Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from my friend and fellow simplicity-seeker, Kelly Exeter of A Life Less Frantic.
Four years ago, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, I sat down and wrote myself what was effectively a wish list. I called it A Manifesto for a Simple Life, and it helped clarify a (clearly) deep-seated craving I had: the need to distil my complicated life down to only what was necessary.
Four years on, those words still stand up (always nice when that happens!). I return to them whenever life threatens to overwhelm me. They’re an ongoing reminder that while we may live in a complicated world, life itself can be simple if we let it.
And it seems I’m not alone in finding relief in simplicity. That manifesto has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, and I’ve received countless emails thanking me for breaking it down. People often ask me about what it all means. Why did I choose these particular aims to help me with my goal of simplicity?
This is the story behind my Manifesto for a Simple Life.
Eat less, move more
There is so much angst and self-loathing around food and body image these days. How do I know this (beyond what my eyes can see)? Well the number one article that Google sends people to on my site is this one about ‘how to stop thinking about food all the time.’
Given I wrote that post, I clearly know what it feels like to obsess about food and the effect it was having on my weight. And happily, since I’ve been able to overcome it, I can assure you that not doing that anymore has made life a LOT simpler.
What’s been the biggest game-changer for me in this regard? Mindfulness.
For example: would you like a piece of cake? Then eat the damn cake! But, instead of cutting yourself a tiny sliver (because then it doesn’t ‘count’ right?), and then another, and then another (and getting to the end of the day to find you’ve eaten half a cake), cut yourself a God-honest piece of cake.
Now sit down with it and savour every single mouthful. Eat ALL your food this way. Mindfully. When you’re mindful (as opposed to obsessive), you just naturally ‘eat less’ and you also find yourself eating ‘better’.
The same applies to ‘move more’. Be mindful of the opportunities in your day to move your body, and then take them! Get off the bus one stop early. Park in the far corner of the shopping centre car park. Walk with your kids to school rather than driving.
The human body is designed to move. It’s been shown that regular exercise is the world’s greatest wonder drug. Let’s get more of that good stuff in our day!
Being in good health makes life unimaginably simpler! If you’ve ever had good health snatched away you’ll know this as truth.
Buy less, make more
The rampant consumerism in our world right now is a concern, don’t you think? If you’ve ever had the pleasure of moving house, you’ll have a good idea of just how much ‘stuff’ you’ve managed to accumulate. Mostly stuff you just don’t need.
All that stuff is complicating your life by cluttering not just your physical space, but your mental space, too.
So if handcrafting gifts or growing your own food is your thing, please, do more of that.
If spending money and keeping the economy alive is your thing, why not buy experiences instead?
That way you get the opportunity to make memories as opposed to buying more “stuff”.
Stress less, laugh more
One recurring piece of feedback I get from people reading A Manifesto for a Simple Life is: “Stress less? I’d love to, but I don’t even know where to begin.”
Well the perfect place to start is by surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh (or at the very least put a smile on your face.)
We’ve all got people in our lives for whom everything is a drama. We’ve all got people who send our cortisol levels through the roof. Do we need these people in our lives? Probably not. Can we spend less time with these people? Almost certainly.
Life becomes a lot simpler when we choose to focus on the relationships that are good for our souls. If someone makes us laugh, makes us feel lighter, then that relationship is good for the soul.
Feel blessed, love more
Every one of us has goals, dreams and desires for the future.
And every one of us (no matter our situation) has something abundant in our life worthy of celebration right now.
One of life’s simplest truths is this: if we’re not happy with the abundance in our lives right now, we’re not going to be happy with any abundance the future may hold.
If you’re really struggling to feel blessed, the quickest way to overcome this is to put more love out into the world. It’s a simple truth of the universe that we get back what we put out, and love conquers all.
Another technique you can try is this one:
Sit down and run through all the things you have to do in your day. Ie “I have to get out of bed in the morning …” and so on.
Now run through the exact same list but precede everything you have to do with “I choose to …” In other words: “I choose to get out of bed in the morning.” That’s a nice shift huh?
Now try the same line with “I am blessed …” at the start. “I am blessed to get out of bed in the morning.”
Game-changer. I can’t think of a better way to practice gratitude and feel blessed every day than this.
Find a quiet spot every day and breathe
When all else fails; when everything going on in our lives threatens to overwhelm and crash down on us, it’s time to carve out some quiet moments in the day for ourselves.
It could be five minutes in the shower. It might be two minutes in the toilet (with the door locked so the kids can’t get in!) It might be that one minute a night between putting down the book you’re reading … and falling asleep.
These moments are so precious. And crucial!
They bring us firmly back into the present and allow us to re-calibrate.
It’s these moments that give us the truest taste of what life can feel like when we keep things simple.
And if you’re anything like me, those moments are more delicious than cake!
Kelly Exeter is a mother of two, wife of one, writer, designer, blogger, runner, business owner … the list does go on. After many years on the hamster wheel she’s finally figured out how to live A Life Less Frantic®. She shares the 7 simple shifts in thinking that got her there in her book Your Best Year Ever.