What if instead of trying to add things to become happy, you would remove things and be happier with less? What if you didn’t have to buy or add fancy gadgets, superfoods and new practices to have more happiness? Happiness could be found easiest by eliminating things standing in front of it.
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free – Michelangelo
Happiness and fulfillment might not come from addition, rather, after certain baseline, it comes from subtraction. What is keeping you from feeling happiness and fulfillment?
You can’t feel stressed, angry, or anxious while feeling happy, fulfilled and grateful. You either have positive or negative emotions rule your situation. Adopting a mindset of abundance and gratefulness instead of scarcity and fear should be a priority to enjoy life, whatever your circumstances.
What to eliminate: How to be happier with less
Eliminating complaining. Of course, things aren’t always the way we would prefer them to be. The good news is that we can choose what our focus will be. Complaining is an excellent way to focus on what you lack and how things aren’t the way you think they should be. Regardless of external circumstances, you can always choose not to complain and instead focus your thoughts and energy on finding something positive or improving the situation.
Complaining and being bitter does nothing to get you happiness, prosperity, health, or your other essential needs.
The problem with fixing complaining is that it is viewed as harmless, and even encouraged. An effective strategy I use from time to time is to wear a wristband. The wristband acts as a reminder for me about the devotion to the idea of not complaining. I try to go for 21 days without complaining. Every time I catch myself complaining I move the wristband to the other hand and the count starts from 0. A simple practice, but surprisingly effective. The punishment of having to move the wristband to the other arm and start back at 0 is a great, simple punishment and deterrent.
Other fixes might include meditation and gratitude journaling. Meditation would be to become more aware of your emotional states and gratitude journaling to habituate yourself to positive emotional states, but more on those later on this post.
Watch out for gossiping and being envious. Gossip is usually just another form of complaining, serving no greater positive purpose. Great insight from Charlie Munger that envy is the one sin you can’t have any fun at. There is no tragedy in someone else being happy, healthy, wealthy. Ignore them, be happy for them, and maybe even learn from them.
Browsing the Internet. Browsing kills time, which could be used for more important things.
Mindlessly killing time to avoid boredom also avoids the real issue: Why are you bored? Are you in fact bored or just avoiding something important? “Because I have nothing to do” is seldom the real answer for boredom.
Studies have shown that you only have a certain finite amount of willpower on any given day. That is because every decision to do or to resist something uses glucose in your brain. Once the glucose is used, your willpower is gone. Do you really want to use your precious willpower on whether to follow a link or watch that video with the cute girl/kitten?
Browsing without clear intention inevitably leads you to something you just have to add to your life: The best recent workout, the best supplement, the new gadget you didn’t know you couldn’t live without. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Or being wise and knowing you already have everything you need.
I have written about cutting the Internet here, but as a quick fix, get Leechblock and set your browser to kick you out after 10 minutes of mindless surfing every hour. You can go for 10 minutes for every 8 or even 24-hour period for best results. You can also whitelist sites you genuinely need for work. You won’t miss anything important. A word of warning: You might experience some serious withdrawal symptoms. Do things you enjoy and keep busy to get rid of the wasting-my-precious-life-with-mindless-Internet-habit.
Watching TV for more than one specifically chosen documentary, an episode of favorite series, falls in the same category as mindless surfing. The dosing matters. Binge-watching can seem fun, but it provides only a little enjoyment after the first 20 minutes, for the time used. For streaming online, you can use the LeechBlock to enforce your willpower. Watching TV the old-fashioned way is harder to eliminate without conscious effort. You just have to decide and stick to your guns. It might be easier to wean yourself out of the TV habit by staying busy while the TV is in the background. If you don’t settle down to the sofa, you are less likely to get sucked in as deep.
On that note, stop reading the news. The news promotes scarcity and catastrophic mindset. The state of the world has improved dramatically during last decades measured in famine, child mortality, living standards, pathogens, wars, but you wouldn’t know that reading the news. I have not read news for over five years now, and I have not missed a single item that impacts my life in any real way. If it is something important, someone will eventually tell me about it while talking to them. At least I have one more thing to talk about at the watercooler.
The news doesn’t provide you with anything worthwhile. Just go cold turkey for a week and see if any harm has occurred from it. If you experience little or no adverse effects from the experiment, try stretching the fast for 30 days and see if the results are any different. They probably won’t be. The world is a beautiful, peaceful place, but reading the news prevents you from seeing it.
Eating processed foods. Eating highly processed foods will result in low health, low energy levels, and more expenses. All the sugars and additives will kill your healthy gut bacteria. So much for good health and properly functioning immune system.
Processed foods have, by design, high amounts of salt, sugar, and fat, being unhealthy and making you eat more than is good for you. If you want to stay healthy and full of energy with minimal effort cut out any foods that have ingredients in them.
