Life can get really complicated fast.
Eat this way, no eat that way. Train for a marathon, no running long distances- it’s bad on the joints. Drink more water, but make sure you don’t drink too much water at meals. Wake up early and make the most of the day, but also sleep in because exhaustion isn’t good for you. Pause to smell the roses but remember, if you aren’t making the most of your time you’re wasting your time.
There are so many messages on how we’re supposed to live life, and on how to do it well. This can feel overwhelming, even paralyzing. So if you want to live the best life possible, how do you figure out what to do?
It’s simple. Get in the habit of going light. When you take this route you’ll make the right choices for you.
This seems like such an obvious suggestion, but as humans, we‘re naturally drawn to the rich fabric of anything complicated, chaotic, and dramatic. This heaviness ends up distracting us from true peace, joy and contentment. And we’re so overwhelmed by our own clutter—all the physical, mental and emotional stuff we’re carrying around day-in and day-out, that we miss out on the things that matter most.
So what can clutter look like?
Let’s start with physical clutter. This can show up as an uncomfortable amount of stuff stored in your house—maybe you need to hang extra clothes in the shower because you’ve run out of room in your closet. Or you can’t use your dinner table for dinner because it’s being used as a catch-me-all.
What else? Food can be physical clutter in the body. I’m not referring to whole foods like fruit, vegetables, proteins, and fats—all of these provide nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are instrumental in creating good health at our core. What I’m referring to are the foods that our grandparents and great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Foods with ingredients that are impossible to pronounce. These look like convenience foods full of refined sugar and starch—in the moment they may give us a surge of happiness, but over the long run they leave us feeling heavy and disappointed.
Mental clutter is just as real as physical clutter. Examples of mental clutter are thoughts that you should be or shouldn’t be doing something. Thoughts that you’re not enough or that you’re too much. Thoughts that you need to do it all to be lovable.
Experts claim we have 60,000+ thoughts a day, with 80% being negative and 95% a repeat of the thoughts we had the day before. How’d we get this way? We no longer have to watch out for threats of our ancestors like sabertooth tigers, wooly mammoths and the Gigantopithecus, a relative of the orangutan that was 10 feet tall and 1,100 pounds. Instead, we have impossibly full schedules with long lists of to-dos and fast-food easily available on every corner. As a result, we are living in a constantly stressed state—both mentally and physically.
Emotional clutter is just as heavy as the physical and mental clutter. Emotional clutter stems from mental clutter that things should be or shouldn’t be a certain way. Emotional clutter consists of feelings that keep you trapped in a reality that you don’t like. Usually, these feelings stem from thoughts that cause us to feel shame, want us to blame, or lead us to complain. One way to know that you’re carrying some emotional clutter? Wishing things were different but not doing anything to make them different.
So what do we do?
How do we uncover and honor the things that matter most?
We pause. We sit still. We create gaps in our thoughts and we listen. And then when confronted with a choice, we intentionally simplify and choose to go light.
I don’t say go light, lightly. Going light isn’t superficial, it’s one of the most powerful pathways to intentionality there is. So trust the deep knowing inside of you. Ask yourself, does thinking this thought, feeling this feeling, or taking this action feel light or heavy? If it feels light go with it. If it feels heavy, that’s where you have work to do. So go ahead and get quiet. And then when you’re ready, take a deep breath and choose to go light.
With every decision—what you eat and drink, how you move your body, what time you go to bed, who you hang out with, how you spend your time and money—you have the power to choose simplicity over complication.
I’m not saying this is easy. At least not at first. At times you’ll need to say ‘no’ to others so that you can say ‘yes’ to you. Maybe it’s store-bought cookies brought into the office or break-room. Or a neighbor’s offer of a third glass of wine. It could even be your mom’s desire for you to house her beloved china. If these things are getting in the way of your happiness, and your lightness, say a simple “no thank you.” No rationale is necessary, unless you want. Don’t make it personal and don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re all figuring out this lighter journey together.
One thing is for sure. You won’t go wrong if you go light. When you go light, life feels easier, you find your flow and you can’t help, but flourish.
So wherever you are on your decision-making journey for all of the big and small decisions you need to make—consider getting into the habit of going light.
About the Author: Heather Aardema is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach living in Colorado with her husband and two grade-school boys. You can find more of her essays focused on growing healthy and living fully at RootofWellbeing.com.