During my minimalist journey I have found easier and easier to declutter and let go of THINGS: clothes, accessories, books, various bits and bobs, kitchen tools and utensils, you name it. Even decluttering sentimental items like photographs and letters has become easier with the time.
Unfortunately sometimes we have to deal with feelings and life’s events that are hard to let go of. When going trough rough patches and facing different emotions like sadness, frustration, anger, desperation, loneliness, guilt, disappointment etc. or life’s events such as death, break-ups, beloved ones being seriously ill, long-term unemployment etc. it can be quite easy to lose the focus on what really matters: we stay attached to our past and what happened and worry about our future instead of staying present in the here and now. For me minimalism is only partly about minimizing possessions, so it’s important to find ways to keep our thought patterns simple, mindful and focused on the here and now. Why should we keep on raveling our mind around thoughts and feelings that do not serve us a purpose, that hurt and won’t solve our problem or change anything?
When going through rough patches due to certain life’s events, or simply when we find hard to let our past go, our routine and habits tend to go completely off track: we sleep less, we lose our motivation, our eating habits tend to go on the less healthier side (we either gain or lose appetite and when we do eat we tend to choose “comfort” foods or unhealthy options out of convenience or lack of interest), we maybe even crave new stuff and shop mindlessly, in the attempt of filling the void we feel inside or have a relief. Or we put ourselves into a crazy, almost workaholic routine just to avoid being left alone with our thoughts and feelings. Of course each one of us has different ways of naturally reacting to bad life’s events.
I do firmly believe though in the capacity of minimalism to help us train our mind to make some positive changes in our life. It’s all a matter of and making sure that every single day we live our best life, according to our core values. When we liberate ourselves from unnecessary belongings and the pressure and obligations they generate, the fog slowly starts to clear up. Minimalism really can bring and increase mental clarity and help us reset and refocus when we need it the most.
So how can minimalism help us in such cases? I’ve put together a few tips that can help you let go of your “emotional baggage”.
- DECLUTTER, CLEAN AND TIDY UP. When dealing with a lot of different emotions, I find decluttering and especially tidying up very relaxing and therapeutic. The simple act of tidying up the space around me puts in a place where I can slowly tidy up my thoughts. It’s almost like positively pouring my anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration into making my apartment look better, cleaner, tidier. And it might not solve the real problem in the end, but it ensures me to have a tidier space that will make me feel better and more comfortable.
- FIND WHAT FEELS GOOD. If tidying up is not your jam, then find another way to cope with those feelings. Whatever it’s going on in your life at the moment, find something that will help you deal with all these feelings you’re experiencing in a more positive way. Cook your favorite recipes, exercise, volunteer, talk to a therapist or a certified qualified counselor, take a detoxifying walk outside or spend some time immersed in and surrounded by nature. Try to acknowledge that certain things that seem easy to pursue and give almost an instant relief (binge eating, drinking or doing drugs, over-shopping, etc.) won’t benefit you in the long term and won’t nourish your soul. Find those things that you know will slowly but surely make you feel better.
- LOVE YOURSELF. Remind yourself constantly that you are worth of love and kindness. Do not blame yourself or feel guilty about what happened or is happening. Find little pockets of time for yourself or little ways to remind yourself this every single day.
- DEEP BREATHING. Taking the time to deeply breathe in and out and staying focused on the air flowing in and out of your lungs, nose, mouth is a simple way to calm down and slow things a bit. If you’re experiencing anxiety, insomnia or lack of focus due to a busy mind, practicing some deep mindful breathing can help you immensely, especially if you pair it with some meditation. You don’t necessarily have to meditate 1 hour a day, but even a few minutes in the morning or in the evening before bed time can help you slowly overcome your issues. There are a lot of free guided meditations on Youtube, so there is definitely one out there that will suit your needs and your current situation or status.
- JOURNALING. During my yoga retreat at Yoga Sutra Shala back in June, I’ve rediscovered the wonderful benefits of journaling and writing. I might not always do it on a regular basis, but when I feel like I need to let those thoughts and feelings out, a simple “brain dump” with pen and paper immediately makes me feel better and makes me let go a bit of that weight I am carrying.
- ASK YOURSELF SOME QUESTIONS. Try to analyze the current situation in a more rational way by asking yourself some questions. I know that it’s easier said than done, but it’s important to stay grounded as much as possible and talk yourself through the situation you’re going through by answering some simple questions. If it helps, talk with a close friend, a family member or a counselor (you can try online therapy if you don’t feel like starting traditional therapy. You can read a personal review about online therapy here). What can I do to change things in the short term first and in the long term too? What can I do to feel better? Which are my priorities at the moment? Will this matter in 2,5 or 10 years?
- FOCUS ON YOUR THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS. You can’t control what others did, do and/or will do. You cannot predict their actions or reactions, but you definitely have control over yourself, they way you think and act. Try to maintain the focus on this, on yourself and how you will, through your thoughts and actions, relate yourself to the whole situation. If you pour your best self into it, you will feel better and will be able to let go easier of the negative weight you’re carrying.
- HOLD ONTO THE LITTLE THINGS. A blooming flower, the smell of coffee in the morning, the sound of rain falling down while you’re sitting on the sofa reading a book or looking outside, the kindness of a stranger, the taste of your favorite meal. Find those little sparks of joy and hold onto those as tight as you can.
- REMIND YOURSELF that feelings and thoughts are like ocean waves, they come and go: as hard as things might seem right now, you won’t feel like this forever and you will be okay.
I hope this will help you if you’re going through hard times.