Does your brain ever feel too busy, foggy, or messy? How about overcrowded and overwhelmed? Do your thoughts run circles around you like a gaggle of toddlers, fresh from their afternoon nap and jacked up on sugary frosting from the cupcakes you just fed them?
Mine sure does sometimes. Especially when I’m feeling depressed or run down or stressed out. It’s during these times when I tend to be a little lazy and I allow everything to collect in piles all over the place, physically and digitally – excessive emails and constant social media are also offenders. Having a physical mess around me makes the mental mess feel worse. Sometimes, I can’t even sit down to read a book without the words jumping all over the page. That’s how fast my mind spinning.
What can you do to make it better? Meditation or yoga works for some folks while retail therapy may help others. It’s different for everyone.
For me, it’s minimalism AND travel
I finally realized this in 2012 when I left California. My move back to Massachusetts was a complete game changer. I gained the freedom and clarity of owning less and a fresh take on the healing power of travel.
In the weeks leading up to the move, I sold, donated, and free-piled an apartment full of stuff. My place was chock full of furniture, cast iron pans and paintings, clothes and other bits and pieces, which I managed to collect over the five years that I lived there.
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.” – The Minimalists.
Physical clutter around me is a horrible distraction and noise that I must fight through to gain focus. So, I try not to accumulate a lot of unneeded stuff. Most of my possessions will fit into Beyonce – my 1995 Subaru Legacy wagon – as long as I play a bit of Tetris while getting it in there. Plus, I’ve been on a mission since I moved back from California to reduce the amount of stuff I own even further, more specifically, the things I left behind in storage that I was convinced I would need someday. As I reduce the number of things I own and accumulate, my head feels less scattered. With less clutter around my apartment, I feel like I can focus and think more clearly.
Having focused, clear thoughts helps me be more aware of my mental and physical health. I’m more capable of making it better. Like, carving out some time for solitude when I’ve been socializing or working on teams frequently, which is exhausting for an introvert like me. Or, cooking a delicious dinner when I realize I’ve taken the easy route (or skipped a meal!) too many times in a week.
I NEED travel in my life
Like I’ve mentioned before, travel excites me. I feel less anxiety and stress when I’m traveling than I do in my everyday life. Even if I only travel an hour or two away from home.
Once I’m on the road, my mind is free from the everyday hustle. I don’t worry about meetings or planning projects; I don’t worry about making appointments or checking in with friends. I don’t worry about the laundry or dishes or cleaning the bathroom. All that’s on my to-do list is: be present, enjoy now, appreciate life.
I especially love traveling independently, not relying on others to make plans, book flights, take vacation days, choose accommodations, stick to a budget, and everything else that goes into planning a trip with other people. I find the most joy in being alone with nothing but time to just quietly observe what’s going on around me. This year, I’m going to expand my personal scope of independent travel, although I’m not yet sure how or where I’ll go. The opportunity will present itself, I’m sure.
What’s the lesson here?
These two things – minimalism and travel – make me a better person.
These two things are high priorities and bring the most meaning to my life. They bring calmness and clarity that is essential for me to overcome symptoms of PTSD. They help me live with intention, treat myself with kindness and acceptance, and push my boundaries leading me toward growth and self-development.
These two things help me make healthy and informed decisions. Basically, I always think “will one of these things benefit from this decision?” If at least one thing benefits, they all benefit. Minimalism helps me be more mentally sharp and creates fewer distractions. Minimalism also helps me save money, which I use to travel more. Traveling helps reduce stress in my everyday life. To me, they are all essential and inseparable.