Let’s face it. We all from time to time have cluttered minds. We’re busy, we have a ton of responsibilities, we worry, we create mile-long to do lists, we hold on to negative emotions, we do LOTS of things that just keep adding to the mess in our brains. And when we’re in the thick of it, there isn’t mental space to even address it. It’s not healthy, it’s not useful, and it begs for a mindset shift. Here are a few ways that you can begin that “spring cleaning” in your head.
1. Make an appointment with worry.
We all worry at times. It’s natural. But some of us allow worry to take over our minds, and that interferes with our life. So schedule a time to worry. Set your clock for 20 minutes, and worry all you want. Let it fly, whether it’s rational or irrational worry, but agree with yourself that when the time is up, it’s time to set it aside until the next time. This simple exercise can help you stop the all-consuming feeling of worry and allow mental space for other thoughts and feelings.
The goal of meditation is to create mindfulness. Meditation changes your brain waves. It calms your nervous system, leading to a reduction in cortisol. It helps you declutter your mind. It allows us to be super present in the moment for a brief period of time. When we meditate, we can observe our thoughts and we can create new thoughts, with a specific purpose. Meditation allows us to be aware of our senses, what we see, hear, feel, and even taste. There are some great apps out there, like Headspace and Superhuman that guide you through meditations, but you don’t have to have those to create mindfulness.
When you think about meditation, you usually picture someone sitting on the floor, with her legs crossed and eyes closed, and that’s a great way to meditate but it’s not the only way. You can meditate really anytime! The keys are to recognize your breath, observe what you feel in your body, and be aware of your thoughts. Here are some other ways we can meditate:
Being in nature
Lying flat on your back
Staring out of a window
Sitting on a park bench watching the world around you
Floating in a pool
Gazing up at the sky
Watching a candle flame
Creative hobbies like pottery, painting, needlepoint
All of these activities offer you the opportunity to raise your self-awareness, get in touch with your breath and other physical sensations in your body, and just be present in your thoughts. If you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present.
3. Get clear on your goals
Clarity is powerful. We can be so scattered with what we want or need, we can be so busy multi-tasking just to make it through the day, that our minds can feel like a tangled ball of twine. So take some time to get clear on what your goals are. Think about your personal goals. What are your goals for physical and mental health, for spirituality, for relationships, for your career? Get clear and very specific for each one. Write them down. That clarity gives you the ability to think and act with intention.
If you know that you are carrying around a lot of negative emotions, like resentment, disappointment, unfulfillment, anger, frustration, impatience, just start writing about it. Get those thoughts onto paper. Don’t judge yourself about them, just move them out of your head to outside your body. This can free up some real estate in your head. Maybe you come back to it later and read your thoughts from a new perspective. Seeing your thoughts from the outside instead from inside your head can allow you to see it in a new way. Maybe you don’t read it. Maybe you throw the paper away, but for a time you’ve unraveled some of that ball of twine and made some space for yourself.
5. Challenge negative thoughts
If you know that you’ve got a parade of negative thoughts marching through your head on the regular, be willing to challenge them. Just because we think a thought, doesn’t mean it’s true. So be willing to acknowledge the thought and challenge it. Is it even accurate or just a story you keep telling yourself? Is the thought helpful? If it’s not, be willing to squash it. This allows you space to create new thoughts that are accurate and helpful.
We process billions of pieces of data every day. There are a million messages that our brain has to filter every minute. But our conscious mind does not have to remain a cluttered mess. With a few simple tools, you can start to clear your mind and create space for what you want in life, what you need in life, and what you love in life.