Removing the cruft

There’s a lot of unnecessary things that we fill up our lives with, things that we feel we need or want, but which aren’t really adding value to us or even worse might be directly harmful to us or the environment around us. Many of us will have almost addictive relationship to them. Examples are many – but to give you a few: coffee, candy, television, alcohol, meat, cigarettes, porn, electronic gadgets, clothes, money.

One of the goals I have is to remove some of all the unneccessary foods, possessions and behaviors that I have in order to make my life simpler and make me feel better. At first I thought that scaling back would make me feel that I was not enjoying life as much, or that I was withholding things from myself – but then I reflected back on how it has been to be a vegetarian for many years and realized that it very seldom felt like that. Rather, the feeling when you choose to remove these unnecessary things from your life is a sense of freedom.

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To align with this I decided about a year ago to remove alcohol. Alcohol, in modest amounts can be good for you, but it is in no way essential to our lives. The average alcohol consumption by a Swede in their mid-twenties (that included me too!) is for sure not in the “healthy” range. Furthermore alcohol has a number of negative effects – the obvious one being hangovers, but also lower quality sleep and so on. Removing alcohol wasn’t hard, and now one year later, I feel once more a sense of freedom, rather than deprivation.

So, why exclude something completely? Why not just lower your consumption? Well, the fact of the matter is that psychologically, I noticed that I tend to engage more in the behavior than I think – if I say “I will lower my consumption” rather than quitting completely. Exceptions are easily made and easily forgotten – and therefore I find that aiming to completely abstain is much more effective. However, I also believe in being flexible, for example: during the last 6 months I have also stopped drinking coffee. I used to be a heavy coffee drinker (think 1-3 cups / hour), but I wanted to get away from the sense of “need” and the “addiction” that I had to coffee. However, this doesn’t mean that I cannot once in a while enjoy a great cup of espresso – like when I’m in Italy or at a place with a great barista. The key is just to have the policy of not drinking coffee and then only allowing in rare and well-defined exceptions.

So, what next? For the next upcoming months I’ve decided that I am continuing on the same track as with coffee and alcohol and I’m going to be only drinking tea, milk and water. Milk for the nutrients it provides and tea because I enjoy it & it has few negative effects.

Photo by: Hypergurl

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