Being sedentary for long stretches of time. Our bodies didn’t evolve in one position throughout the whole day. Neither did they evolve to sit in chairs. Our bodies evolved to stand, sit on the ground, squat, walk, spring, and move in all kinds of ways imaginable. Make sure you are moving throughout the day. Use a pedometer for a few days to track your activity levels. Doing few HIIT training during the week is not enough if you are walking only 2000 steps during your waking hours. Aim for 10 000 steps of walking daily, which forces you to be active during your day. Use a timer to interrupt long stretches of uninterrupted sitting or standing still. I like the Pomodoro method getting me moving and directing my productivity and focus.
Not sleeping enough for your needs is guaranteed to make you miserable. Sleep is valuable, and you need it for a purpose. Science is only starting to understand why we need sleep and there are no definite answers. As it goes, sleep is one of those things that can positively or negatively affect everything you do. Not sleeping enough will affect your mindset, your productivity, your health. If you want to be happier, while being more effective, optimize your sleep. Test how much sleep you need. Test different sleeping schedules from 7-9 hours. Is seven hours of sleep enough for you? It might be, but odds are it won’t be. Test different schedules until you find an amount you need and that will help you wake up rested and ready to give your best during the day. Nap as needed.
Eliminate toxic relationships from your life. You know the ones. It might feel brutal and horrible, but you need to make sure you are surrounded by the right people. You don’t necessarily need to say anything about the change, but minimize the time spent with people who drain your energy or make you feel bad during or afterward.
Get rid of “stuff.” Things you don’t need, use, or wouldn’t buy now if sold to you. An excellent guide on the journey is the focusing question coined by Marie Kondo “does this item spark joy in me.” You will intuitively know the answer. Get rid of everything that doesn’t survive the spark joy-test. It might feel bad during the process, but you will get more joy and happiness from the items you do enjoy without all the clutter.
While getting rid of things make sure you are buying less. You can use a 30-day list, where you write every purchase you are considering (aside from things like groceries). Note the item and date. Then you have to wait for 30 days before making the purchase. If the item is still relevant and important, you should buy it. Using this method, I realize more often than not that I don’t need or want the thing that seemed so important at the moment.
Few most impactful practices for increasing abundance:
Exercise for specific goals. Don’t try to do and achieve everything. Know what you want to have and be with regards to health and fitness and train specifically for that. You can reach many worthy goals, but not all at once. Work hard for single goal until you achieve it. You might meet other goals in the process or get closer to them, but focus on one thing. Once attained, start working on the next most important one.
Gratitude journal. Ever tried to start journaling? A gratitude journal can be your savior, as it has been for me. It brings clear structure to the journaling practice as well as cues to initiate the action (eating breakfast or going to bed). Journaling about positive things in your life gets you focusing on what is right, instead of what you lack. As an added benefit you will be in a better mindset to fix the things you don’t have.
My journaling practice has evolved over the years, but the current practice is in the morning to write down three things I am grateful for. Often the things are people, something with myself, and something outside myself. In addition to the things I am grateful for, I write three things that would make this day awesome. These are my daily Most Important Outcomes. In the evening I journal three awesome things that happened to me during the day. That way I get to experience the high points of my life again and strengthen appreciation and noticing more positive events in my life. Also, I answer at least one thing to “What could I have done better today?”. The whole practice takes 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening. If you feel hesitant just start with doing one and once you start noticing positive changes you can start expanding the practice to the other.
Save and invest a portion of your money. Something everyone knows. To have more, you need to keep a portion of your income, regardless of your income. Pay yourself first.
Make an inventory of impacts of different foods on how you feel. Separate a sheet of paper in three columns: Foods that have a positive impact on how you feel, neutral foods, and the ones that have an adverse impact on how you feel. Start adding foods into different columns. Remember this is not about what food is “healthiest”, but how each affects you.
This inventory is simple, but the effects are profound. I was eating few healthy foods that made me feel lousy, just because I knew they were supposed to be healthy for me. There are always substitutions, and when you are full of energy, everything else is easier. And when you know what foods make you feel great, you don’t have to eat so much to counterbalance the negative ones.
Reading. Read to download the best knowledge into your head. Read biographies of the most impactful people. Read non-fiction. Read How-Tos on subjects you need to learn. Look at the favorites of smart and impactful people for ideas. For start check out Tai Lopez, Mark Cuban, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss.
Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. Harry Truman
Meditation. There is no question that meditation improves almost every aspect of your life. Best of all there are many methods, from Transcendental Meditation to Mindfulness meditation to Metta Loving Kindness practices. Easiest one to start with, requiring no acceptance of any supernatural phenomenon, is the Mindfulness meditation. Start with 1-5 minutes of sitting and just watching your breath. After a week you can start increasing the amount, but start with less than you can do. That way you will approach and end the practice in a better mindset than trying violently to force yourself. An easy way to get into meditation is to add an hourly chime to your phone as a reminder. At the chime take a single conscious breath. Note how you feel afterward. A single breath is enough to get you practicing consistently for longer periods of time. More on meditation here