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How Minimalism Can Improve Your Mental Health

Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #437) and blog, I talk to bestselling author and founder of Becoming Minimalist Joshua Becker about his new book Things That Matter, overcoming distractions to pursue a more meaningful life, how to focus on what really matters in your life, practical ways to let go of distractions, the mental health benefits of minimalism, and so much more!

Joshua has made it his life’s work to help people live their lives with fewer regrets and teach them how to pursue the things that really matter to them. In Things That Matter, he helps us identify the obstacles (such as fear, technology, money, possessions, and the opinions of others) that keep us from living well, and then he provides practical ideas for letting go of those distractions today so that we can focus on what matters most in our lives. He uses practical exercises and questions, insights from a nationwide survey, and success stories to give us the motivation we need to:

  • Identify the pursuits that matter most to us
  • Align our dreams with our daily priorities
  • Recognize how money and possessions keep us from happiness
  • Become aware of how others’ opinions of us influence our choices
  • Embrace what we are truly passionate about instead of planning the next escape
  • Figure out what to do with all of those emails, notifications, and pings
  • Let go of past mistakes and debilitating habits

Overcoming distractions and focusing on what matters the most to us is a battle worth fighting.  These distractions include deeper issues that hold us back, like:

1. Letting the lesser crowd out the greater.

We all only get one life, and we have limited resources in the one life we have, including limited money, time, energy, focus and so on. When we start pursuing more and more things, often the most important things get pushed aside, and it is easier to get distracted by things that matter less, such as browsing a new social media platform, feeling like you need to make more money for a fancier home or car, or the need to buy “more, more, more” to be happy, which is simply not the case. The most fulfilling things in life often cannot be bought, such as making time to play with our children or spend time with a loved one.

2.Visual noise.

Every physical possession around us can be a distraction, which is why practicing minimalism can be so beneficial for us mentally: there is just less “stuff” to distract us from what really matters.


The most important things we do in life often require bravery, which means working on overcoming the fears we have that can distract us and hold us back.

4. Past mistakes.

Many people feel that their past mistakes hold them back and are preventing them from living the life they want to in the present. There are no easy ways or quick fixes for dealing with the past, as I have talked about on this podcast, but this process must begin with awareness: finding the courage to face what happened to us instead of suppressing it.

5. The pursuit of happiness.

There are two pursuits that come naturally to us as human beings: the pursuit of self (survival) and the pursuit of happiness. However, when we confuse the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of self, we can become distracted from what truly matters, which can affect our inner peace and wellbeing. When we pursue happiness in places that seem like they will make us happy and they don’t, we can get lost trying the next best thing instead of pursuing things that actually make us happy, such as building a community and serving others.

6.The distraction of applause.

We can easily get distracted by wanting people to think we are doing well and accomplishing great things.Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting praise; however, when we pursue this as a means of finding fulfillment, we can become distracted from what really matters in life—we steal energy and time from things that are more important.

For more overcoming distractions and focusing on what matters, listen to my podcast episode with Joshua (episode #437), and check out his amazing new book Things That Matter.

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