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Decluttering your home is all the rage right now, and it’s all about getting rid of what you don’t want to make room for what you do want. What if you could do that for your mental space? What if you could declutter your mind to experience less stress and overwhelm and more peace and joy in your everyday life?
The amazing news is that you can! Here are our top fourteen tips for learning how to declutter your mind and live happier!
1. Identify the Narrative in Your Head
If decluttering is about getting rid of what you don’t want, you first need to understand what’s happening inside our minds. So many of us live without fully identifying or understanding our mental narratives.
Whether we hang onto words or ideas about ourselves that people gave us in childhood (“you’re not smart”) or we internalize external failures as internal failures (“I’m bad at money” instead of “I made a mistake”), once we believe something about ourselves, we begin to look for evidence of it in everything we do.
An argument with a significant other, for example, might result in you becoming hurt and angry because you feel like he or she is implying that you’re not smart--and because you think you’re dumb, you figure they must be right. These kinds of narratives repeat over and over in our heads, undermining our lives the way an unwanted guest overstays his welcome!
Learning to change these narratives can be a lifelong process and take tons of hard work--but it starts with identifying the unhelpful and untrue narratives. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to identify better, truer narratives.
One of the best places to start this kind of deep introspective work is with a counselor. He or she is trained to help you identify those deep-rooted, self-limiting beliefs.
2. Who Are You Shopping For?
If you want to declutter your mind, you have to be super careful about what (and who) you’re listening to and watching. You can think of this like shopping: people who get serious about decluttering their homes understand that anytime time they buy something, it has to have a place.
They have to get super intentional about what they buy. Otherwise, their home quickly becomes cluttered again!
The music you listen to, Instagram accounts you follow, and entertainment you watch is the same way--all of it is taking up real estate in your brain. You have to ask yourself: is this sending me positive messages about myself? Is this making me feel worse than when I started?
We all love a good Netflix and chill session, but if we’re not careful, all we’ve done is numbed ourselves for a few hours (or a few days), instead of taking the time to care for our bodies and minds.
The relationship between our mind and body is extremely well documented; it’s no exaggeration to say that taking care of your body is taking care of your mind. There are two main ways to do this:
If you’re struggling to declutter your mind, chances are you’re missing out on at least one if not both of these areas. Regular exercise can decrease your risk of disease, literally enlarge your brain and keep it from diminishing in size due to medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, and significantly boost your mood. Regular, quality sleep is vital to your emotional and mental wellbeing--the lack of sleep has been linked to depression and other mental help problems.
If you’re struggling to find time to sleep or exercise, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but keep things simple! Exercise doesn’t have to be difficult or ultra-challenging; a simple walk through your neighborhood once a day can have a huge impact.
And, here are some simple tips to help you sleep well:
Most of us pride ourselves on our ability to multitask; however, more and more evidence points to the fact that that’s rarely a good thing. Focusing on lots of things at once, in reality, means barely focusing on anything. The next time you need to get something done, try setting a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes. Work furiously on that one single thing until the timer goes off, and repeat as necessary!
You’ll quickly find that focusing helps you to declutter your mind and that your brain, which is like a muscle, will become better at focusing as you train it.
To help you declutter your mind and focus, turn off notifications on your phone and take social media apps off your home screen. If possible, don’t put your work email on your phone. The most efficient people in the world know the power of scheduling specific time slots during the day to focus on email, instead of staying tied to it all day long.
5. Practice Deep Work
Cal Newport’s recent bestseller Deep Work is all about the power of focus--and how intense focus on work that is meaningful and purposeful can make us happier and healthier. To try it yourself, it’s important to identify the activities in your work and personal life that will help you reach your goal.
Then, train yourself to focus on these and not the things that tend to waste time without providing any tangible outcomes--like email and Facebook. Cal posits that as we do more of the work that makes us happy and moves the needle, we’ll become more satisfied and fulfilled.
