As I write this, I am on my second month of using a menstrual cup. Since I switched to this sustainable menstrual hygiene product, I’ve been most fascinated by how empty my trash can is while I have my monthly visitor. And how few trips to the loo I have to make, to change a pad or a tampon. And of course, how I’ve not had to spend a single rupee this month or last on menstrual products. Menstrual cups’ convenience, environmental and economical benefits make them an essential part of a minimalist lifestyle, for menstruators. (If you also want to make the switch, check out this article about 7 things you should know about using menstrual cups.)
It so happens that I’m menstruating in the idyllic state of Goa. Imbued in tropical breeze, here, one almost feels guilty for having materialistic desires. While Goa is fast developing, with many city dwellers investing here in property, restaurants and boutique shops, it’s still far from the insatiable capitalist hunger of urbanism. Even in the busiest bars, there is an undercurrent of susegad- the Portugese philosophy of simply being. Relaxed, and in no rush to get to the next party, or show off the who’s who you know at the one you’re present. Well, for the most part. As my partner commented the day we landed here, ‘all the tension melts away from your body, when you land in Goa’.
I always overpack for Goa. Every single time, I end up using only half of the outfits I bring here. I never wear the one pair of heels I carry (just in case). Nor do I use my foundation or the bright pink lipstick I so love back in Delhi. A dab of chapstick and I’m good for the club here. This time around, while packing, I realised that all my tropical vacation clothes – the bikinis, cover ups, shorts and tank tops – reside in one corner of my cupboard. This time, instead of scurrying around for what to carry, I reached for the bag of beach wear and sun dresses that I don’t wear back in Delhi. I didn’t have to spend more than 10 minutes on packing. My minimalist lifestyle began before I reached here.
I’m not just a vacation minimalist, though.
I feel overwhelmed by things – physical objects that require space and maintenance, and have very little utility. I don’t like owning designer outfits I’ll wear once or twice in my life. I don’t like chunky jewellery, or bright coloured nail polish. I’m happy with just one scrunchie, and you’ll often find me wearing the same five outfits on repeat week after week. My mother finds this baffling – so un-girly of me to not want to shop or be excited by new clothes. Over the years though, she has come to understand and appreciate that it takes very little to satisfy me.
Yet, it takes me to visit a place like Goa to accept my own minimalism. There’s something liberating about having less and doing more. This time around, as I watched grey could roll towards us, cloaking the bright blue sky, I decided to look up the mental health benefits of minimalism.
The mental health benefits of minimalism, or connection between minimalism and wellbeing are not well-researched.
We know that a minimalist lifestyle is easy on the pocket, and is good for the environment. But, that freeing feeling it brings with it warrants exploration about what it does to our minds and souls. One study published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology by Kasey Lloyd and William Pennington talks about five reasons why minimalism is good for wellbeing – autonomy, competence, mental space, awareness and positive emotions.
I’ve been on all sides of material possession – had more than I needed, less than I needed, and just the right amount. I can vouch that a minimalist lifestyle brings about all five. But let’s break it down.
- Autonomy – Do you remember the iconic dialogue from Fight Club, ‘the things you own end up owning you.’? Tyler Durden’s anger towards a consumerist, materialistic lifestyle is actually minimalism simmering under the surface. He feels trapped by the things he owns. At some level, all of us who’ve accrued objects feel this way. It’s only to a certain extent that money and possessions make us happy. Once our basic needs our taken care of, and we have rainy day funds in place, happiness stops being impacted so much by money or possessions. Instead, the things we own start owning us.
- Competence – Having less means having less to take care of or worry about, and in turn, having more time to do cerebral and physical activities that make us more competent. Things need maintenance and upkeep. The less we have, the less we have to maintain.
- Mental Space – Just like having too many possessions eats into our time, it also eats into our mental space. Say you have too many curious that need daily cleaning. Ensuring that the things you own are in good shape means you’re spending mental energy on those things, and there’s only a limited amount of mental space we have in a day.
- Awareness – Materialism and consumerism can drown out our own inner voice. When we’re caught in the cycle of acquiring things, we often lose sight of the intangibles we truly want or believe in. The North Indian culture (especially in Delhi) is all about who drives which car, and wears which label. Before we know it, we begin to get defined by the price tag on our bag and not the book we carry inside it.
- Positive Emotions – A minimalist lifestyle is freeing. When one is not judged by things they own, they can tap into the positive emotions and experiences they can have and offer. A minimalist philosophy values experiences over possessions. So yes, you do chase something – but that something (positive experiences) make you a more positive person.
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87