The gateway to your happy life



image found here 

Taking a glance at any best-seller list will tell you this – people want to be happy, or happier. At any point in time, there are at least a handful of books on the lists that will tell you how to find greater happiness. Whether its through the practice of mindfulness, the law of attraction, spirtuality, “leaning in” or otherwise, the common thread in all of them is gratitude. Being thankful for what you have is the cornerstone to achieving life-long contentment and is fundamental to living a meaningful life, with less.

Research in the positive psychology field points to the myriad of benefits of cultivating gratitude, which can be summed up in a few short words –

Gratitude makes good things great, and bad things better.

Here’s just a few ways:

Better relationships

Expressing your gratefulness for the things in your life, whether outwardly, or inwardly has been proven to strengthen social connections and improve relationships. I have definitely found this to be true in my own life. My boyfriend and I regularly make a point to ask each other what we are grateful for, at least a few times a week. It has brought us closer together, and has also strengthened our appreciation for each other, and made it easier for me to recognizing when he is showing his love for me. For example, my primary way of showing people I love them is through words, whereas Jordan is more likely to do practical things. I have come to realize that when he puts out my vitamins, or packs my lunch, that is his way of saying “I love you. I care about you.” And to me, that’s better than a dozen roses, or jewellery anyday.

Maximize your satisfaction and enjoyment

Think back to one of your favourite memories – the birth of your child, a vacation, time spent with a loved one, completing a marathon. Doesn’t it just give you that fluttery feeling in your heart? That’s joy, twice over, three times over, unlimited times over. You don’t always need to go on another trip or buy something new to get that feeling. Conjuring up previous happy times, is like tapping in an endless well of satisfaction; there is no limit to how much you can extract. Even in the present moment, thinking “How lucky am I?” or, “Isn’t this great!?” will help you savour it more.

Decreased need

Regularly practicing gratitude helps you hop off that hedonic treadmill. Hedonic treadmill, or hedonic adaptation, is really just a fancy way of saying while certain events may improve or decrease our happiness over the short-term, we as humans are able to adapt to our circumstances, and will generally return to a relative ‘set-point’ over time. You have likely heard that winning the lottery, or becoming a parapalegic does generally not make you any more or less happy over the long-term, despite what many believe. I would argue that if you use your lottery winnings for experience rather than things, your happiness could very well improve, provided you have an attitude of gratitude. By developing an appreciation for what you already have, you are less likely to feel the need to acquire more. Recognizing and being thankful for the opportunities, relationships and possessions you have will continue to provide satisfaction over the long term. When you’re happy with x,y and z, will x,y and z 2.0 really improve your life? Probably not. You might not have everything you want in life, but chances are you already have everything you need.

Improved self-worth and self-esteem

I used to care a lot about what other people thought of me, and live in fear of being judged. As I’ve cultivated gratitude in my life, the opinion of others, with the exception of the few who are close to me have begun to matter less and less. I feel I can be my authentic self, unapologetically. I now rely less on the validation of others to improve my self-esteem, and fall for the traps that those sneaky advertisements set, preying on people with low self-worth and self-esteem. When you become more cognizant of all your abilities and accomplishments, no matter how small, your confidence improves. We can’t be awesome all the time, and will inevitably encounter disappoinment and failure at some point, but practicing gratitude can act as a buffer against the negative emotions that might surface.

Shield against negative life events

Research also demonstrates that gratitude decreases negative emotions, such as anger, greed and jealousy. Searching for that silver lining when confronted with trauma, loss, stress or illness can boost your resiliency, making it easier to adapt, learn from, and move beyond your experiences. This can really be a tough one, I get it. How can someone possibly be grateful for receiving a cancer diagnosis, losing their job, after a break up, or divorce? In the days and months after my sister’s death at only 23 years old, I was angry and upset about the injustice of it all. I struggled for a long time afterwards with grief, depression and disbelief.  Although I miss her everyday, I have been able to transform my grief into gratitude. I am grateful for the relationship we had, for learning not to take things, people and life for granted, for realizing how truly precious and short life is, and that you should follow your heart, live life to the fullest, without regret. From this gratitude also comes resiliency. I, and you, are all able to survive, and thrive, through difficult times, should we choose to.

Practicing Gratitude

The beauty of counting your blessings is that it’s accessible, it’s free. It can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone. One of my preferred methods is keeping a gratitude journal. If you take a peek in my journal, you will see the pages and pages of the following 3 questions –



Often times, the things I’m grateful for are seemingly trivial – a funny video, not missing the bus, finally finding a recipe for gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like saw dust or fall apart when you eat it. Other times, its the bigger things – having a job I love, close relationships with family and friends, good health. When reflecting on my day, I intentionally sandwich the negative in between the positive. Once you’ve made a list of all the great things going on in your life, the stressors in your life tend to seem a little less important in the grand scheme of things.

