Minimalism Expert Rachel Jonat On How Simple Intentions Can Benefit Your Mental Health
By Joan Goodchild As an expert and sought-after speaker on the topic of minimalism, Rachel Jonat's signature phrase on her blog, The Minimalist Mom, is "a rich life with less stuff." But she's evolved in her minimalist journey, which began in 2010 when she felt bogged down with all of the items and stuff involved in becoming a new mom, and began pursuing a life with significantly fewer possessions. Recently she began advocating not only for clearing out and living with less physical stuff, but also with less brain clutter.
In her new book, The Joy of Doing Nothing, Jonat offers suggestions and reasons for taking time daily to do nothing.
"We are so connected in ways no other generation has been," Jonat said. "We don't have a lot of silence in our life and we have very little time in our lives when we aren't processing things. It is very draining. Doing nothing is an important wellness piece that's missing in our lives."
Jonat's been a well-known resource on living minimally for years. Her blog was launched as a guide and inspiration for decluttering, where she took readers through her journey of cleaning out her life and selling items to pay off debt. Now fully entrenched in the minimalist lifestyle, it only makes sense, she said, that her philosophy would evolve to include her mental space, as well.
Her new book is about "trying to find pockets of time to do nothing," she said. "To re-energize throughout the day with little breaks of undistracted time. For busy parents, it's about turning yourself off, ignoring the pangs of guilt and simply being for a while."
That means pausing throughout the day to really do nothing. Really. No checking your phone in the grocery store line. No taking a mental inventory of the chores you need to get done that afternoon. Jonat suggests we pause throughout the day, take a deep breath, and choose to be mindful for a small portion of time. It can happen anywhere, she said. Waiting in line to check out is just one example.
For Jonat, choosing to incorporate more mindful, peaceful moments throughout her day has been transformative.
"As I've practiced it myself, I've become more aware of mental space and what I give my time and attention to, and what I fill my brain with. I think it is an important part to trying to live an intentional life. I value being present, and time with my family, and the call to electronics can really take you away from that," she said.
How can you incorporate doing nothing into your life and wellness practice? Like much of what Jonat espouses, it's really quite simple. Start by carving out a dedicated five or 10 minutes daily that is spent doing nothing.
"Find a ten-minute window in the day that you can give to yourself," Jonat advised. "Say 'I'm not going to check my phone.' It might mean just going to pour glass of water and then sit. Just be awake with nothing distracting you. For parents, it could mean shutting down for a bit before the kids come home and give ten minutes to emptying the brain of work stress or other lingering stress."
Build from there to several times a day. Jonat says it is about allowing yourself to be bored, periodically. And as our minds clear, we can more easily connect with our spiritual side.
"When people come back from a vacation in the woods, with no electronics and distractions, they have their eyes wide open as to how that peaceful that makes them feel," said Jonat. "That's what this practice is about too. This is really about thinking about what time costs you. Make a guide for yourself and be intentional about what you give your time to each day."