As I mentioned in my post 7 Benefits of Minimalism, one of the key benefits of minimalism for me is it calms me as a Highly Sensitive Person. A lot of people feel stressed or unsettled in a cluttered environment. But Highly Sensitive People particularly feel the effects of chaos and clutter. Too much sensory information, including visual clutter, can easily make a Highly Sensitive Person feel overwhelmed and stressed.
I already knew clutter makes me feel unsettled and stressed. But after realizing I am a Highly Sensitive Person, it became even more important to strive for a simple, minimalist life. In fact, I think Highly Sensitive People NEED minimalism.
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What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
But first, what exactly does being a Highly Sensitive Person mean? The field of study of Highly Sensitive People is a fairly new area of research, with Dr. Elaine Aron spearheading it in the 1990s. She describes Highly Sensitive People as those who “have a sensitive nervous system, are aware of subtleties in their surroundings, and are more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.” Dr. Aron estimates Highly Sensitive People make up approximately 15 – 20% of the population. However, it is still not very well understood by the majority of people.
Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know what a Highly Sensitive Person was. One day I read an article about it and it was as if I was reading about myself! I realized many things I thought were just my own little idiosyncrasies, were actually things other people experienced too. And better yet, there was even a name for it! It was a relief to find out that other people experienced these same things.
After realizing being a Highly Sensitive Person is a “thing”, it became easier to acknowledge and accept these aspects of myself. And make adjustments in my life where possible. I realized by accepting them as part of who I am and working with them, rather than against them, I could live a happier, calmer life.
Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People
These are some common characteristics of Highly Sensitive People. The more of these things you relate to, the higher the likelihood that you are a Highly Sensitive Person too.
1. Sensory information easily overwhelms you
Things like loud sounds, bright lights, strong smells or uncomfortable fabric textures can overwhelm and unsettle a Highly Sensitive Person. Large crowds or busy environments have the same effect.
2. Multi-tasking stresses you out
Highly Sensitive People feel stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed if they have a lot to do in a short amount of time. Having too much to do, being overly busy or rushing leaves a highly sensitive person feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
3. Violence in movies, TV shows or media deeply disturbs you
Witnessing violence in TV shows, movies or news stories deeply upsets and disturbs Highly Sensitive People. It’s hard for them to get the image or idea of it out of their minds. And they can feel unsettled about it for weeks afterwards.
4. You need quiet time alone after a busy day
After a busy or overwhelming day, Highly Sensitive People find themselves desperate for some quiet time. Often needing to spend time alone in a calm space, such as a quiet, softly lit room. Highly Sensitive People need time and space to shut the world out and recharge. This is true particularly after a busy day or after experiencing a lot of sensory information.
5. You carefully plan your days to avoid overwhelming situations
Highly Sensitive People work hard to plan and schedule their days to avoid situations that overwhelm or upset them. They make sure to provide themselves with ample time to complete tasks. And avoid having to do more than one task at the same time or in a short amount of time whenever possible.
6. You are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine or hunger
Highly Sensitive People tend to strongly feel the effects of caffeine, feeling shakey or jittery after consuming it. Their bodies also tend to be very sensitive to hunger. When they become overly hungry, it greatly affects their mood and ability to concentrate or complete tasks.
7. You have a complex inner dialogue and imagination
Highly Sensitive People often find themselves getting lost in your own thoughts and have a deep and complex inner life.
Highly Sensitive People tend to replay and analyze conversations and experiences in their minds. They often go over all the possible different outcomes that could have happened in their mind. Highly Sensitive People are often told they worry too much, or overthink things.
The flip side of this is they also tend to be creative. They have deep imaginations and spend a lot of time thinking of new and creative ideas.
8. People often describe you as overly sensitive or shy
Highly Sensitive People are still not well understood, and are often mislabeled. They are often told they are being too sensitive or overly emotional. Or even that they need to toughen up or get thicker skin. They are often also mislabeled as shy because they need to spend time alone and avoid some overstimulating situations.
9. You tend to notice details in your environment others miss
Highly Sensitive People tend to be very observant of their surroundings, often noticing details others may miss.