Gratitude--the choice to be thankful--is scientifically proven to help with everything improving self-esteem to improving your mental resilience to improving your physical health. Don’t feel especially grateful right now? That’s ok; you don’t have to! The most grateful people realize that gratefulness is a habit, not a feeling and as such, they use gratitude routines to help them remember to be thankful.
Here are a few ways to incorporate gratitude into your life:
7. Say No More Often
Modern life often seems to be an overextended life--we’re expected to work overtime, volunteer, and spend time with our family, but we also know we need time to rest and exercise to thrive. That’s what it’s so important to say no--and why it’s so important to establish clear priorities in your life.
Understanding that saying “yes” to something is saying “no” to something else can help you feel better about turning down opportunities--good or bad--that you might otherwise struggle to take on. Saying yes to an extra work project, for example, might mean saying no to extra family time.
8. Practice Self-Care
Image via Pixabay
While many think self-care is buying yourself chocolates and flowers on Valentine’s Day, when it comes to learning to declutter your mind, self-care is about choosing to see yourself as a person deserving of love.
Here are some great ways to practice self-care, no matter what season of life you’re in:
9. Put Your Pen to Paper
One of the best, most basic ways to declutter your mind is to make a list of all the things you’re thinking about. You can practice morning pages or a morning journal, where you formally set time aside daily to write down what’s on your mind--no editing!--but it doesn’t have to be formal.
You can simply grab a piece of scratch paper and do a brain dump--write down everything that’s bothering you, that you need to do, and that you need to pick up at the store. Something about the act of writing it down can free up your brain, declutter your mind, and reduce your stress level!
There’s something about nature that calms our brains and restores our energy level. Whether it’s spring and the flowers are beginning to bloom, or it’s fall, and the leaves are turning colors, the outdoor world is a calming, peaceful antidote to the rushed, harried pace most of us run at these days.
Again, you don’t have to make this complicated or difficult. Take a walk and leave your phone at home. Instead, pay attention to what you can hear and see. Plant a container garden on your apartment balcony. Walk on the grass barefoot. Set up a bird feeder outside your window. There are lots of creative ways to get more nature into your life!
11. Increase Connection
We live in a world of instant, constant connection and yet we’re more lonely than ever before. Creating deep, meaningful connections with people in our lives is like spring cleaning your house after a long winter--it’s rejuvenating and life-giving!
Invite friends over for pizza night or call your girlfriends for a happy hour get together. Join a book club or hobby club to connect with people with similar passions. However you do it, connecting with people meaningfully is sure to increase your happiness and bring down your stress!
12. Declutter Your House
We’ve already mentioned how much the body and the mind are connected, but did you realize your mind is highly impacted by your physical environment too? This doesn’t mean you need to keep everything spick and span, but if you find yourself stressed and needing to declutter your mind, it might be time to declutter your home.
There are lots of great methods and tips for decluttering, but it’s usually best to start small and set aside time daily so that you don’t become overwhelmed. As you find more physical space, however, there’s a good chance you’ll find more mental space, too!
13. Change Your Perspective
Sometimes we become so consumed by our problems that our brains feel like they’re on a hamster wheel, circling the same problems over and over again. One favorite technique for helping to declutter your mind is to help somebody else out.
You can begin volunteering for a cause you believe in, but you can also simply perform a daily act of kindness for somebody else. The process of simply looking for an opportunity to help somebody can create a welcome shift in your mindset.
We live in a fast culture where more is more--but this mindset isn’t making us any happier or calmer. Instead, make choices to go slow, not fast. Put your phone away when you wait in lines. Walk or bike instead of drive. Shop locally at a farmer’s market instead of grabbing takeout. Little choices add up!
If you want to declutter your mind, it starts with knowing what you want out of life, but it doesn’t take any difficult or complicated steps. Small, daily actions like a walk after dinner can have a big impact. Happy decluttering!