Making the expression of gratitude a regular practice is what helped me finally crawl out of that dark pit of despair for good (I hope). At first, it was difficult to come up with more than one or two things, but over time it became easier. Just like anything, the more you do it, the more likely it is to become second nature. That is, in essence, the law of attraction in action – what consumes your thoughts ends up becoming your reality. When I neglect to reflect on the positives in my life, it becomes very apparent to myself, and to those close to me. I become more moody, less motivated and begin to look outside myself for contentment. When this happens, you will usually find me laying in bed more than usual, eating comfort foods and judging random people on Facebook. Sometimes I get really crazy and do all three at once. Hey, no one’s perfect…but having self-awareness is a good start to making positive changes, right?

Further reading

If you’re looking for a resource to improve your life, I highly recommend Sonja Lyumbomirsky’s The How of Happiness:A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want . After struggling for nearly of three quarters a decade with cyclical depression, this book was truly a game-changer for me. It’s full of practical advice and activities to help you develop habits to lead a happier, more joyful life. It’s a book I keep referring back to over and over again.

Share what you’re grateful for in the comments!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, for which I earn a small commission for sales made, however the price remains the same for you. I only provide links for products and services which I truly believe in, and fit with the message of Be Simply Free. 

These opinions are based on my own personal experience. I am neither a psychologist or psychiatrist. Although adopting an attitude of gratitude may improve your happiness levels and outlook on life, please consult your health care professional before discontinuing any medications.

Sunday Funday

image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

image via Pinterest (original source unknown)

Yes, yes, for most of us working regular jobs, Mondays have that tendency to kinda suckHere’s a little positivity, happiness and fun from around the web, that will hopefully carry you into tomorrow feeling just a little bit better.

Helping others helps us feel good in return. Here are a few (simple!) ways to help make the world a better place

Listen up – you are wonderful! If you find yourself constantly playing the comparison game, Courtney has some tips

Sophrosyne. No, I didn’t just make that word up. Check out what it is, and how to achieve it.

No kittens were harmed in the making of this video

Have you seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, yet? I’m obsessed, and inspired by the film. I could tell you all about how it fits exactly with the philosophy that drives Be Simply Free, but Jen over at Wild Sister captures it perfectly (spoiler alert!)


Have an amazing week! Feel free to share your favourite finds from around the interwebs in the comments below.



Less is more

socratesChoosing a life of simplicity does not mean you must live an austere life. No one is telling that by “buying into” simple living, that you have to sell all your possessions, shave your head and live out the rest of your life in the mountains of Nepal. You don’t have to give up modern day conveniences like internet, smart phones or flushing toilets. You don’t have to even wear second-hand clothes, if you don’t want to.

Simple living is conscious living. It requires shifting ourselves from a consumer mindset, to a citizen mindset. It requires critical thinking; looking past the messages we are exposed to everyday that we are not good enough, successful enough, smart enough, fashionable enough. As though buying the latest iPhone, or that sleek car will somehow make you everything you ever wanted to be. You know how the story goes though. As soon as you buy something, because everyone has it, the newest version comes out. You are once again no longer enough. There is a reason there are new trends every few months – preying on our deepest basic human desires to belong and to feel worthy is good for big businesses bottom line.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The past 60 years have seen us gain more material wealth, bigger houses and more money than at any other time in history, but our happiness levels have not increased. Rates of depression, anxiety and stress-related illness have, however. If we continue to look to consumer goods to meet or satisfy our needs, can we ever really find true and lasting happiness? As the wise Socrates once said (over two thousand years ago, at that), happiness cannot be found in seeking more, but in learning to enjoy less. When we recognize that our worth in society is not defined by what we have, but by our character and contributions, the acquisition of more begins to seem less and less necessary.

Choosing simplicity is not only good for the wallet, it’s good for the soul. Making a conscious decision to live outside what has become the current societal norm means that instead of falling for clever advertising and marketing ploys (“It was on sale!”), you can make rational, thoughtful decisions about what you choose to bring in your life. Living with less means that you have more time to appreciate and be grateful for what you already own. The possessions you acquire will serve you, rather than you being a slave to them. Your life satisfaction and happiness will no longer be measured by how many gadgets or shoes you have. You might find satisfaction, instead, in volunteering to help others less fortunate than you. Or, in reading a good book (borrowed from the library, of course!), that offers you new perspective and insight, helping you make positive changes in your life. In soul-nurturing quality time with good friends. In the ache in your legs after a gruelling hike, which was worth it to see the breath-taking views from the top of the mountain.  Perhaps you may begin to realize that beyond a warm bed, food in your belly and quality relationships, you really don’t need much else in life.

