Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Healthy Lifestyles

The Benefits and Virtues of Voluntary Simplicity

Simplify Your Life!

-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

When you operate out of embedded consciousness, most of your values and priorities are coming from outside of your self—from society, peers, the media, etc. Examples include: losing weight because it’s fashionable to be thin, or because it will make you more attractive to others; working too many hours because it’s considered a sign of adult responsibility, or because having things that money can buy indicates your importance, competence, or social status. Under embedded consciousness, you are guided mostly by concerns over what others think of you.

When you operate out of self-reflective consciousness, you are guided by what you think of yourself, based on your own conscience and values. This is not a matter of automatically rejecting cultural values just because they come from outside of you, or insisting on being completely unique and different. It’s about seeing how you are influenced by cultural values—how they shape our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings—and giving yourself the option of accepting those that you find helpful, and changing those that cause problems. This can give you the rewarding sense of living your own life, making it possible for you to really contribute to the health of society.

The practice of voluntary simplicity helps you reduce the influence and power of unhelpful cultural biases and habits, and gives you room to develop better alternatives for yourself and others. The better you become at simplifying your life and letting go of what’s not important and what you can’t control, the better you'll be able to fully experience what you are doing in the moment, and take what it offers you without being distracted by worries about what happened earlier or what might happen next. Almost always, it’s the worry and the desire to be elsewhere that makes people unhappy—not what they are actually doing.

When you think about it, making the most out of what you are doing right in this moment is the only way you ever can be happy and satisfied, because this moment is the only one you ever really have. By clearing out all the clutter and distractions, it's much easier to create (and enjoy) the life you truly want.
Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
‹ Previous Page   Page 3 of 3   Return to main wellness page »
Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

Related Content


Stay in Touch With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • MANDYCAT3
    My husband and I have always lived considerably below our means. For example, in 2000 we were shocked to learn how big a mortgage our credit union was willing to give us; we borrowed 60% of that amount. We don't think of ourselves as big spenders or compulsive shoppers by any means. But in getting our house ready to go on the market in 2010, I was on a first name basis with the Vietnam Veterans' donation truck driver. Where on earth all that stuff came from was a mystery to both of us. We've been more conscious since then of how much stuff comes into our lives. (Full disclosure: still too much.) - 1/26/2014 5:38:54 PM
  • This is one of my favorite articles and speaks to exactly what I want to do with my life!! - 12/30/2013 11:17:19 AM
  • Great article. - 11/29/2013 7:00:15 PM
  • I live that life! . . . or aspiring to . . . but, even a simple life can get hectic and stressful.

    My husband and were married almost 37 years ago and on our first meeting we discussed our dreams about living simply. Shortly after we were married and moved to a beautiful old Victorian farmhouse we began creating our life of simplicity. We got an old wood stove that perfectly complimented the house and collected old fence posts and debris to burn. Soon neighbors were calling us to help them clean out their fence rows and such for the wood. We shopped at thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales. We grew our own food, organically. We bought our wheat and meat (on the hoof) from local farmers and ground our own flour and cornmeal. We subscribed to Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News magazines for inspiration and bought books supporting our goals. My husband became a woodworker and built our first home . . . using recycled materials. (A farmer was clearing a field and we were able to salvage wood for framing and a garage from his pile of trees he was soon to set fire to.) We took it and kiln dried it and built our home along with other salvaged construction materials. He has supported our family for 25 years on his carpentry skills and cabinetmaking profession and has become a handyman extraordinaire. lol He works from our home location so there is always a sense of 'life' here.

    I was a homemaker for the first 10 years and home schooled my kids for 3 years before I had to go to work for extra income and to expand my horizons. I went to school and got an assoc. degree in commercial art and went to work for the next 25 years developing career skills along the way. During this time our family adjusted to living in the fast lane--a working mom and busy extracurricular events with the family. Our simple life became a little more compromised than our original vision, but we were able to maintain our small farmstead and still grow much of our food and, most of all, maintain our values.

    Now that the kids are grown we ... - 7/22/2013 11:31:36 AM
  • I learned a great deal about getting by on less after the economic downturn of 2008. Though my husband and I managed to get back on our feet after job losses and foreclosure, our perspectives have changed about how much we truly need. When we went on a recent hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail, I learned more lessons about how to simplify and be content with very little. When you have to carry everything on your back, even a visit to town will keep you from buying all the souvenirs and trinkets you think you need to enjoy your experience. We learned to enjoy traveling by doing cheap or free activities. Our current goal is to get an RV or camper trailer and live on the road full-time. This means that although I've downsized our possessions with every move (6 times in the past 6 yrs), we still have to get rid of 90% of our belongings. Guess what, I'm so ready for this....my prayer has been for God to help us simplify our lives. I feel free letting go and also enjoying life without getting so caught up in consumerism and living the "American Dream." - 6/19/2013 4:35:38 AM
  • Fabulous article. For the most part, that is how I live ~ and I'm working on the rest. I totally believe in living in 'the Now' ~ thanks to Eckhart Tolle. :) - 12/23/2012 1:01:16 PM
  • Great article! My husband and I are entering our 50's and realize that what worked for us in our 20's, 30's, and 40's is quite different that what we'll need going forward. As other responders noted, simplification is as much about habits and mindset as it is about "stuff." I appreciated the recommendation for a book to read on the topic as well. Several of our recent 'reads' dealt with the externalities of simplification, so we appreciate one that deals with more inward considerations. Thanks! - 10/29/2012 12:45:27 PM
  • I have had the recent epiphany that I need to "unclutter" with things because I have too many of them. They get in the way and don't have a purpose other than I thought I needed them at then time. Learning to say no to requests to be a leader also has helped me reduce the clutter of having no time or always on the go to somewhere or planning that program or meeting - it helps a lot to simplify. - 8/8/2012 9:07:01 AM
  • ROGERSBABE1
    I loved this article and am working towards these concepts. - 4/17/2012 9:07:21 AM
  • I have not read a Dean Anderson article that I did not thoroughly enjoy as well as find tremendously helpful and insightful. Thank you for your work! - 2/24/2012 2:04:46 PM
  • Full of useful information. - 1/28/2012 8:12:24 PM
  • I really appreciate Dean Anderson's pieces! And this one's no different. I also find the comments from others to be instructive and inspirational. Being joyful with less is something that I am striving for daily. - 12/19/2011 5:36:17 PM
  • Self reflective consciousness sounds a bit like 'letting your light shine'. - 10/24/2011 9:34:30 AM
  • Balance sounds appealing. - 6/13/2011 7:55:40 AM
  • As always your articles are inspiring. - 4/8/2011 8:26:39 AM