Note: This is a guest post from Karl Staib, author of Bring Gratitude.
Recently, while standing in line at the bakery, I pulled out my phone and opened my Amazon app. It was a bad habit with no benefit other than to pacify myself while I waited.
I remember the moment well. It had been a tough week full of meetings. I started beating myself up over a difficult presentation that I gave. I was peppered with questions about some of the decisions our team made. I stammered and stuttered my way through it.
I needed an escape from my negative thoughts.
I told myself it would be nice to buy a fun game we could play as a family. After ordering, I sat down to eat my turkey croissant sandwich and mindlessly hopped back on my phone. Before long, I ended up buying a new board game. I needed a quick dopamine release.
Looking back on that decision today, the most difficult part has been noticing my bad habit of hopping on my phone when I feel down. It’s not who I want to be. I used my phone to help pacify the insecurity I was feeling after a rough week, far too many times.
Your thoughts are dominoes that dictate how successful you’ll be with your minimalist lifestyle. I struggled with minimalism because I struggled with my mindset.
I’ll admit I have a long way to go, but each day I work on clearing clutter from my mind and my home. I’m getting better at noticing these thoughts and not letting them dictate my actions. I’m also noticing the recurring negative thoughts and combating them with the most powerful mental habit known to man.
Choosing to be grateful for what I have and not feeling like I need more has provided a big improvement in my outlook and overall happiness.
In his book, Why We Do What We Do, Researcher Edward Deci explains that when someone has six positive interactions to one negative, they are 31% more productive.
When you have positive thoughts and interactions, it’s easier to focus on what matters. That may be spending time with your family, traveling, or writing. Positive interactions free you up to have the energy to do what matters to you.
As I’ve become more productive and resilient I’ve also noticed that I’m becoming more aware of my choices. That’s why I felt buyer’s remorse in the bakery. I was just trying to distract myself with shopping.
As I was walking out the door I saw a homeless man and asked him if he wanted the extra croissant that I had ordered. He smiled and said, “God bless you.” It was a nice moment that I wouldn’t have had if I wouldn’t have noticed these feelings. I’m learning to listen to them sooner before I buy too much food, new gadgets for the house, clothes, etc.
I still struggle with these internal conversations every single day. That’s why I crave simplicity. It helps declutter my space and reduce the amount of choices I have to make.
It’s so much easier to declutter your physical space, but how do you declutter your mental space? How can I make sure I keep my thoughts clear of any negative chatter that holds me back?
How you manage your feelings directly affects how successful you are at dealing with your life.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- How angry do you get at yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 when you make a mistake?
- How long does it take you to let go of this mistake? (AKA forgive yourself)
- How frustrated do you get on a scale of 1 – 10 when you are stuck in traffic?
- Are you able to enjoy an annoying coworker/client?
- Do you bring your work frustrations back to your family?
If you get angry at yourself for making a mistake, that’s okay. The key part is: how quickly do you let the anger go so that you can learn from it?
The same goes with opening your Amazon app out of habit. If you are just browsing around, then you’ll most likely want to buy something. When you can be grateful that you noticed this happening and be aware enough to close the app, you can go and do something that will help you create positive memories instead.
There is always something small to be grateful for when you feel uncomfortable and are tempted to soothe yourself with a purchase. It can be hard when you’ve had a tough day and you just want to feel better and a quick purchase can help. This is when you know you need gratitude the most.
I’m sharing this with you because I struggled with gratitude and minimalism for many years. I still do in many ways. My father wasn’t a very good role model when it came to being grateful for what he had. He always wanted more time, money, and happiness, but it seemed to elude him for large parts of his life. He loved to purchase little knick knacks for the house and I know this is where I get this habit as well.
I struggled with depression and confidence just like my father. A few years ago, I heard that keeping a gratitude journal would help me be a more positive person, a happier person.
I kept the gratitude journal for a whole year. It changed how I viewed my life.
When my father was in the hospital, I started falling back into bad habits. I found the “why me” attitude creeping back into my thoughts. I tried to distract myself, so I hopped on Amazon out of habit. I caught myself before I mindlessly bought something.
That’s when I came back to gratitude. I started up my gratitude journal again, but now I wanted to go deeper. I started writing stories based on my gratitude entries about difficult moments and how I overcame them. It turned into a book, Bring Gratitude.
This deep dive into gratitude helped me even more.
I want you to take that first step toward strengthening your mindset, so you can be more aware of bad habits and use them to grow your happiness. Start with a gratitude journal and find a support network to help you keep building the gratitude habit. Keep it simple.
Just write what you are grateful for and why every day for 30 days. I suggest something like this:
- I’m grateful for my family because they challenge me to be a better communicator.
- I’m lucky to have a dog who encourages me to take her for a walk every evening.
- I appreciate the amazing apple that I had for a snack this afternoon because it subdued my hunger.
The why is important because it helps deepen the gratitude journal experience. Within a few days you will begin to see improvement in your outlook.
If you are interested, join our free 30-Day Bring Gratitude Challenge running November 1st thru 30th. It’ll help strengthen your mindset through the holiday grind. Come join us and you’ll get email updates and a private Facebook group. If you have any questions, I’ll be available 7 days a week during this time. My goal is to get the smartest and most caring people together to create an amazing community, so we can help each other learn from our mistakes and build a life that we love.
Karl Staib is the author of Bring Gratitude and the Creator of the 30-Day Bring Gratitude Challenge.