When was the last time you felt truly happy? Receiving a fancy birthday gift from a friend? Having a fun (and safe) party at your apartment? Buying a brand new gadget? All these, of course, are common sources of happiness. However, they tend to bring temporary satisfaction as they cannot fuel infinite happiness from the inside. To me, true happiness is resilience and environmental sustainability.

Society tends to tell us that happiness comes from wealth, but surprisingly, there is growing research and evidence that a materially simpler lifestyle contributes to better fulfillment, life satisfaction, and happiness. Such a simpler lifestyle is known as minimalism – an approach to life that involves less consumption and more intrinsic values. I have personally benefited from being a new minimalist, so in this article, I’m going to share why I enjoy being a minimalist and some resources for you to check out!

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of pursuing a minimalist lifestyle is that it is economical and time-saving. I buy stuff only when it’s really necessary, thus I save my budget that would otherwise be spent on endless shoes, clothes, or other products. More importantly, the less stuff I buy, the more I realize that I don’t actually need those things to survive. Buying things I want but don’t need would only consume space in my apartment, waste my time and energy to organize and clean them, and distract me constantly from focusing on what I really need.

Then comes the second quite obvious benefit – environmental sustainability. Lowering consumption reduces not only emissions from production and transportation of products, but also waste generated for packaging and entering the landfill. As a minimalist, I’m also mindful of my energy consumption and transportation options. I have shorter shower times, reduce use of my cell phone or other gadgets, turn off lights and electronics when not in use, and use curtains to keep my room warm in winter. To get around, I often walk or bike over short distances and use public transportation or carpool with a friend or two for farther destinations. All these little steps reduce energy use and cut down emissions, making a positive impact on the environment.

A not very obvious but really huge benefit of minimalism is that it allows me to focus on my priorities – things that truly matter to me. This is because with fewer distractions from the outside world, I’m able to focus on self-growth, enhance productivity, and improve my overall well-being. For example, from saving time ordering stuff on Amazon or lining up in front of shopping malls, I have more time to learn a new skill (e.g, I recently learned how to ski!), volunteer, do exercises, and practice self-care (e.g, bullet journaling and playing the piano); and I spend more time with friends and family to have fun together. LESS IS MORE. Getting rid of the clutter occupying both my room and life allows me to focus on my priorities, feel grateful for what I have, and explore new opportunities and adventures.

Bullet journaling is a way for Jenny to de-stress, plan, reflect, and practice self-care! Courtesy photo.

As you can see, a minimalist lifestyle brings many benefits, but do you know there is a wide range of local opportunities in Davis for minimalists? These opportunities are economical (many are free), and some are actually my go-to’s on weekends or breaks. If you’re wondering where minimalists can go and have fun, definitely continue reading. Of course, you don’t have to be a minimalist in order to enjoy these opportunities, but I just want to make the point that being a minimalist can be exciting and pleasant!

For Nature Lovers

Many minimalists appreciate a close connection to nature, and research has shown that spending time in nature improves physical and mental well being. If you love the outdoors, you might want to consider:

Jenny takes a break from studying at the UC Davis Arboretum. Courtesy photo.

For Art Enthusiasts

Minimalists probably would save time for activities that truly matter for them. If you enjoy arts and are looking for places to go, then Davis won’t disappoint you with its free and low-cost museums and concerts! You don’t want to miss:

For Foodies or Conscious Eaters

Alternatively, if you value a balanced, healthy diet and hope to support local farmers and businesses, then make sure to explore some options below for fresh, organic, and locally produced food in Davis!

  • The Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center has various FREE food resources available for all UC Davis students. For example, Fruit & Veggie Up! provides seasonal, healthy produce and eggs on a first-come-first-serve basis, and The Pantry offers perishable foods on-site and has nonperishables ready to pre-order online. If going in-person, simply grab your student ID and enjoy.
  • Davis Farmers Market is known for its variety of certified organic produce and homemade goods. Although prices are generally slightly higher than other local shops in Davis, most organic produce is cheaper than those found elsewhere. Please don’t forget to bring your reusable bags before heading to the market!
  • UC Davis Farmer’s Market is the on-campus farmers market in partnership with the Davis Farmers Market. This on-campus market is held in fall and spring quarters and will be back in-person in April! Make sure to bring your Aggie cash if applicable.
  • Davis Food Co-op is another great spot for sustainable produce with relatively lower costs than the Farmers Market. The Co-op is collectively owned by many local businesses and households, offering not only natural, organic food but also a wide range of produce to meet the entire community’s needs.

As you can see, although the term ‘minimalism’ might sound boring or dry to you, it is actually the opposite. A minimalist is just living in their simplest but happiest life. They focus on what’s important to them and make conscious choices on consumption to achieve physical and mental well being while contributing to sustainability.

Remember, you don’t have to own a lot to be happy, because happiness stems from very simple things in life! 🙂

Additional Resources

Cool Davis resources

Organizations/clubs

Documentaries/TV shows/videos

Articles/Books

Research on Minimalism, Happiness, and Sustainability

Jenny Zhong is our Cool Davis – UC Davis Writing Program intern this year. She is crafting sustainability story models and guidance to implement a community wide effort soon as well as some other fun projects.