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'Simple Living' Reaps Health and Financial Benefits

Simple living is not really that simple—but results from a recent unpublished study at University of the Sciences indicate that reducing the clutter and narrowing one’s possessions, activities, and thoughts can play a key role in boosting their mental and physical health.

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“People generally look to simplify their lives for a number of reasons—most commonly after they get fed up with the stress and chaos of their daily lives,” said Heidi Freeman, PhD, assistant professor of exercise science and wellness management at USciences. “However, simple living requires a lot of patience while adjusting, and generally entails a good amount of physical work.”

This voluntary lifestyle favors values such as family and the environment over material consumption and income, said Dr. Freeman. In fact, according to her research, 90 percent of people who identified as part of the “simple living movement” reported improved physical health after voluntarily making a change to earn less money. Nearly the same amount of respondents also experienced an improvement in their mental health.

The following tips can help an individual begin to simplify their lifestyle:

  • Decide what is unnecessary. Identify what is most important to you (spending time with family, career, etc.) and eliminate everything else (cable TV, extracurricular activities, etc.).

  • Start with small changes. Set aside one 'screen free' day each week, learn a few new recipes, or take a DIY class. Once you've mastered one change, then you can take on something more challenging.

  • Learn to say ‘no.’ Schedules are often jam-packed with activities, chores, appointments, responsibilities, and urgent tasks. In order to simplify your lifestyle, you must be able to turn things down to eliminate some of this schedule clutter.

  • Get moving. Rather than using your vehicle to get to places, consider walking, bicycling, or using public transportation.

  • Spend less. The less you buy, the less you spend. For instance, ditch eating out and start preparing more meals at home—this can also increase the amount of quality time spent with your loved ones.

“A common conception about this style of living is that environmental sustainability and scaling back on consumption requires unpleasant sacrifices – these are things that people don’t want to do,” Dr. Freeman said. “However, people who have adapted to this lifestyle reap the benefits, including a higher quality of life and a better state of health overall.”

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