What mental decluttering is, and why you need to practice it
How often do you clean up your house? Well, someone will say, once a week or once a month. To be frank, I get to do it at the point when I can’t find my stuff anymore. Nevertheless, sooner or later, we all acknowledge the importance of putting messed things into order (or at least into the state resembling real order).
But what’s happening with the major mental space where we dwell 24/7? The home that we don’t ever leave? Make no mistake, I’m talking about your head. And, though it seems unusual — it needs decluttering as well.
What is mental clutter?
We tend to treat our mind like an old abandoned attic. In there, we conceal unexposed feelings from the past, both negative and positive. We bring there unfulfilled dreams and desires, dusted, poignant, covered with spider’s web. We keep on its shelves anxiety, anger, fear, the pain of loss, jealousy, doubts, worries about the future, this itchy sense that we’re pushed for time, constantly.
All this mental jumble is the root cause of a consistent bad mood or mood swings. It’s responsible for burnout and depression, waves of anxiety and fear, as well as sparks of hopelessness. The good news is — we can effectively manage it and shed the influence. What are the benefits of clearing your mind? If we were to practice mental tidying up, we would be calmer, focused on the good, more resilient, and content.
So here’s a concise practical guide on how to clear your mind, pull yourself together, gain clarity of thought, and live your life to the fullest.
Step 1. Take a short pause for daydreaming
Ask your boss or a colleague: what is daydreaming? Idleness, wasting of time, laziness — I bet you’ll get answers similar to these. Demands and workload accelerate rapidly in urban and, especially in an office environment. The high pace of life is inescapable. Even a tiny pause spent on focusing inward rather than outward in the middle of the hectic workday can be seen as an indulgence.
In reality, a mindful reflection happens when your mind is wandering around, and your sight is concentrated on the “inner world”. It is vital for processing information and developing new contexts. This way, we can obtain new perspectives, add clarity to our judgments, enhance cognitive abilities, and acquire problem-solving skills.
According to the authors of a compelling survey published in the Journal of Association for Psychological Science, while we are resting, a number of brain areas remain quite active. Researchers claim these parts to contribute to memory formation, learning, and self-awareness.
Interestingly, when schoolchildren were given some time to rest, think thoroughly and weigh in mind what they’d heard during the lesson, they appeared to be more motivated, eager to use the new knowledge, as well as less stressed. Eventually, they got better results on tests.
How to experience daydreaming/focusing inward? Find a quiet spot where no one can interrupt you. You can alternate sitting and looking up to the sky with closing your eyes, traveling to imaginary realms, whatever you’re up to right now. Breathe slowly. Let your mind wander.
Step 2. Practice minimalism. Declutter your home and workplace
Be aware: clutter can literally spoil your life. It demands time, space, effort to keep it, move it from time to time, not to mention the dust you breathe in. What’s crucial – it triggers bitter emotions: unsatisfaction, embarrassing, overwhelming. One can’t think clearly when bearing this burden.
A recent study explained by Sciencedaily highlighted the connection between our reluctance to let go of possessions and positive memories. When we approach the mere thought of giving some stuff away (or throwing it out), it feels as if we were about to lose something valuable, precious, whilst it can be wrapping for the presents we received 20 years ago, outdated magazines, worn-out shoe, anything.
So why are we attached to disposable clutter? It reminds us of the moment when we bought it, of people around, of the distant happy times. These memories bring us a sense of security. Hence, the nub of the process lurks in a way we treat these flooding back memories. Typically, people have to be able to set them aside in order to clear physical and mental space for something new.
Behavioral psychologists have a piece of advice for the hoarders: create a competing image that depicts positive outcomes of tidying up. For instance, that’s you enjoying your roomy place, proudly inviting your friends to come over; here you’ve managed to come up with a brilliant idea since your workplace is in order and nothing distracts you.
Start small: rid your workplace of run-down pens and pencils, scattered small stationery, sort out important papers from drafts. Free your mind of the necessity to take care of all that stuff.
Step 3. Reveal your feelings and don’t pile them up!
Attempts to hide your true feelings from your boss, co-workers, or clients lead to mental and emotional exhaustion, disappointment, and the sense of being drained.
Suppressing fear or anger hinders your brain from thinking clearly. The effort you make to put “an appropriate face” on consumes your energy that could have been spent on creative tasks.
Friendly but constrained chit-chatting with neighbors after work, when you’re 200 inches away from your cozy couch in a living room, brings you down.
The necessity to radiate positiveness and inspire everyone around, including your family members, goes hand in hand with the burnout.
The real cost of being dishonest and indecisive to make your inner voices and outer reactions correspond with each other, is health, work performance, and life satisfaction.
Reflect on your day to get to know yourself better with GrowApp
Sounds dreadful, right? Here are a few ways to change the game.
