Giving your Mind a ‘Spring Clean’
By Sadira Sittampalam
I’m sure a lot of us feel like we have too much on our minds these days. There is always something to be done or something to think about and it can get overwhelming. Your mind is constantly racing and to sit down and just relax without the weight of all your obligations taking over your brain is almost impossible. It gets to the point where you feel like you want to vacuum your thoughts and deep clean your brain. While this is practically not very helpful, there are a few techniques that you can use to declutter your mind and help you feel refreshed, nourished and ready to take on the world.
1. Morning Pages
One of my favourite things to do as soon as I wake up is to take three pages out of my journal and just write whatever comes to mind. There doesn’t need to be any reason for the words you write or even any type of focus, the idea is to simply write down the thoughts that come to mind as they enter to your thoughts. I started this practice as I noticed that every morning I would feel an overwhelmingly stressed in my body, even when I wasn’t exactly sure what was stressing me out. Therefore, these ‘morning pages’ are a great way of dumping out any clutter in your mind and releasing any small distracting thoughts that would usually hijack your attention throughout the day. This morning session will also help you release creative thoughts as it is not really about being a creative person, it is about finding the creativity that has been locked inside you because of the daily practice of life.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
When you are talking to someone, do you find that it is easy for your mind to wander thinking about things you need to add to your to-do list, items that you need to pick up for dinner tonight or yet another possible reason that your friend might be mad at you? Well, these are the kind of things that mindfulness meditation will help you solve, making it easier for you to ignore random thoughts and be more present, and focused on what is happening around you. This practice is somewhat an extension of the morning pages as it is the practice of learning to mindfully direct your attention to what is happening in the moment, while gently releasing background thoughts that keep you confined and limited, making your experiences a lot more enjoyable and less rushed.
While you can do this in the form of meditation, you can also use mindfulness, in general, to increase your awareness throughout the day. You can do this by focusing on your five senses to fully tune into the experience of daily life. Just focus on those sensations during any seemingly mundane activity during the day - sweeping the hall? Pay attention to the rhythm of your sweeps. Walking to work? Notice the wind on your body and the different smells of that area. You can also focus on your breathing, breathe in slowly, hold the breath for a few seconds and then breathe out again. Repeat this at least 10 times. While becoming mindful won’t be an overnight change, over time you will notice that your thoughts don’t drift as often.
3. Clean your room/digital devices
While you may not realise it, the environment around you does affect a lot of your mental health. So, if you are working or living in an environment that is cluttered and messy, it is going to affect the state of your mind. You might have more trouble concentrating or grasping the ideas you are searching for. Moreover, you will try and find ways of distracting yourself, and with plenty of things around you, it will be easy for you to get carried away. Thus, you should try and keep your work area in a nice orderly manner. This will help refresh your thinking process. Making a regular effort to maintain the tidiness of your workspace will help boost your cognitive function and improve workflow.
4. Zone Out
If you are struggling to concentrate, sometimes one of the best ways to solve this problem is to simply stop trying so hard. Just like your body needs a break after physical exercise, your mind also needs a break from working all day. This is why you should give yourself time to zone out, where your mind runs on default mode, with no real effort. This helps rest the brain, while also promoting creativity, sharpening your thought process and improving memory. You can unwind by doing things like doodling, daydreaming, or going for a walk. By taking this time and giving your mind a little time to roam, great ideas and solutions to certain problems you have seem to arise naturally. This is also a great way to break from digital devices which do, for a fact, clutter your mind and keep you unfocused and distracted.
5. Talk About It
Expressing thoughts and feelings that bother you out loud often help lighten any tension they have generated. If you keep them bottled inside of you, you will over think about them very unproductively, which just takes up so much mental energy. This is why you should talk about it with someone else as they can offer a lot more help and insight than you can to yourself. The very act of discussing your problems can help you lay them out more logically since you have to explain what is troubling you in a way that others understand.
Usually that helps a lot more than just letting it sit in your mind for hours. While talking to family or friends is usually sufficient, if you can’t seem to break through the mental fog with them either, a professional would be more effective at offering you support. They will help you explore the reasons behind your concentration difficulties, identify and address patterns of looping thoughts and help you learn coping skills and more techniques to refresh your mind that are more specific to you and your issues. They would also be able to address any underlying mental health symptoms that could be factoring into the mental clutter.
6. Get Good Sleep
A lot of us tend to ignore the importance of sleep, but it is one of the most vital in making you feel refreshed and well. However, what is more important than managing to get 8 hours of sleep in a night, is to be able to do it regularly - meaning you should be constantly sleeping well in order to keep your brain healthy. Sleep has been shown to improve memory and help retain things you learn throughout the day. On the flip side, chronic sleep depreciation leads to serious and lasting brain damage, killing cells in important regions of the brain. So, don’t overlook sleep if you are looking to improve you mental health and clear some of that clutter!