10. You easily pick up on others’ emotions
Highly Sensitive People often pick up on the moods and emotions of people around them. They may even take on the emotions of people around them at times. This is one reason busy environments and social situations can be exhausting for Highly Sensitive People.
11. Change is particularly difficult and upsetting for you
Most Highly Sensitive People have a daily routine they follow to feel grounded and avoid feeling overwhelmed. When they experience change, even exciting and positive changes, they often feel unsettled and overwhelmed by the change. Highly Sensitive People also often require longer to adjust to changes in their lives than other people.
Finding Ways to Cope as a Highly Sensitive Person
Many different things can overwhelm a Highly Sensitive Person. The key to thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person is finding healthy ways to cope with things that overwhelm you. And work to limit or control your exposure to things that make you overwhelmed.
Although there are some overwhelming elements and situations a Highly Sensitive Person has no control over. There are some things we are able to control. One of the most important things we can control is our home and the environment inside it.
We have the choice to intentionally create a home that can be our retreat. A refuge from the chaos and over stimulation of the outside world. A place to rest and recharge. A sanctuary. This applies not only for Highly Sensitive People, but for anyone.
Why Highly Sensitive People Need Minimalism
Minimalism and decluttering are so important for Highly Sensitive People. Clutter in our homes adds to the external stimulus that makes us feel overwhelmed and stressed. A cluttered room filled with too much stuff can make anyone feel unsettled. But especially a Highly Sensitive Person.
Clutter and too much stuff adds to the sensory information overload that can be overwhelming for a Highly Sensitive Person. A cluttered space gives our eyes and our minds fewer opportunities to rest. There are simply too many things to look at and take in. Clutter makes it difficult for Highly Sensitive People to relax or rest because they are bombarded with too much sensory information.
Now imagine a room with very little clutter, clear surfaces and room to breathe. A space likes this creates feelings of openness, calm and relaxation. Having a clutter-free space with clear surfaces provides a place for your eyes and mind to rest.
A calm and uncluttered environment helps to keep our minds calm and uncluttered. This is especially true for Highly Sensitive People. Minimalism allows Highly Sensitive People to create the environment they need to truly rest, relax and recharge. Especially after facing the world and all it’s sensory overload throughout the day.
I’m a Highly Sensitive Person….and That’s OK!
Sometimes being a Highly Sensitive Person can be made to seem like a negative thing. When we are told we are too sensitive, overthink things or need to toughen up, it implies being a Highly Sensitive Person is a bad thing. Like it’s a character flaw we must fix or overcome to be a more successful person.
However, after learning more about Highly Sensitive People, I now know it is simply the way we are. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just who we are. There are benefits and drawbacks to being a Highly Sensitive Person. Just as there are to almost any personality trait. The key is finding ways to build on the benefits and support yourself through the drawbacks.
For example, Highly Sensitive People tend to be creative, empathetic, compassionate and understanding. All of which are things to celebrate. On the other hand, Highly Sensitive People can feel frazzled and overwhelmed easily, struggle with change and easily become “hangry”. These are aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person that can have negative effects on your life. But you can manage them by understanding, embracing and accounting for these parts of your personality.
The more I learn to embrace these innate personality traits and not fight against being a Highly Sensitive Person, the easier and more peaceful life has become.
Minimalism is One of the Key Ways I Cope with Being a Highly Sensitive Person
Learning more about being a Highly Sensitive Person gave me more motivation to declutter, minimize and simplify our lives.
I know I need our home to be a calm and clutter-free space for me to be able to stay calm amidst the overstimulating chaos and busyness of the outside world and life with small children. Simplifying our home and life has had a huge positive impact on me, because I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. This proved to me that the path of minimizing and simplifying was the right one for me to be on.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
To learn more about Highly Sensitive People, check out Dr. Aron’s website for lots of great information. You can even take her test to find out if you are a Highly Sensitive Person.
Dr. Aron also has several books about thriving as a Highly Sensitive Person that I recommend:
Now I’m going sit in my quiet living room and drink tea in all my highly sensitive glory! 😉
Are there any other Highly Sensitive People out there who are/were relieved to know it is a “thing”? Who else is a Highly Sensitive Person working to simplify, declutter and minimize their lives? Leave a comment below!