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How to Declutter Your Mind
Mental clutter is exhausting. “Clutter is an overabundance of possessions that collectively create chaotic and disorderly living spaces,” said Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago.
Now, replace “possessions” with “thoughts” and “living space” with “mind,” and you will define mental clutter.
Have you ever said, “My brain never turns off”? That’s a tell-tale sign you have a cluttered or messy mind. If it’s hard to focus on only one thing, aka “monotasking”, or it’s hard to fall asleep at night, you are likely dealing with a cluttered mind.
Lacking focus can be frustrating, as well as difficulty with sleep. Modern society is so fast paced that we can easily be constantly stimulated or receive input from the outside world for the entirety of a day (i.e., other people, tv shows, music, computer screens, traffic, kids, news, podcasts, exercise class instructor, etc.). Thinking about it that way, it’s no wonder that we have difficulty quieting or clearing our heads.
If we are awake for 16 hours of a 24-hour period, we could be continuously stimulated for those 16 hours, from one source or another. Think through your daily routine. Is there ever a time that you are not engaged with something or multiple things throughout your day?
Clearing your head, or quieting your mind is a skill – a learnable skill. You can learn how to organize your mind, so you no longer reach the point of a chaotic, ‘always on’, jumbled, muddled brain. This skill is learned through the practice of mindfulness. Now, stick with me… Mindfulness is a household word these days, but it is not the one-size-fits-all practice you may be used to hearing about. Mindfulness is an umbrella term for a variety of ways to clear your mind and focus.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on what you choose to focus on in any given moment while letting distractions come and go, and returning your focus to only what you chose.
There are some universal truths about mindfulness but practicing it will look different for everyone.
Let’s start with two universal truths:
- Less is more
- Come back to the present moment
Mind Declutter: Simplify Your Thoughts
Less is more:
Specifically, less stimulation, less multitasking, less pressure. We live in a world of more, more, more. If we never turn off that mindset, it becomes our default mindset and we act and think on autopilot from a place of more, more, more, causing us to never feel content with where we’re at.
The goal of mindfulness is to take a break from all that is coming at us in the outside world and check in with our inner world. This is why mindfulness is often recommended to be practiced in a quiet space. However, we can practice anywhere. If we are walking down a busy street, with a variety of distractions, we can still practice ‘less is more’ by focusing on one part of the walk. We can walk without any music or phone distractions. We can tune out the cars and the rude people passing by. We can focus only on our breath while we walk. Oh, we’ll be distracted! But then we can practice coming back to the breath.
Come back to the present moment:
Our thoughts are so often (almost always) about the future or the past – even if it’s 5 minutes in the future, or what we just did a minute ago. So, right now, focus … on … this … sentence … that … is … in … front … of … you. Tell me, were you able to focus on that unique-looking sentence? That means you were being mindful while reading it. Now, while you were reading the sentence before that one, were you thinking about the sentence with all the dots? Did you just have to reread the beginning of the paragraph again because you don’t remember how the paragraph started?
The sentence with the dots was in the future in relation to the beginning of the paragraph, but the beginning of the paragraph was mundane and it’s easy to get distracted by something that catches our attention (more, more, more OR next, next, next). We know how to focus, but the muscle has weakened. We just need to practice.
Mindfulness is an expansive concept. We’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg. You’ll notice that not once did I talk about taking 30 minutes out of your day to add in mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can be practiced during everything we are already doing in our daily life. This is why it will look unique to everyone.
Pick one thing you do every day and practice being mindful during it. Some suggestions are while brushing your teeth, notice the physical sensations; in the shower, notice the temperature and pressure of the water; as you fall asleep, notice how the bed is supporting your body; before you get out of bed in the morning, notice the quietness in the room; while stirring dinner on the stovetop, notice the smell that’s intensifying.
In conclusion, mindfulness is the best way to declutter your mind and regain mental focus. There are a variety of physical and emotional benefits that come from the practice of mindfulness. But powerfully, you’ll notice immediate benefits while doing it.
Because the practice of mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all approach, it is helpful to work with a professional that can personalize the practice to fit best into your world and help you navigate obstacles you encounter when implementing it. I could talk about mindfulness all day! If you’d like to chat about introducing mindfulness into your life, you’re welcome to contact me.
About the Author
Name: Krystle Hearley
Professional Title: Personal Development Coach, Licensed Therapist
Bio: Krystle Hearley is a Personal Development Coach, Business Owner, and Marine Corps Veteran. She is the Founder of The Best Life Method, a simple and common-sense approach for millennial women to find themselves quickly in order to confidently build their life on their terms. In her work as a licensed Psychotherapist, Krystle has most enjoyed working with women in their twenties and thirties and now focuses on that work specifically, full-time.
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