Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Maximum benefit

Over the past year the Lighthouse Keeper has been following the writings and posts of fellow blogger Joshua Becker on his excellent Becoming Minimalist website.

It’s been an illuminating journey, contrasting the commercialism of modern life with an approach of de-cluttering life in general and owning less.

Becker describes minimalist living as “counter-cultural” because it is contrary to every magazine, newspaper of TV advertisement and because society prides itself on the accumulation of possessions.

“But there is far more joy to be found in the pursuit of fewer possessions than can ever be discovered in the pursuit of more,” he says.

The first month of any year is often a time when we look back on the past 12 months and evaluate the direction of our lives – maybe changing, adopting new habits, or making some healthy changes – and in his New Year post Becker asks us to consider ‘11 Resolutions for a Better You - Proven by Science’.

His key points are summarised below but if it’s wetted your appetite for more you can catch the full version, or browse the Becoming Minimalist website, by clicking here.
Most of us recognise the benefits of physical exercise - healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy confidence. Some studies indicate exercise contributes to a positive body image even prior to any body weight or shape change - with as little as two weeks of regular exercise.

Less television
Those seeking intentionality realise the negative influence television has on their mind - it impacts our worldview, encourages consumerism, oversimplifies life and results in less life satisfaction. Deciding to cut back in the coming year may be one of the best decisions you could ever make.

Go outside
According to recent studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, simply spending time outside with nature contributes to increased energy, wards off feelings of exhaustion and results in a heightened sense of well-being.

Read fiction
Researchers have discovered that reading results in heightened connectivity and brain activity - sometimes even up to five days after the book has been completed.

Numerous studies show charitable giving boosts happiness and reduce stress - especially when the generosity promotes positive social connection. If you don’t already, find a cause or person you believe in and offer consistent monthly support. They will benefit. You will benefit. And the world will be a better place.

Volunteering provides great value for our lives and the lives of those we choose to enrich. Volunteers often feel like they have more time and are more efficient, as well as feeling better about themselves, experiencing lower stress levels, and developing a deeper connection with others.

Buy less
Research suggests that buying life experiences rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness for both the consumer and those around them. Decide today to spend less money this year on possessions and more money on meaningful, memorable experiences.

Display gratitude
Psychologists state that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in your life is how much gratitude you show. Getting started is so easy and beneficial. It could be the easiest decision you make all year.

Practice smiling
A study conducted at the Michigan State Business School found that customer service professionals who fake a smile throughout the day worsen their mood. But people who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts improve their mood and withdraw less.

Stop and play
Our world is becoming increasingly busy and the temptation to measure our worth by external factors continues to grow. As a result, taking time to slow down and just play is becoming increasingly rare. But play is fun and enjoyable. Play enriches the lives of children by exercising their mind and body. And it has the same positive effect on adults.

Be happy
Two experimental studies published in The Journal of Positive Psychology this past year offer ground-breaking research on the cultivation of happiness. Based on the experiments, participants who listened to ‘happy’ or uplifting music and actively tried to feel happier reported the highest level of positive mood afterwards - more so than those who simply listened to the music. In other words, determining to be happy is a productive decision towards achieving it.

Of course, changing everything at once is a recipe for failure so Becker suggests choosing just one or two - and giving them a month-long try out.

The Lighthouse Keeper, having heartily digested the recommendations over a cup of strong early New Year coffee and a leftover Christmas mince pie or two, can definitely see life-changing merit in all 11 resolutions – but which ones to pick?

I'm also tempted to complete the list by adding a couple of my own. Drink more water to keep the body well hydrated at all times and don’t neglect your spiritual side. Both bring untold and life-transforming benefits.

Thank you, Mr Becker, for a year of inspiring and thought-provoking reads. Here’s to 2014 – toasted, of course, with a glass of H20!

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