Choosing to decrease the amount of things you bring into your home should not be looked upon has a restriction or limitation. Shift your perspective – think of the freedom that it can bring! Less time trying to organize, clean, maintain, find, what you own. Your financial resources can be freed up to realize your dreams, that until now have seemed impossible – to become debt-free, to travel, to work less, to spend more time with family and on leisurely pursuits, to retire earlier, to quit your job – the possibilities are simply endless.

As you further embrace the idea, and travel along your journey of living with less, maybe selling everything you own, and escaping to another part of the world might not seem so crazy after all.

Less stuff. More fun.

So tell me, have you tried embracing simple living in your life? What benefits have you seen? What were the challenges?


9 little steps to help free yourself from the shackles of consumerism


We live in a society where we are constantly told we need something. A society in which we have more material possessions than ever, but are simultaneously more unhappy, more lonely and more stressed than ever. We’re working longer hours; many of us in unsatisfying jobs that drain our energy and suffocate our souls. Instead of looking inwards, many of us look towards objects to fill these gaps in our life. As though a new pair of shoes, the latest in technology or that trendy top will somehow solve our problems. We have full closets, empty wallets and deflated spirits. The notion of simplicity is catching on, though as many are realizing that money can’t buy happiness. Still, we are inundated with pressure by society, friends and family and advertisements to be consumers rather than citizens. Changing our mindset is therefore no easy or quick process. It takes time, dedication and must be a conscious daily decision to live simply.

The ABCs of buying

Sometimes making a change can be as simple as knowing our ABCs, a popular technique often used in behavioural therapies. First, we must recognize what stimulates a behaviour, known as the antecedent, for example I saw an advertisement. Next comes the behaviour (or thought), for example I want to buy the object that is being advertised. Then, follows the consequenceI bought the advertised object….(even though I already have 10 of these objects that I don’t even use) . The biggest thing you can do to end this cycle, is of course, reduce your exposure to advertising! Although I’m by no means an expert, here are a few steps I’ve taken in my journey towards simpler living.

1. Unsubscribe from flyers, newsletters and catalogues for both email and snail mail.

In Canada it’s a little more difficult than the US to get rid of admail, but even putting a sign on your mailbox saying “no flyers/junk mail” should be enough. If you get addressed admail or catalogues, call or email the company and asked to be removed from their mailing list.

2. Download an ad blocker for your browser

This removes everything from those annoying YouTube ads, to the banners on websites. I use AdBlockPlus.

3. Curb TV time

Almost a third of a 30min TV show is commercials. Not to mention the product placement, or wardrobe/vehicle/house envy that ensues!

4. Stop, or limit online shopping

If you find yourself mindlessly perusing online stores, and receiving packages in the mail a few days later wondering when exactly you ordered something, consider using an extension on your browser to stop you from accessing websites or limiting your time. I personally use Stay focusd, but there are many similar programs. (tip: this also works well for blocking distracting websites at work. Productivity win!)

5. Take a look at your reading materials

Although magazines may have entertaining and informative articles, the majority of the pages are advertisements, and most of the articles are simply advertisements in disguise. Try finding blogs or books that align with your new goals, instead. May I recommend zen habits, be more with less and the art of simple…all my personal favourites.

6. Don’t shop when stressed, lonely, sad, bored

Basically, try not to step into a store unless you are going for a specific purpose. Make a list before you go, and only buy what is on the list. Replace shopping with other activities to help you deal with difficult emotions – call a friend, have a bath, exercise, listen to some good music, journal, read a book. Shopping may make you feel better in the short term, bug the feeling won’t last.

7. Exchange your “wants” and “needs” with “likes”

Instead of saying “I need a new scarf”…”I want a new cellphone”..try shifting your vocabulary, and mindset, by saying “I like that ______”. You can always admire things without actually needing to own them.

8. Take stock of what you already have

Organize your closets and cupboards in a way that makes sense to you. Be honest with yourself if you actually use everything you have. Consider donating duplicates or unused items. If you’re feeling especially brave, try project 333..too extreme for you? Try 66 items, 100..anything to help you evaluate what you own. You will likely realize that you continue to wear or use many of your favourites, while other things sit around collecting dust.

9. Borrow over buy

If you need something for a short, or for a longer term, don’t rush out right away to buy it. Ask around – on social media, at work, family members. Try websites like kijiji, craigslist or free cycle. Many people willing to share what they have. My partner and I both recently borrowed shoes from friends to attend a formal dinner, rather than buying a new pair we may only wear a few times. I would also be remiss to not mention how wonderful libraries are..(hint:you are already paying for the books, CDs and DVDs through your tax dollars!

So, tell me…what are your tricks for getting rid of a consumer mindset?