Several months ago a neighbor in her mid-sixties lost her husband due to a heart attack. Even worse than dealing with the unexpected loss and heartbreak of losing her life partner, is her torment with stress and anxiety because of her debt and lack of resources. Unfortunately, she’s not alone. A recent article by CNN Money confirms that most Americans as are deeply worried about their financial future. According to CNN Money, “The Great Recession may be over, but a Great Insecurity seems to have emerged in its wake.” What’s going on here and what can we do? Perhaps a focus on simple living is the way to eliminate the anxiety and stress that so many feel today.
The Good News & The Bad News
On one level many of us are feeling better about the economy and the direction it is headed. CNN Money confirms that with their recent national survey. Over three-quarters of those surveyed felt that their money situation had stabilized or improved compared to a year ago. Also according to the survey, “Almost nine out of 10 expect that their finances will be the same or better 12 months from now.” This is a big improvement from their last survey in 2009.
Also, according to CCN Money, many stock portfolios have recovered and many home and property prices are returning to pre-crash pricing. Unemployment levels are also gradually coming back down.
But that’s where the good news seemed stuck. Of particular concern was long-term economic security. Specifically, six out of 10 were worried about retirement, family emergencies, and how to pay for health care. They also stressed about whether Social Security and Medicare will even be there when they need them. More than half admitted to living paycheck to paycheck with 60% saying they had no savings in case of emergencies. And it didn’t seem to matter what the age was of those concerned—everyone seemed anxious.
Where’s The Anxiety Coming From?
While no one knows for sure, according to several economic experts quoted by the CNN Money article, “the events of the past six years have shaken the belief in our ability to accumulate wealth over the long haul.” Other researchers said, “…the erosion of trust in our financial system will have a lasting effect.”
Not only is our financial system flawed, I also happen to believe that the media fuels fear in everyone by sensationalizing the news with the most dismal predictions possible. Instead of reporting the benefits of the new ACA (Affordable Care Act) and the many people who will now be covered, many media outlets (not to mention political parties) are doing their best to suggest that it will bankrupt our country. That kind of negativity and fear seeps into most people’s daily lives causing deep anxiety and concern.
So How Can Simple Living Help?
Before I go further let me assure you that when I say a return to simplicity will help, I’m not talking about joining a commune or living in a tent. A simple definition of simple living is: a lifestyle that minimizes consumption and maximizes those things that bring the most peace and joy.
With that in mind, here are a list of 15 ways I believe simple living can eliminate your anxiety:
- More freedom to create the life you desire, instead of feeling stuck in a job or a life just because you have no other choice.
- Allows you to appreciate what you do have instead of constantly craving what you don’t have.
- Provides you with a better work/life balance because you let go of pushing yourself to work longer and longer hours to maintain an over-consumptive lifestyle. In other words, Work SMARTer not harder!
- Help you clarify what is most important, meaningful and what really matters to you, and let go of the rest.
- Allows you to seek quality not quantity in all things.
- Helps you unclutter and let go of everything in your life that is messy, busy, overcomplicated and unnecessary.
- Introduces you to importance of all your true relationships—including a deeper connection to your community.
- Frees up your time to do the things you love and that makes you happy.
- Provides you with a deeper connection to nature by giving you the time to take walks, garden and appreciate being outdoors. In other words, spend time in nature.
- Slows you down and allow you to enjoy the moments of your every day.
- Leads you to become more self reliant and internally focused instead comparing yourself to others or using others to determine your worth.
- Guides you to making better health choices for yourself and your family.
- Provides freedom from maintaining or fussing about your possessions and instead spend that time doing things that make you smile.
- Offers you better and sounder sleep and times of rest.
- Gives you ease and agility when making life choices, decisions, exploring opportunities.
- Allows you to spend the rest of your life on a greener and healthier planet along with others (including your kids).
What Simple Living Is Not
Now that you have a list of things that shows how a simple life will help you eliminate anxiety and stress, it is equally important that you realize what simple living “isn’t.” Here’s a short list:
1) Simple living is not sacrificing and giving up the things you love. Quite the contrary, it is focusing on the things that bring you joy and meaning, and giving up all the superficial.
2) Simple living is not playing it safe and being uber careful. In fact, simple living might be the most courageous way possible to live, because you do it your way, not like anyone else. You give up what the world tells you is important, and only focus on those things that you know enhance your life.
3) And finally, simple living is not resigning yourself to a life that is less than what you have dreamed of, it is giving you the time, energy and focus to really live that dream instead of someone else’s.
Simple living might not be for everyone in our country but for those who have the courage and desire, it will free you from anxiety and bring you both peace and happiness. My neighbor’s anxiety is far from over as she adjusts to her new life without her partner. But eventually she, and every one of us can take steps to create a more simple life where we are not only free from financial anxiety, but where we are also free to live SMART 365.
Other SMART articles about reducing debt and freeing yourself from stress, anxiety and worry: