From InterAction 112, published Christmas 2022
In managing his M.E. Oliver Sharman found that less is definitely more. He shares his journey in adopting the concept of minimalism.
In hindsight there were many signals from my body which my mind chose to ignore and I should have been able to see them having lived with M.E. for more than seven years at this point. I am one of the lucky sufferers whose symptoms became so mild at times that I questioned if I still had the illness, however this was a relapse that I had not experienced before. I dread to think how I may have coped with such a relapse in symptoms before my introduction to the concept of minimalism.
Having stumbled across this life changing concept totally accidentally through watching a documentary (which I’d assumed to be on minimalist design and architecture), I found the most important mindsight shift up to that point in my life for my health, wellbeing, finances, relationships, work and as it transpired some months later, my M.E. symptoms.
To adopt minimalism is to live intentionally, questioning the things you do, buy, think and say. This is probably the way that we were taught to live before the age of next day delivery, finance options and online retail. But as someone in their early 30s, I have known nothing other than a world of constant connectivity and instant gratification. Many of us believe in quality over quantity, but lead a quantity over quality life. So, I set about removing different things from my life.
Firstly physical things: unworn clothes, unread books. Then onto more digital stuff such as social media. l found that by owning less, I had the mental space and clarity to focus on what was important and eradicate harmful tendencies in a calm manner.
Upon being sold donated, recycled or tossed, all the stuff I had once purchased to enhance my enjoyment of life now left me feeling liberated. What could go wrong? As it turned out, a lot.
It became all too easy to be swept up by all of life’s pleasures, particularly when my new ‘Less stuff, more life’ approach was living up to its pithy promise. I had more time to focus on things I actually enjoyed, and see people I actually liked. More money to spend on experiences. More mental bandwidth to deal with any personal issues. More time to focus on creative endeavours and more meaningful conversations due to having much less anxiety. More, more, more.
I let slide my once careful management of my M.E., which as many of you reading this will know, can have huge repercussions on one's ability to handle daily life. But here is where the benefits of my new found simple life unexpectedly shone.
Benefits for health
With all of the clutter in my world diminished I could focus all of my depleted energy on my health. Setting up a recovery based routine was my focus and there was nothing to pull attention away from it. I reduced the stressors in my life and cultivated a daily practice of meditation and mindfulness which helped to further change my outlook on life.
Minimalism taught me that less truly is more, to slow down, be present and grateful for everything I have in life. All things that in hindsight, my M.E. was trying to tell me for years prior.
There is loads of information online about minimalism and the beauty is that you can do as much or as little as you are capable of doing when scaling down the excess from your life. Of course the risk of exhaustion for people living with M.E. may be heightened by scaling down one's possessions, so your health should always be the priority. There are loads of great free apps available for selling/donating your things in which somebody comes to collect the item from you. Start slowly, one item a day perhaps and enlist the help of a friend, family member or carer and you may just inspire another person to simplify.
I hope that in reading this you find some inspiration, solace or insight into how much there is to gain from life by simply letting go.
For more insights on life visit www.oliversharman.co.uk
Action for M.E. does not recommend any individual treatments or management approaches. Instead, we offer information to allow you to make informed decisions about what is right for you. Because we don’t yet understand the biology of M.E., there are no targeted treatments that work for the majority. This differentiates M.E. from other conditions where better understood biomarkers can offer clearer treatment pathways and protocols. So a treatment approach that you find effective may or may not have a different impact on someone else with the illness, and vice versa.