Mental Minimalism: What it is and What its Benefits Are

An excess of uncontrolled thoughts and emotions can both overwhelm and paralyze you. However, practicing mental minimalism helps you focus on the essentials.
Mental Minimalism: What it is and What its Benefits Are

Last update: 26 October, 2021

You’ve probably heard of minimalism. Because the move towards living with only what’s essential is becoming more and more popular. Generally, this term is associated with the organization of environments and material possessions. However, it can also be applied to psychological space (mental minimalism).

To see if you can benefit from implementing it, ask yourself the following question: do you usually feel overwhelmed or obstructed by the number of ideas and thoughts that pile up in your psyche? Do you have a multitude of pending tasks that you don’t know how to prioritize in order to take care of them? Are you often confused, stressed, or anxious? If so, mental minimalism may be of great help to you.

Mental minimalism

Minimalism is based on the motto “less is more”. However, it doesn’t mean eliminating objects randomly or for the mere fact of getting rid of them. In reality, the objective is to select what’s truly important and significant and decide what they contribute to your life. In this way, you can make space and be able to enjoy more organized and functional environments.

Following along the same lines, we can transfer the idea to the psychological plane. This is mental minimalism. It implies creating order, structuring your ideas, and identifying which thoughts are useful to you and which aren’t. Consequently, you achieve peace of mind and are better able to face challenges and make decisions.

Ultimately, it’s about creating and maintaining a kind of mental hygiene that allows you to focus on only what’s relevant and not overwhelm or distract yourself with useless things. However, since we all live in a fast-paced world where we receive enormous amounts of stimuli per minute, this is no easy task. In fact, it requires practice and dedication.

How to apply mental minimalism

To implement mental minimalism, you can follow a series of steps and techniques. Here are the most relevant:

Woman thinking

Keep an eye on your thoughts

Firstly, you have to survey the territory. What are you thinking? What are you feeling?

Interestingly, most of the time you’re not really aware of the contents of your mind. In fact, they tend to go largely unnoticed. They also tend to get lumped together, cluttering up your mind and preventing you from functioning properly.

Therefore, you should get used to observing them, without judgment. As a matter of fact, with the sole intention of becoming aware of what they are.

Select and direct attention

The next step is to identify the contents of your mind. You need to separate the relevant and positive from the dispensable ones that hold you back.

Firstly, by focusing your attention on constructive thoughts and emotions, you’re able to expand them and get used to prioritizing them. In this way,  you detract the power from your internal dialogue of negative or limiting beliefs. Furthermore, instead of fighting against them, try to eliminate them. This is far more effective than feeding those that you want to keep.

This helps you to prioritize. Indeed, you can’t deal with every thought and every idea, and having every aspect of your life under control just isn’t feasible. However, if you know what’s really important, you’ll clear your mental field. Then, by knowing your priorities, you can better organize your time.

Everyone’s hierarchy is unique and personal to them. In this sense, you’d do well to put an end to the influence of any social impositions. For example, for some people, economic stability would be essential. On the other hand, for others, spiritual well-being or harmonious social relationships would be a higher priority. You need to find out what’s really important to you and take care of it. The rest can wait.

Practice mindfulness

Directing your mind is a voluntary and active act. In fact, it doesn’t happen naturally, at least not at the beginning. Generally, people tend to mentally wander between the past and the future, jumping from one idea to another in a frenzy. To reverse this trend, you should practice mindfulness.

Focus on the present moment, on the actions you’re taking, or the sensations you’re experiencing. When your mind drifts to other unwanted thoughts, redirect it.

Simplify and concrete

Mental minimalism consists in simplifying, in freeing yourself from the superfluous and redundant and staying with the essential. In this regard, you need to learn to specify ideas and to be able to express them, concisely, in a few words.

This helps you to free up mental space and to have a clearer way forward. In order to achieve this, you might want to resort to writing. Write down how you feel, what you’re worried about, and what you want to achieve. Try to answer these questions in the most concrete and precise way. In the process, you’ll rid yourself of confusion and distraction and gain greater mental organization.

Be careful with the information you absorb

Finally, it’s extremely positive to learn to regulate the information you absorb and how you do it. That’s because too much data and stimulation can obstruct you, especially if they’re not of good quality. For this reason, you must be selective regarding what you feed yourself. This also applies in your social relationships.

In this fast-paced world, it’s common to jump from one app to another, obtain information in tenths of a second, and never really focus your attention. Furthermore, it’s easy to transfer these kinds of habits to your day-to-day life in real life. This is harmful. Therefore, moving away from social media and spending your time on other types of exercises such as reading or painting can be much more beneficial for your peace of mind.

Woman looking at mobile

Mental minimalism is a source of peace

There are those who confuse happiness with joy. However, happiness actually has more to do with tranquility. Indeed, when your mind is clean, calm, and organized, it’s far easier to experience higher levels of life satisfaction.

For this reason, if you find yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and unable to deal with your day-to-day routine, don’t hesitate in applying mental minimalism. Because, when everything is ordered internally, you’ll be much more capable of coping with the demands of your environment.

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  • Lloyd, K., & Pennington, W. (2020). Towards a theory of minimalism and wellbeing. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 1-16.
  • Cappetto, M. (2020). The Impact of Minimalism on Health and Relational Satisfaction: Understanding Minimalism Through a Medical Family Therapy Lens (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Akron).