How to live a simple life and be happy (without increasing your income)
Do you sometimes wonder how you can live simply and feel happier?
I totally get how you are feeling.
I moved to Vancouver from Tokyo a month ago, and I was so jealous of everyone around me in the beginning, but I didn’t want to keep feeling unhappy.
If you are like me, you sometimes spend too much time thinking “If I have this much money then I can get XX, and I will be happier”. This can lead us to lose many important moments in our life.
So how can we start appreciating what we already have in our lives?
What if I told you that you can be happy just as you are right now without increasing your income?
That sounds good! But how can you do that?
We will explore 6 tips to be happy now by living a simpler life!
Ready to go?
Let’s do this!
Do you need more money to be happy?
I really used to believe more money = happiness and I even left my Equine Management course at college in England after I had made tons of effort to get in.
So why did I leave something I always loved behind?
Well, I believed working for a horse stable wouldn’t bring much money to me and I wouldn’t be able to own my horse in the future. So I decided to change my degree to business to own my horse in the future!
But this was a big mistake.
Why is that? – I want to share something with you that someone told me and I have never ever forgotten.
“You may be able to own a horse if you work for an investment bank. But you can’t stay with your horse all the time because you’ll be busy working. So which would your horse like more, the person who takes care of him all the time or someone who visits once in a while?”
Of course, my horse will like someone who feeds him and takes care of him more than someone who visits once a week for a couple of hours!
So what’s the main takeaway from my story?
Sometimes, we may think if we make a lot of money, we can get what we want but it’s not true! We don’t need to be super-rich to be happy! Does that make sense?
In Japan, we have a saying called ”侘び寂び Wabi-Sabi” which means if you look carefully at what you already have, you will find the beauty and value in it and it will lead you to find happiness from simple living.
There is one more thing that the same person asked me many times that got me thinking about money and happiness.
How much money do you have to make before you will be happy? What does being successful mean to you?
I think I told him if I become a billionaire it means I’m rich and successful enough. Then he said,
I believe even if you become a billionaire, you won’t be satisfied and you will seek more and more money to feel happiness.
I couldn’t understand why becoming richer and richer wouldn’t increase my happiness, but I really understand what he meant now.
So what is that?
If you believe more money means more happiness, you will constantly set a goal and believe that when you reach the goal, you will be happy. This means you’ll spend so much time not feeling happy.
What if I tell you, you can be happy with a simpler life?
Ready to jump into 8 tips to be happy now?
YES! Let’s do this!
8 tips to be happy now by living simply
1. Practice gratitude
Unsurprisingly, we often get busy pursuing things to purchase or goals to achieve, and we forget the important things we ALREADY have in our hands. The key to a happier life is to focus more on the present moment.
I know some people recommend writing down things you felt grateful about at the end of the day, but I don’t like writing much. It might be because I got used to typing so much that my hand is no longer equipped to use a pen and paper.
So what can you do about it?
I have a great recommendation for you that is simple but works really well. Do gratitude meditation before you start your day in the morning.
Some meditation practitioners say it’s better to meditate right after you wake up, but I prefer meditating after doing these things:
- Tidying up the room
- Brushing my teeth
- Washing my face
- Making herb tea/coffee
- Finding a quiet place where you can feel calm
Now you may be wondering what kind of gratitude meditation you should do?
If you are a meditation beginner, I always recommend guided meditation!
For example, this meditation on video is 5-minutes long and I find it’s the perfect thing to do before you start your day!
Here are some things you may feel grateful about:
- You have roof over your head
- You feel cozy and warm at home thanks to the heater
- Sunny day – Makes you feel good and provides your Vitamin D
- You are alive, breathing healthily
- You have a hobby that you can immerse yourself in
- You have a job to support yourself
- You don’t need to starve. You have food to eat everyday
- You have friends or a partner who understands you
- Your pet who’s always with you and makes you feel good and needed
- You have a dream
When you feel like “There is nothing I can appreciate about my life! I’m so miserable!”, go back to something really basic like you have a roof over your head and you don’t get cold or wet.
In gratitude meditation, you don’t need to have a big object you want to appreciate. It can be simple!
If you want to learn more about meditation, check out this beginner’s guide to meditation I wrote! It’s the first step on the path to a simple life.
2. Only compare yourself to yourself
Have you ever compared yourself with someone you know or strangers on Instagram before?
I struggled with this issue recently. As I mentioned, I met some Japanese women living here when I just moved to Vancouver.
