I had a conversation with my 80-year old aunt a few weeks ago and she said that today most children have access to everything than ever before that is why contentment is very foreign to them. She also said that as a result of this, there are varying mental health issues that young people are suffering from, most common are anxiety and depression. I cannot agree more with her.
I am working in the health industry and it is a common knowledge these days that there is an ever increasing use of antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs among people, young and old. While the cause of mental health problems may vary from biological, environmental and psychological factors, it is also undeniable that there is significant correlation between materialism and stress, anxiety and depression. I believe that we do not need a research study to prove this assertion because it is already rife among and around us.
People have been busier than ever, focusing on material accumulation with the belief that it is a trophy of success and achievement thus we work harder and harder. Stress, anxiety and depression unfortunately become a common language that almost everyone is using. And as common as they are used to refer to frantic daily life situation as people get frustrated to not having enough time for things they actually want to do or want to pursue, we could still hardly realize a few of the main factors that cause this imbalance… the constant chase of material possessions, the continuous accumulation of clutters, the need to involve oneself in a rat race and the fear of missing out.
But is this what we really want to do in our short precious life? Be stressed? Be depressed? Be anxious?
I am not saying that you have to decelerate from working and stop achieving bigger and wilder goals to effectuate a quiet mind. I still believe that we should be happy with our achievements and yet we continue to strive to aim for higher objectives that bring about self-fulfillment and greater good. However, if success to you means providing every single want of your child or whatever you want for your child e.g. every trendy toy available in the market, obtaining the newest and biggest TV, buying more shoes and bags for ‘outfit of the day” at work, purchasing an even bigger house so you can keep the things you collected over the years, or coveting a posh car so your mates would tell you how big time you have become, updating with the latest series in Netflix or navigating to every restaurant or coffee shop, then perhaps you may want to re-explore the life that you actually want especially if your actions obviously present detriments to your well-being, particularly your mental health.
Here are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself:
- Do my weekends come and go with me feeling frustrated that I am not able to clean the house?
- Do I get overwhelm with my long to do list that could hardly get done?
- Do I feel like no matter how much I work hard, money never seem enough?
- Am I terrified that I cannot share about the most recent TV series frenzy or the latest blockbuster movie with my workmates and friends so I feel the need to binge-watch to be up to the minute?
- Am I constantly worrying about my next loan repayment? Is my paycheck for this month enough?
- Do I always feel that my children are left out when they don’t have the toys or clothes or gadgets or vacations their friends and classmates have?
- Do I get embarrass when people come to my house and always have to apologize for the mess?
- Am I compelled to work long hours even if I hate my job so I can meet my stockpile of financial obligations?
- Are the holidays I’ve been wanting or passion I want to pursue are left in dreams?
- Do I have to pay a pricey content insurance because I fear that burglar will break into my house and take away my valuables or disasters/accidents may damage them? Do I plunk down a big insurance amount for my big house and cars and other stuff?
- Can I not say no to frequent dinner invites, eating out or a good many play-dates with my children’s classmates and friends?
- Do I have enough time to sit down and talk to my partner or play with my kids?
- Can I actually sleep peacefully at night and wake up happy in the morning?
So what will you do if you answer YES to most of the questions and NO to the last two? You realize that you are trapped in the continuous cycle of having to get and do more that you could hardly sit down a second to calm yourself. You are losing control.
I have known a few people who contemplated taking their own lives because their heads are way too under a pool of debts. A once jaunty young acquaintance of mine became obsessed to sports cars, nice shoes and fine clothes, is also in the hole for not being able to catch up with his loans. Now, he is full of anxiety and is isolating himself. The last time he was urged to see his GP by his family, he was given an antidepressant. A workmate feels compelled to look for a better-paying job because her friends changed jobs that scooped a much more decent remuneration or an enticing promotion. This is crunching her brain out. Needless to say, it is clear as bell that there are mental dangers of materialism.
Minimalism is not an all-in answer to some mental health issues but sure it is of great help. The very idea of minimalism is to live a life with intentions and deliberate simplicity. It emphasizes on the importance of decluttering, material or otherwise.
Sure it can be difficult to practice minimalism at first because our minds are conditioned to believe that our successes are epitomized majorly by material prosperity. While this is not necessarily bad however, if the more important aspects of our lives such as our general health and relationships are compromised, then it becomes unfavorable and harmful. That is when being busy becomes less and less productive.
I have to emphasize again as in my previous blogs that minimalism does not mean you leave everything behind and live with only the bare necessity. This is just as erroneous as over-materialism.
So it is okay to repeat your clothes at workplace week in and week out. It is okay to say no to dinner invites from time to time. It is okay to miss out on slews of TV series and movies. It is okay not to have too long to do list. It is okay if your kids do not have too many toys or gadgets. It is okay to live in a smaller dwelling. It is okay not too be too busy all the time.
Because it is great to unstuck yourself in the cycle of things. It is phenomenal to stop competing with the achievements of other people. It is amazing to do things you are passionate about. It is wonderful to create meaningful relationships even with just very few people. It is beautiful to sit down and talk to your kids and give them the attention they deserve. It is incredible to be able to take a break and take a holiday of your dream. It is glorious to just be calm and peaceful. It is fantastic to savor the joy of missing out. It is wonderful to be free from mental stresses brought by the demands of the society these days. This is the kind of freedom that we all need in this uber restless age.
Life is short. We may as well live it simply and purposely.