Everyone wants to be happy and enjoy the life they’re living but so many of us are spending most of our time doing tasks and activities we don’t want to do. We’re unhappy with how our life is going and often complain about not being where we thought we would be. Within my group of friends there are several people that stand out as being (or at least appearing to be) happy with their lives as they are and although they live completely different lifestyles there are three things they have in common. They live their lives in a way that is simple, sustainable and meaningful.
Each of the people I’ve met who live their lives happy, seemingly carefree and fulfilled live their lives in a way that everything they have and do is simple. The term ‘less is more’ is key to their lifestyles. These people have taken the time to identify what is important to them and eliminate the rest. They don’t have tonnes of useless ‘stuff’ around the house and they only do things that they want to or need to do to live by their own values and priorities. What does this mean for the rest of us who are wanting to live a happier, more fulfilling life? It means we need to do a stock take on our lives and our belongings and identify what it is that is most important to us and eliminate the things we don’t need, love or use regularly. I’ve begun this process myself and I’m slowly working my way through the house identifying the items I never or no longer use. I’m being tough on myself and not holding on to things just because they have sentimental value. Certain sentimental items are staying but most I’m passing on to new homes where they will be used and loved. I try hard not to schedule too many things into my day so that there is space in there for me to rest and reflect on how my life is going. This allows me to pick up on the negative things before they blow out of proportion so that I can try and solve them. Using this technique, which I’ve picked up from my friends, I’m beginning to feel happier about where my life is at. I can now see all the positive things I do have. By removing all the clutter and noise and being more mindful about your actions and possessions you too can begin to identify the happiness you already have in your life. Once you do that you can begin to focus on the activities and items that increase that happiness for you.
Sustainability means so many different things to so many different people! When I’m talking about a sustainable lifestyle here, I’m talking about it in two different ways:
- A sustainable lifestyle is one that can be maintained and continued through all the ups and downs of life. It is not a fad or a one off thing, it is constant and ongoing.
- A sustainable lifestyle is one that takes into account the effect each action or purchase done as part of that lifestyle has on others and the environment.
I’m not saying that everyone has to be a ‘greenie’ or a ‘hippie’ or whatever other term you’d like to use. These terms have very negative connotations but the reality is this planet is the only one we have and so we all need to do our bit (no matter how small to look after it). I’m also not saying that you can’t spend money on things you like. What I am saying though is that the people around me who are living these happy fulfilling lives generally consider the impact of their decisions and don’t make impulse purchases or decisions regularly. A sustainable lifestyle is one where you are financially secure and have all your basic needs taken care of (food, shelter, love, etc). It is one where you still get to have fun and purchase new and exciting items, but you do so within your means. You avoid bad debt (such as credit cards) and negative relationships so that you aren’t tied down by these. You also consider whether your actions are having a positive or negative impact on your own life, the life of those around you, and the environment that you live in. How can you incorporate Sustainability into your lifestyle? I know that most people have extremely busy lifestyles, and not everyone will want to go all out and do everything in a way that is completely sustainable, so the following tips are some simple and easy ways to incorporate a sustainable mindset into your day to day life. [checklist style=”green”]
- Buy Less. When you first think you want something new, consider whether it is a ‘need’ or a ‘want’. If it’s a ‘need’ get it, but if it’s a ‘want’ write it down somewhere and wait at least a week (preferably a month) and see if you still want it. If you still want it then, get it.
- Buy Local. I know there is a lot of hype about organic products being the best thing for you but I believe this can be cost restrictive for some. Instead, consider whenever possible if there is a local option available. Buy fruit and veg from your local farmers market, and if you need new furniture try and find a local designer/maker.
- Be mindful of your budget. Aim to keep spending under what you earn and save money for large purchases or emergencies in the future. If you use credit cards (like we do), pay them off in full monthly. Whenever possible don’t go into debt and don’t pay interest (mortgages are OK though).
- Recycle. Most local Councils offer some sort of kerbside recycling program. Make sure you know how it works and utilise it properly. By doing this you reduce the amount of waste actually going to landfill. Some items shouldn’t go to landfill at all but can’t be recycled through the kerbside program (such as batteries and light globes), again check with your local Council for the most appropriate way to dispose of these items in your area.
- Make it. When you have birthdays, housewarmings and other celebrations try making gifts and cards yourself. If this isn’t possible due to time constraints, buy people experiences instead of stuff.
An overarching theme in the lives of happy and fulfilled individuals is that the activities that they undertake are meaningful for them. As I mentioned above, in order to simplify their lives these people have identified what is most important to them. By doing this, and simplifying their lives so that everything they do aligns with at least one of the things that are important to them, they know that each and every thing they do is meaningful and has a purpose. Using my own life as an example, I have identified 6 key areas that are important to me:
- Family and Friends
- Continual Learning
- Work – meaningful and purposeful
Since identifying these areas I now assess my actions and activities to check that I’m doing something towards each of these every day. By doing this I know that what I’m doing is meaningful. It is helping me fulfill a need or helping me help others through meaningful and purposeful work. LiveKen has been set up as a result of me searching for a way to do meaningful and purposeful work while dealing with debilitating chronic illnesses that have interfered with my ability to live the life I had before. Since attempting to live my life by these three principles (simple, sustainable and meaningful) I have begun to feel happy and fulfilled despite my conditions. They help me maintain a positive outlook on life even through the tough times. Yes, I still have my ups and downs but overall I’m feeling good about life. By living by these principles, you too can begin to feel happy and content with your life instead of stressed out and negative. Give it a try!