One woman I met up with isn’t working because her husband is earning enough money. And I thought “Why can’t my boyfriend earn more money so that we can afford nicer things and live in a nicer apartment!?”.
Another time, I met up with another Japanese woman who’s also not working currently because her partner tells her “You don’t need to worry about money”. Then I felt “Why can’t we afford a car like them and go anywhere we want to like them?”.
Can anyone relate to me? Feeling jealous of what other people have and feeling miserable about yourself.
So what can you do about it? – My therapist gave me some great advice and I want to share it with you.
1. Why comparing with others doesn’t help
You may often hear comparing yourself with others doesn’t help.
But why is that?
Because you and your friend may be different ages. Your life stage and your friend’s life stage may be different. Especially if you are comparing yourself with a stranger, you never know what the person went through in his/her life.
The person you just met or you follow on Instagram might have made a huge effort to build their wealth. Or their partner or parents are rich.
You see why envying others doesn’t help. But how can you stop doing that?
2. Only compare yourself with yourself
Here is something that I’ve found useful.
Since comparing yourself with others doesn’t help, what’s helpful is to compare yourself with where you were before.
For example, I may feel miserable about not having a car, but before I came to Canada, my boyfriend and I were not happy about our apartment and the neighborhood. There were lots of cars and it was not safe to walk around on the roads.
Also, I felt like I didn’t fit into Japanese culture well.
So where am I now? I like Vancouver better than where we used to live and we are happier about our apartment and neighborhood! I also feel like I like the culture way better than Japan, it’s slow and simple living.
Do you see the difference between comparing yourself with others and comparing yourself with where you were before?
This is the simple but powerful key to a happy life!
3.Prioritize what to spend money on for more joy
Have you ever wished you had more money so that you could buy more outfits or cosmetics?
I totally have, and I still do sometimes.
Here is something I always keep in mind. Since I don’t have an unlimited amount of money, I need to prioritize what to spend my money on.
Does that make sense?
Suppose you are earning the same as your friend. Your friend may be a person who focuses more on outfits, cosmetics, or something that makes them look pretty.
On the other hand, your focus is on your health, so you spend money on groceries and massages (which is me!).
My point is, it’s important to know what your priority is right now. I know what makes me happy is eating well and living mindfully. So, I don’t hesitate to spend money on what makes me happy!
Also, try to spend money on experiences, not material things.
Research suggests experiences bring more long-lasting happiness to people vs. shopping.
When I was going through bipolar disorder, I bought a bunch of stuff on Amazon. But I realized I didn’t use most of it when I moved to a new place, so I want to share some tips with you.
- When you want something, write it down on your phone’s notepad and leave it for a week
- Come back after a week and think about whether you still want it
- If it’s an expensive purchase, you may want to ask yourself “Will I still be using this in one year, 5 years, and 10 years? Will it still be valuable to me after a while?”
4. Start doing what you want to do NOW
Do you sometimes wish you could go on holiday more often or take a week off and not work at all? When you feel this way, you may think “I can’t afford a holiday and I’m sad”.
I totally get it. What if I told you, you don’t necessarily need to stay sad about it?
My way of thinking changed after I read one book. It was a Japanese book called “How to start doing what you love as a living”.
What was the author talking about that moved me so much?
If you can’t do something you want RIGHT NOW, you won’t be able to do what you want to do forever in your life. If you want coffee, get off your chair and go grab coffee!
Does this make sense to you?
Maybe you can’t go on a holiday for a week, but you can go for a picnic during your lunch break with your partner or co-worker and it may be really refreshing.
Maybe you can’t fly to Hawaii, but you can put a chair outside and enjoy some sun!
So get off your work desk and go do whatever you want to do right now! It can be as small as going to the toilet!
If you keep doing this, you will be able to achieve bigger things in the future because you kept training yourself to pursue what your heart tells you to follow.
Believe it or not, it’s usually YOU stopping you from doing whatever you want. Maybe you are telling yourself “I’m too busy, I don’t have time!” which I totally get.
But you’re the only one who can sort out your schedule and do whatever you want!
If you are feeling like you are juggling too many things at the same time, check out my healthy coping mechanisms for when life gets tough for more tips!
5. Adjust your expectations
If your happiness is dependent on money, you may feel like you may not be happy until your income increases.
So how can you feel happy without increasing your income?
Well, how about you start exploring what makes you feel happy when spending less money? Here are some examples:
- Invite your friends and hang out at home instead of going out
- Instead of drinking at a bar, start exploring making your own mix drinks at home
- Instead of going to a massage, buy a good quality massage machine (I have a foot massage machine from Japan!)
