In the aftermath of my divorce and work-related woes, I read a book called The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living which detailed the importance of gratitude in living a happy, less-stressed life. Although this was not the first time I’d read or heard about the role gratitude plays in a positive outlook, the author did an excellent job of laying out the scientific rationale for practicing gratitude. Since then, I’ve been conscious — especially during potentially challenging times — of being grateful for this astonishing life.
Practicing gratitude can be as simple as taking a few minutes each day to inventory what, specifically, we are grateful for. Personally, I like to use downtimes such as driving or standing in line to think about The Good. When we shift away from endlessly ruminating on negative, stressful, or anxiety-inducing thoughts and focus instead on the things we are grateful for, it helps rewire our brains for happiness and satisfaction. The more we are able to view life through this positive filter, the less impact negativity has. While there are other practices (such as mindfulness) that share some similarities, exercising gratitude is unique in its ability to help us cultivate a pleasurable state. By concentrating on things we are grateful for, we pull ourselves into a positive mental space and actively counteract negativity. When we feel good mentally, it’s easier to make healthy lifestyle choices — after all, health is a cycle.
I’ve found that minimalism can facilitate gratitude. By getting rid of excess stuff, we move toward only owning things we’re grateful to have. By culling shitty relationships, we can redirect energy into the relationships we’re most grateful for. We can curate our wardrobes and be grateful for the newfound ease of getting (well) dressed. We can create spaces we’re grateful to inhabit because they work for us — encourage creativity, calm the senses, and don’t distract. By making fewer purchases and paying down debt, we can be grateful for being less financially burdened. We can be grateful for time gained not cleaning, organizing, or acquiring, unnecessary clutter.
When used together, minimalism and gratitude are complementary frameworks that can amplify our ability to lead fulfilling lives.