over time this could improve your mental health.
When you start to put the tips above into practice you may find that contentment in simplicity can really help your mental health. Ultimately, once you start to challenge your thoughts and stories around goals and expectations, then slow down and live in the moment more often, you could find you are more content and relaxed than you have ever been.