- Make bath salt instead of buying it from a store
- Learn how to cook and cook for your friends instead of eating out
- Make a quality coffee and pancakes at home and enjoy brunch
- Instead of eating out, bring lunch and enjoy walking around
- Instead of taking a taxi, walk or take a bus
- Make lists of things you want or need and wait for a week to see if you really need them
- Instead of buying something, see if you can DIY and have fun!
- Learn self-care
6. Identify the area of life you are unhappy about
So far, I’ve been talking about how you can be happy where you are right now, but if you are REALLY unhappy about certain areas of your life, I suggest you identify that first.
Why is that?
Because I believe we can’t be truly happy if we ignore the pain in our life. What I mean by pain is, you may not be satisfied with your:
- Relationship with finance
- Social life
- Overall health
- Social life
It may hurt or feel discomfort to face the truth. But if you are here, hoping to be truly happy, you may want to give it a try.
Pick one area of your life you feel you want to change to bring you enlightenment in your life so that you can start living the life that aligns with your intention more!
How can you do that?
Why don’t you check out my guide to learn about how to be connected with yourself in a simple way!
This free tool from my health coaching school can help you identify which area of your life you REALLY want to change to enhance happiness simply.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy until you resolve what you want to work on. Appreciate you took the first step to becoming in charge of your life, and be happy with what you have right now!
7. Focus on Work-life Balance
Do you feel like you are missing out on time with your loved ones because you are married to your work? Or maybe you work from home and find difficulty detaching your personal life from your work life? I hear you.
I used to be a software engineer and I had the possibility of earning much more money. But I decided to say goodbye to my career. Why is that?
I found being a software engineer was hurting my body from long hours of sitting, and it was worsening the knee injury I had 4 years ago. Although I tried to stretch whenever I could, I found a 9-5 job is not for me.
My point is, it may be worth re-evaluating your work for your own happiness. Ask yourself if it’s worth keeping a high-stress job for the sake of money? Have you ever found yourself buying a lot of things to compensate for the stress from work?
I’ve been there. Think of it this way, if you take a lower-paying job you love, you might be happier buying fewer things. You may no longer feel the need to compensate for your stress with shopping because you feel a higher sense of accomplishment from your work! This may leave even more money in your pocket!
How to find work-life balance
- Listen to this joy-based spending podcast by Manisha Thakor, MBA, CFA, CFP, to re-evaluate your spending and find out how much money you need to have a satisfactory life.
- Look for new job based on aspects that are important to you
- Stop saying “Yes” at your workplace for the sake of being a good person. This will help you reduce overwhelm and focus on what you need to do
- If you work from home, put away your laptop after work to create some boundaries. I usually put my laptop in the kitchen drawer after 5pm!
8. Get out of busyness now
One thing I noticed about when I’m busy is, I get used to being busy. And I start creating tasks I don’t necessarily need to sort out at the moment! Does this happen to you?
When I was extremely busy after I moved to Canada dealing with my visa-related things, all I wanted was inner peace! Maybe you treat yourself with buying something, but what you truly need may be some rest!
So how can we get out of our complicated life?
Instead of continuing to worry and preparing for a “what if” situation, why don’t we give our full attention to the present moment? One way to do this is to spend time meditating. It sounds difficult to sit still and not get distracted when you’re busy, doesn’t it? I hear you.
The main reason why meditation works really well is, it helps our nervous system calm down by focusing on breathing. When we are busy and overwhelmed, our breathing gets shallow and it causes us more stress, unfortunately.
You may feel like you don’t have time for meditation. But the thing is, you don’t need to meditate for an hour to get the benefit! You can start with 1-minute meditation, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 9 minutes, to 12 minutes! If you want true relaxation, you can try 30 minutes of meditation!
At first, I was doing 10-15 minutes of meditation, but I found it really hard to concentrate. So starting short and making it longer is a good idea! If you are not sure where to start, make sure to check out my complete meditation guide for beginners!
My second piece of advice is to focus on less stuff in your life. I believe we simply have too many things to do! Instead of trying 10 different things, why don’t you give your attention to 3 things a day! When we put fewer things on your to-do list, it is proven that you actually accomplish more!
I used to have gazillion things to get done for the day, and I was always unable to finish them. So I felt unproductive. But the thing is, I had too many things to do!!!
- Write down on your calender or tool management tool (I love Kanban flow!) three big things you want focus on for the day
- Check out this guide to find out how to narrow down and focus on three things to do per day