Now that it’s spring, you may be taking some time to update your wardrobe, open the windows, and clear out some of the junk that’s accumulated over the past year. Spring cleaning feels good. It’s a chance to renew our physical spaces as nature revives again outside.
As refreshing as it is to do some spring cleaning, you won’t enjoy those benefits as much if you are struggling with too much mental clutter. Taking time to clear out the beliefs that no longer serve you or to cultivate new, healthier habits can do wonders for your mental health. This spring, let’s focus on your growth!
1) Get Rid of Mental Clutter
Let it go - It’s easier said than done, but letting go of grudges, old hurts, or the little things that annoy you daily will free up a lot of mental space. When you’re no longer weighed down by the things of the past, you are able to use that space for new ideas, creativity, or just room to breathe.
Journal it out - We gather a lot of worries and to-do lists throughout the day. Taking time at the end of the day to journal your thoughts can help dump all of that clutter out of your brain and onto paper (or your computer). It’s also a great way to work through any emotions that came up during the day.
Prioritize - Sometimes mental clutter can come from a lack of prioritizing. You feel overwhelmed by everything you think you need to do. Sit down and take a little time to prioritize what’s most important and what needs to get done most urgently. Your values can help you determine what’s most important to you. You’ll feel much more mentally organized when you have a list of what to prioritize.
2) Take Time for Quiet
Just breathe - Taking a minute to breathe and calm your mind can provide a vital break on a hectic day. There are hundreds of different breathing exercises you can use, but one of the simplest and most popular is the 4-7-8 method. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Breathing deeply will help your brain reset during a stressful day.
Unplug - The constant pings of incoming emails, texts, and other messages can be distracting and overwhelming. The endless scrolling through social media can take a toll on your mental health too. Taking time to “unplug” and get away from the screens can bring much needed peace to your mind. Whether it’s a 30 minute walk in nature or a whole weekend of “digital detoxing,” taking a screen break can reduce stress and open your mind to new ideas.
Practice mindfulness - Mindfulness is often used interchangeably with meditation, but mindfulness can also mean being more aware and engaged with whatever you are doing at the moment. It’s another way to lower your stress levels and any of the accompanying physical symptoms of stress. As a quick example, next time you have a meal, try to slow down and really enjoy the flavor, textures, and smell of the food. It’s a simple way to practice mindfulness. If you want to learn more about mindfulness, check out our key takeaways from the book The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness.
3) Start Positive Habits
Get moving - Sometimes just getting up and taking a walk around the block is enough to help clear your mind. So many of us sit at a desk for the majority of the work day, and it can put a strain on your health. Taking frequent breaks to get up and get moving, even for just a few minutes, can help you refocus. Regular exercise also helps reduce stress and anxiety, increase blood flow to your brain, and improve your sleep.
Eat healthy & drink water - When you’re spring cleaning your house, you probably also do some restocking of supplies like cleaning products, toiletries, or even groceries. Think of eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water as the same type of task for your brain. Restock your brain with nutrients so it can function optimally. If you’re dehydrated or lacking healthy nutrients, your brain slows down. This spring, start a healthy habit of drinking more water or replacing junk food with brain food like nuts or blueberries.
Practice gratitude - Finally, after you’ve done a mental clean out and are rebuilding with good habits, it’s time to start practicing gratitude. Taking time to focus on what you’re thankful for can help shift your mindset to focus more on the positives happening in your life rather than the negatives. One of the best ways to practice gratitude is to keep a journal. You can write what you’re grateful for as part of the daily journaling I mentioned above. Or you can spread the gratitude to others and write thank you notes to the people you are grateful for.
Mental spring cleaning may take longer or be more intimidating than scrubbing your floors, but the results will be a deeper and more lasting change. And just like you can hire a cleaning service if you’re overwhelmed with the mess, you can also get help with your mental “cleaning.” Some of the things we’re holding onto may require professional help to heal from and that’s okay.
Every year, it amazes me how much just sitting in the sunshine for a few minutes makes me feel better. I hope that you’ll use some of these tips to declutter your brain and be able to move forward into the warmer months with a fresh mindset. Go soak up some of the spring sunshine and be renewed!
Do you do any kind of mental “spring cleaning?” We’d love to hear your tips in the comments below!