Highlights » Vol. 57

Create a spring-cleaned mind

By Amy Dean

Spring is a time for renewal – a time to emerge from winter hibernation, clean and clear out the old and let go of what is no longer needed so you can embark on a new season with freshness and vigor. Getting all parts of your home in order – closets, drawers, storage spaces and garage – not only ends physical clutter, but also provides you with a sense of serenity and simplicity.

But what about the clutter that fills your mind? Negative thoughts, information and emotional overload, worries and anxiety can make your thoughts as dusty, cramped and airless as an old attic. Mental clutter congests your ability to simply breathe, think clearly, be creative and prioritize what truly matters.

As Criss Jami, author of Venus in Arms, wrote: “In the age of technology, there is constant access to vast amounts of information. The basket overflows; people get overwhelmed; the eye of the storm is not so much what goes on in the world; it is the confusion of how to think, feel, digest and react to what goes on.”

While you live in a physical home, you also reside within a mental home. This mental home is a valuable space you inhabit 24/7. Think about all the information you take into this home and store – just in one day. Imagine this information is “furniture.” Day after day, you lug new furniture in, but rarely do you let any go. Your mind becomes as messy, cramped, disorganized and cluttered as a hoader’s home.

A cluttered mind causes stress, sleepless nights, emotional upheavals and mental unease. But you have the power to change that. Just as you declutter your physical home, so, too, can you declutter your mental home by taking the following steps.

Decide. Print and electronic information you receive on a daily basis can be overwhelming. To prevent a backlog and pile-up, set aside an hour each day to go through what you receive and strive to sort into one of four categories: act immediately (an email from your supervisor), save for future reference (a utility bill due in two weeks), give to someone else to handle (forward and then discard) or simply discard.

Organize. This same decisiveness can be applied to day-to-day decision-making: what to eat, what to wear, what errands to run, what appointments to schedule. Take an hour each weekend to plan the weekly menu and lay out your outfits for the work week. Make a list of the errands you need to take care of the following week and determine when you will do them. And have on hand all the phone numbers you need to schedule appointments.

Go on an information diet. Think of all the information you consume in a day: participating in social media, reading blogs and magazines, watching television, surfing the web and more. Binging on a constant diet of information clogs the mind and has a negative impact on your ability to think with clarity.  From this moment on, limit the time you spend on the Internet or social media. Unsubscribe from e-newsletters, blogs and magazines that do not bring value to your life. Get only the headline news.

A mental spring cleaning not only helps declutter the mind, but it also creates daily patterns of stability so you can enjoy life the way it’s mean to be enjoyed: with less stress and more composure and balance.

Amy Dean is the author of several books, including Growing Older, Growing Better: Daily Meditations for Celebrating Aging. Read more about her books at amydeanwriter.com.

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