If you’re not into chatting right now, go on with your current plan and say something like, “I would be so happy to talk to you but I really need to go right now.” Avoid saying “Sorry” if the encounter hadn’t been scheduled. This rule may be applied to messaging as well.
Substitute “I have to do” with “I want to do.” To do so, you need to rummage in your soul pockets and recall why you took this job, chose this field, and what makes you keep going. As soon as you do it, you’ll notice the whole perspective has changed, and there’s less tense in your days. The key is to follow your free will.
Find new sources for your own inspiration. As the saying goes, it’s impossible to pour from an empty jar. Thus, you need to refill yourself with the sense of joy and accomplishment, which is nearly unapproachable unless you let yourself be engaged with your own hobbies and interests from time to time.
Let your feelings fly. If you’re not honest with yourself, then whose life you’re living at all? Are you living in a name only?
By proclaiming your emotions out loud, you not only acknowledge them but also get to the point at which you can decide on your follow-up steps. For instance, your Facebook friend insulted you by saying something like “You looked prettier with the previous haircut.” Say it: I get furious when people come up with opinions on my appearance. I’m so angry. Does it feel better? I bet it does!
Play a part in an imaginary theatre. Pretend that your friend, rival, family member or boss is sitting in an armchair before you. Inhale and voice everything you wanted this person to know. Don’t stop while energy is boiling inside. What a relief, huh?
Remember that it’s fine to not be positive all the time. Real people are not comic book characters. The handful of emotions you experience serves one goal: to make you feel alive. To get through meltdowns and cloud-nine moments as you should.
Step 4. Seek physical sensations in sports and nature
Physical sensations are what makes us feel alive. However, for quite obvious reasons, our lives have moved to virtual spaces, where we spend up to 12 hours a day which means that simple and natural pastime, inherited from ancestors, became nowhere near as common as it used to be. We get to lay on the grass two times per year on a family picnic. The prevailed absence of motion and loss of connection with nature may be insidious for mental health.
Forest bathing is the latest thing among people concerned about their future. Whenever you come to the woods, waves of fresh air, unknown smells, and greenness elevate calmness and prompt positive thoughts and anticipations. This preventive treatment, also called shinrin-yoku, emerged in Japan and is claimed to help you rid your head of worries by lowering cortisol levels. Hundreds of healthcare practitioners within the US and Great Britain attest to the advantages of “diving into forest bathtubs.”
Gardening is the second non-obvious way to make mental problems pack their bags and go away. Patients in Great Britain started getting this new kind of prescription from their doctors: they are advised to take care of the plants along with passing the time outdoors. As The Guardian puts it in this article, people have reported a significant decrease in stress and anxiety and, on the contrary, improvement in their well-being, although they knew nothing about planting before.
Clear your mind of the clutter by trying outdoor activities with GrowApp
Finally, movement is what sparks joy and happiness due to the surge of neurotransmitters responsible for these states. Find the best type of sports activity for you, whether it’s hiking or swimming. As long as your muscles and joints get the necessary workload, they serve you faithfully. I know that everyone wants a magic pill instead of this ponderous hint, but nope, no one’s got it yet. Ask me 10 years later!
Step 5. Uncover your true aspirations
If your mind is in a consecutive mess, then you possibly may have made a wrong turn somewhere in the middle of the road. In this case, you need to re-evaluate your aspirations to find out what you are really after.
Set aside chores for a moment, take your mind off the rut, and imagine yourself in ten years. Be precise and audacious, but realistic. Answer this set of questions:
What kind of activity makes your brain and eyes light up like a bulb the same moment you thought about it?
What would you wish to be doing if nothing impeded you? Is it possible to overcome existing limitations and hindrances?
Did you choose your profession by yourself, or were you persuaded to do so?
Are you ready to set off on your own revolutionary journey?
The last but not least – what are your income expectations? Will you be able to approach them? That’s the crux of your job itinerary.
Scarcely do profound life changes like this one happen all of a sudden. Planning is what fuels them and channels your energy. I hope this checklist will help you out.
Step 6. Vent a bit
What are best friends for? Ranting and venting (but not whining!) are the most natural ways for human beings to shake off the burden vacuumed during that I-thought-it-would-never-end work week and… to unobtrusively pass it to you Bestie. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but with the grain of truth. By the way, the healing impact of a good chatter is claimed by studies.
Step 7. Do the “paperwork”
The second best way to complain is to put your feelings down on paper. In this case, no one will be disturbed and overwhelmed whereas you’ll write out your apprehensions and hence will calm down and be able to think logically. The trick is, when you write something down, you pull it out of your head and transfer it to a journal. Practice journaling a few times a week and feel light-hearted the rest of the time!
Artwork by Sasha Sakhnevich