Have you ever noticed how when you clean your room you get a weird feeling of calm? The simple act of clearing away the clutter and making a clear path from your bed to the door can lift your mood.
Your mind works in the same way. When your brain is a mess of thoughts – especially if some of those thoughts are negative – you can feel restless and unfocused. It can be hard to motivate yourself to do anything.
If you’re cluttering up your mind worrying about the future, stewing over events in the past, complaining, beating yourself up, stressing yourself out with negative thoughts, or just running a constant to-do list that never seems to end, your mind could do with a bit of a tidy out.
Learning how to declutter your mind is a good coping technique you’ll use again and again throughout your life. Below we recommend some ways to clear out the mess and focus your thoughts.
1. Write it down
Many people find that when they write down their thoughts or ideas, it moves them from their brain on to paper. If you’re a creative person then you’ll find it particularly effective to sketch out ideas for your projects. Keeping an appointment book or calendar can help you track all those dates and events, so you don’t use your mental energy.
2. Let go
If you find yourself cluttering up your mind with thoughts and regrets about the past, it’s time to learn how to let go. Imagine your mind is an enormous chest of drawers. Inside each drawer is a mistake you made, opportunity you missed, or person you hurt.
Pick up each drawer one by one, and dump the contents into an enormous rubbish bin. This is a powerful mental imagery tool that can help you subconsciously let go of what’s bothering you.
3. Do one thing at a time
Human beings have this crazy belief they can multitask and perform many different jobs at the same time. Scientifically, it’s just not true.
When you’re multitasking, your brain is actually switching from one thing to another as fast as it can. Every time it switches, it needs time and energy to recall previous details and prepare for new ones. This multitasking tires out your mind and leaves you feeling stressed and cluttered. It’s far more efficient to perform one task until it’s completed before moving on.
4. Go on a low information diet
All day you’re bombarded by info – from looking at YouTube videos before school, to reading a blog on the bus, to all your classes, then watching TV at night, talking to your friends, reading magazines and surfing the net. This constant stream of info makes your brain hurt as it frantically tries to remember everything it thinks is important.
Actually, very little of what we watch and read and discuss is vitally important. However, as well as tiring out our brains, it can make us feel guilty, sad, or angry – all emotions that take up space in our brain.
Limit the amount of information you consume, by cutting out websites, TV shows, magazines, and blogs that don’t contribute to your well-being. Do you really need to watch four hours of TV every night? Set a limit on the amount of time you spend on the internet each day. Give your brain a rest or engage it creatively with hobbies, reading, playing board games, sport, or other activities.
5. Put your life on autopilot
One reason your brain can feel cluttered is because you spend time and energy agonising over choices that don’t matter. Stressing out about what to wear each day or what to have for breakfast can take up valuable real estate in your brain that’s needed for more important tasks.
Try to create routines around mundane tasks to take away your need to make decisions. Have the same thing for breakfast every morning (or alternate 2-3 of your favourites). Choose a certain time and day of the week to do your chores. Shower at the same time each day. The more you move these small tasks out of your brain, the more energy you can dedicate to important stuff like hobbies, studying, your boyfriend or girlfriend, family, and friends.
Clearing out the mental clutter will give you clarity and purpose. What can you do today to declutter your mind?