Minimalism and sleep

On the benefits of minimalism, the importance of sleep, and how both can help with happiness.

On minimalism

I came across The Minimalists website maybe a couple of years ago. I was intrigued. Only this weekend did I find myself getting around to their documentary.

On the surface, their message resonates at least somewhat with Buddhism, though in comparison I think minimalism is more accessible and appealing for people in general. Whereas the Buddhists would argue that non-attachment is the way to [enlightenment and] happiness--and in many ways, I don't disagree--minimalists simply discourage attachment to excessive amounts of material possessions. Minimalists see the value in owning just the right amount of quality material possessions and cultivating many enriching relationships--attachments and all to the latter (or at least no opinion on attachments to relationships). The catch is you need to assess each thing you own whether it truly adds value to your life. Minimalism is about living deliberately, owning deliberately, being free of distractions and junk--especially, of course, junk stuff.

Some key things from the documentary:

  • We are a materialist society in the everyday sense, but not in the true sense. In the everyday sense, we want to accumulate as much of the latest and coolest stuff as possible. Things that once were the latest and coolest and are now outdated become worthless, even burdensome and shameful. In this way, we are not materialist in the "true" sense. We only attribute value to things in terms of their current social worth in society. The actual things have little to no meaning, unless they are in that rare bucket of sentimental things (or essential like your passport). If we were materialistic in the true sense, we would cherish each T-shirt, each book, each pair of socks we own until they are no longer usable or reparable. We wouldn't get the latest shiny thing simply because it is shiny or cheap or free (or expensive); we would be deliberate in thinking how much value would this thing add to my life, and consequently how much will I value it. Especially today when there are many cheap or free things that are easily replaceable (or just easily break down), we find little remorse in throwing away, misplacing, or replacing these things.
  • "We can never have enough of what we don't want." Many people feel like something is missing in their lives from making them happy, and so they look to buying stuff for happiness. But then if they keep doing that, clearly just the accumulation of stuff is not serving their purpose. And then their lives get figuratively and literally more cluttered having to manage all this stuff, deal with debt, etc. It is a vicious cycle.
  • If you get less stuff, you don't need as much money*, so you don't have to work as much and then you can have more free time to live a happy, freer life doing the things you love to do.

*acknowledging there is a certain amount we all need to feel safe and secure, have a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and moderately entertain us--about $70k per adult (?) per year

Watching the documentary changed me. I'm making a greater effort to

  • purge material and non-material stuff I don't really need in my life
  • assess my priorities
  • reduce my accumulation of stuff, i.e., be more deliberate with what I get. I say "accumulation" and "get" instead of "buy" because I am including all the free stuff I can get at random places that is often junk.
  • recognize that I really do have all the income I need already--frankly, more than I need--so I can stop stressing myself out about climbing the career ladder. I'm still ambitious and always want to improve myself, but I won't stress about it.

On sleep

Similarly, after having just 5 hours of sleep last night, following a night of only 6 hours before that... today I was reminded of how important sleep is. The NPR article here has a lot of already-well-known facts about sleep deprivation, but they leave much to be desired. Glad I had time to listen to the audio as well (located at the top of the page), which had more information I did not know about. Anyway, from both the article and audio:

  • sleep deprivation may be a direct cause of Alzheimer's, which is fucking scary
  • I knew you can die from extreme sleep deprivation, but I didn't know that smaller regular bouts of it are related to shorter lifespans...
  • humans are the only species that deliberately deprives itself of adequate sleep
  • just because some people can drink a cup of coffee at night and still fall asleep at a normal time doesn't mean their sleep is unaffected; in fact, the quality tends to worsen
  • similarly, just because alcohol is a sedative and makes you sleepy and you may not get a hangover doesn't mean your sleep is unaffected; the quality tends to worsen as well
  • sleep medications are also sedatives and actually don't give you quality sleep compared to naturally induced sleep
  • melatonin is a hormone that gets you ready to sleep, and taking melatonin is a safe way of helping you prepare to sleep if you have trouble, but it is not a magic pill (good case to use it is jet lag)
  • while you age into your 40s, 50s, etc. and tend to sleep less, that doesn't mean you need less sleep; it just means your body has a harder time getting quality sleep (sad)
  • etc.

All this time, I'm thinking, will Elon Musk get Alzheimer's or just simply die young???

After almost feeling sick today for the first time in awhile, I really need to prioritize sleeping better. De-cluttering my life will certainly help. Shall I add to my 30-day challenge to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night? Then increase to 8? Yes, let's do that.