Improve Your Wellbeing with Mindful and Minimalist Principles

(Transcribed and edited from my weekly Facebook Lives. See them every Tuesday at 2:30 CST right here)

Hello everyone, this is Crystal Sheffield-Baird of Phoenix Health Coaching. If you have not seen or met me yet, I am a nurse and an emotional wellness coach. I primarily work with people in the health and teaching professions, help them make their own care a priority so they can prevent overwhelm and burnout and take better care of themselves, which will allow them to be more present with their families and take better care of their patients, clients and students. So if you've been following along, April has been a theme of, you know, spring cleaning and exploring how a minimalist philosophy and lifestyle can translate into better emotional well-being and as a model for designing our lives and we've explored this in different ways.   

I want to discuss how mindfulness and minimalism are related and how we can use both tools. Just as a quick disclaimer, I am not a mindfulness instructor. I don't have that credential. I have been practicing meditation and mindfulness since September of last year. So it's been about six months. I'm not a novice, but I'm definitely not at an instructor level. But I will say that I became interested in practicing mindfulness first and it has helped me bridge that gap. Minimalism for most of us is about decluttering belongings and our physical surroundings and making our physical environment more calming and inspiring to us. And of course, not anxiety inducing by looking at clutter. When I discussed decluttering the mind, mindfulness is one of the chief tools in our toolbox to assist with that.

Mindfulness is not banishing thoughts. Just like decluttering or minimalism isn't about living in a pseudo jail cell with a bed and a dresser. Accepting your thoughts are there and consciously not holding onto them is a chief principle in mindfulness. Just like we might hold onto our old belongings, we can hold onto destructive thoughts or thoughts that are just not helpful to us and are limiting us in what we're capable of. Mindfulness really helps us become aware of those.

Mindfulness (and minimalism) also facilitates being more present in our lives. We're all very familiar with multi-tasking. At least the myth that is multitasking.  I can definitely cite some research that says that there really is no such thing as multitasking. That what we're doing when we multitask is more akin to back when we had an old windows 95 or 98 computer or had like dial-up or DSL internet back in the late 90's and early 2000's. I'm sure a lot of us can remember those days. This is back when you had to wait a full five minutes for a webpage to load.  You guys remember the little spinning hourglass that would keep flipping and you'd have to wait for something to load. Continuing to click and double click on the page was not going to help. All you're doing is forcing the webpage to start loading again, meaning you're at the beginning of the loading again. Double clicking only made things worse, only made the page load much more slowly. It was not helping. It was actually really hurting for you to do that. You really were just better off double clicking, waiting for that page to load and pull out a book and read or whatever the case may be until your web page got done loading.

Our brains behave the exact same way. We cannot hold two tasks or thoughts in our brain simultaneously. All we are doing is conditioning ourselves to be distracted every five minutes. We are pulling that processing power that is our brain, away from the task at hand and being less efficient at the next task we do. When we are trying to do many things at the same time, we are becoming less efficient and our quality suffers.  I know a lot of people here are really bad about it. Including me. Right now I have four tabs on my browser loaded up, which is low for me. We're all fairly guilty about that, but it's just being aware that hey, when we do this, we're not getting more done. Our attention is not meant to be split like that. Single tasking is another way that mindfulness and minimalism can both really help us be completely and truly present in whatever task we're deciding to do, whoever we happen to be with at the time. "Uh...yeah, I'm listening.." As we continue to scroll through social media. I do this a lot. In fact, my husband has flat out asked me to leave the phone at home at times. We all struggle with this. I am not immune.

None of us are immune to this, but like I said, I've only started meditating about six months ago, but it really does help with being fully present and I feel like when we take the principles of minimalism and apply them to our relationships, we need to determine what's really needed when we're with somebody, when we're having lunch or dinner or whenever-- it just needs to be me and you and that's it. Or wherever we're at. I don't know about you all but I don't really need a fancy date night every time. We can just watch a movie, sit on the couch and talk for hours about random things. Go for a drive. I feel like when we apply those to our relationships they're also going to improve.

One that I know we all need to work on more, me included, is the subject of digital detoxing. Pulling ourselves away from our devices even if just in the evening or when we first wake up. And from the concept that we can never be bored and allowing ourselves to not have our phones by our sides or in our pockets all the time. How many of us have a momentary panic when we go to the restroom or to the store or out in general and we can't find our phone? At times, this is unavoidable and that's fine. Like when we have to reach the babysitter or someone is ill. Or professionally when you're on call and may need to go in for emergencies, whatever the case may be.

Just being okay with the idea of "My phone is dead. That's fine. I'll be without it for a few hours. I'll go do something else." I have a tendency on the weekends, instead of relaxing, scrolling on social media for 3 hours at a time. Poof, there went my Saturday morning. In fact, I had to put an app limiter on my phone because the temptation is just too high. I was really influenced by hearing Arianna Huffington speak about this, and a good book to consult on this is "Thrive." She physically puts her phone to bed every night in another room when she sleeps. I started doing that a few days ago and I feel that it ties into the mindfulness and the minimalist pieces in that we're being present in the, in the mornings not being reactive to other things.

The excuse for me in the morning was always, "Well I don't know what the weather's going to be like. I have to check my phone for the weather so I know how I need to get dressed today." Nut seeing it for what it is, it's an excuse. I could have obviously done that the night before. And even if not, it would be fine if that's all I did. And it would always started that way. Then it becomes, "Well let me just check my notifications on Facebook. Let me just check my emails really quick. Make sure there's no fires to put out." When we start off that way, we are waking up in that default, like get things done, panic and anxiety mode. Let's all try not to do that. It's similar when we go to bed. How many people wake up in the middle of the night, go to the bathroom and then check their phone right before they go back to sleep? We're all kind of in this constant mode of more and more and more and we're never doing ENOUGH.

So the whole point of this month for me has been less, less but better. More there. Put your hundred percent behind only the few things that truly make a difference. Don't half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing (I really wish I could find who said that). This book that I've started but not finished  definitely rang true for this month. It's called "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown. And while this is concerned more with your professional projects, is meant to apply to all parts of your life. Greg, this author, actually went to a client meeting the same day, his daughter was born. She was hours old and he was goaded by his colleagues to attend a client meeting on the day his daughter was born. Like honestly, how much, how much bullshit is that? He obviously he made that choice and I think that's why he got this wake up call. But what's your wake-up call going to be? Where you're going to say, "Enough is enough. I am not going to keep adding more stuff, more plates spinning to what I'm already doing."

Because we're all going to have that point where we think, "No, I'm done with this shit. I'm going to stop and I'm going to reevaluate what is truly important to me." Don't let something like a tragedy or the birth of your child or grandchild. Don't let something like that be your wake-up call. I really want this to be a turning point for you to reevaluate in your own life, "What are my values? What's my priorities? Am I giving those priorities the time they deserve?" And help understanding that a lot of times they don't tend to match up to what I say I prioritize and what I'm actually prioritizing in my life. I'm stressing to you today to really look at that. Really evaluate that in your own life. And if you're not really sure where to even begin because believe me, it's discouraging at times and it can be overwhelming, email me and we'll set you up with a free call. If nothing else, it will be enough for you to kind of get some clarity on where to begin and what needs to shift in your life to be where you want to be in, to go where you want to go.