7 Consumption Movements Lead the Way to Wellbeing

The Santi Asoke Buddhist Reform Movement of Thailand, the group I studied, were serious about reducing their consumption. They only had two suits of clothing (and no shoes), furnished their houses sparsely, had no cars, ate communally, and otherwise gave everything they owned to the collective. This is austere, to be sure, but there are plenty of other movements that inspire individuals to consume less as the path to wellbeing and happiness. Let’s look at a few and maybe you’ll find one that inspires you.

Wellbeing tip #128: Consume less like Buddhists

I learned about reducing consumption while living in an intentional Buddhist community in Thailand. While the capitalist model of development centers on material accumulation, the Asoke Buddhists aim to release attachment to the material world and attain spiritual freedom. For Remember a core Buddhist tenant is “moderation.” Not luxury nor asceticism, but enough. The key question is figuring out how much is enough for each individual. Have you thought about that lately?

Wellbeing tip #129: Embrace simplicity as down-shifters

The Voluntary Simplicity movement (AKA down shifters) advocates a simple lifestyle that strips away what is inessential to make room for what’s important. As Thoreau would say, “Life near the bone where its sweetest.”

Cecile Andrews, a leader in the Voluntary Simplicity movement, explains in her 2009 edited volume, Less is More:

Simplicity is about much more than ten tips to save money. Ultimately, Simplicity is asking yourself: ‘How do I really want to live? What truly makes me happy? What are my actions doing to the planet? How does my lifestyle contribute to the greater good?’ Ultimately, Simplicity is about knowing who you are, being clear about your values, understanding what brings true wellbeing. It’s cutting through the commercial static of manipulation and deceit that says that the consumer society is the good life.

This sounds very much like what we are trying to do here with INTENT 365.

Wellbeing tip #130: Shed the excess with minimalists

Despite Voluntary Simplicity’s common sense message and approach, it never quite took off the way the Minimalist movement has recently. Perhaps it was just a matter of timing. The most prominent voices in the Minimalist movement are Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalistand Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, a.k.a, The Minimalists

The latter define minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. Again this message is familiar. Joshua Becker doesn’t define it, but instead “encourages each reader to discover their own journey and the far-reaching benefits that come from owning less.” With 58.6 thousand and 116 thousand twitter followers respectively, what these minimalists have to say clearly resonates within a global community that’s searching for a more satisfying way to live.

Wellbeing tip #131: Savor life with slow folks

While the focus of minimalism (and other consumption-reducing movements) seems to be on material goods, the real point is to shift focus from things, which don’t bring happiness, to that which does, like relationships and time to spend in fulfilling ways. As we’ll talk about in a later month, satisfaction comes in reflecting on the big picture of our lives—what we have that makes our life worth living.

The Slow Movement, with their focus on nonmaterial aspects of living that increase wellbeing, really has this figured out. The slow movement started in Italy as a rebuke against (American) fast food culture. To Italians, food should be savored in good company, ideally in a lovely setting. The slow concept has since expanded into Citta Slow, cities all over the world where “living is good.” Sounds good to me!

Wellbeing tip #132: Shrink your stuff in a tiny house

Another global minimalist movement focuses on tiny houses, which are 500 square feet or less. Not much space for stuff in one of these! The key is to have outdoor space where you can enjoy being close to nature. And maybe live in a place where the weather is fine for spending time outside.

Wellbeing tip #133: Be self-sufficient as homesteaders

Followers of the modern homesteader movement aim to achieve self-sufficiency like our pioneer ancestors, yet with the benefit of modern conveniences. Even apartment dwellers can be homesteaders with gardens on rooftops and balconies. The focus is not on reducing consumption per se, but homesteaders significantly reduce the things they buy – opting to make their own. And in this way they reduce waste as well.

Wellbeing tip #134: Cut fossil fuels in Transition Towns

The Transition movement is a global effort to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy & promote sustainable lifestyles. Collective action happens at the local level, with a Handbook for new Transition Towns to follow. The key is reducing consumption of the main thing that gets in our way of living well long into the future.

Next week…

We’ll get more specific about how you can find your sufficiency sweet spot, with 12 tips to reduce your consumption.


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