Updated: Jun 5, 2020
March 1st is the first day of Spring (If you go by the Meteorological calendar). Traditionally a time for spring cleaning - having a thorough clean of your home from top to bottom, getting into all those spaces you don’t normally bother to clean - skirting boards, the top of kitchen cupboards, the junk drawer…
Nowadays we know that physical de-cluttering is good for our overall wellbeing. Having a clean, clutter free space can reduce anxiety, promote better quality sleep and boost creativity.
It’s great having a lovely clutter free space to live or work in, but when was the last time you had a clutter free mind? When did you last look into those spaces that you don’t normally look at? Your mental equivalent of a junk drawer? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, have little capacity to take on new information and can’t seem to focus, you might benefit from a spring clean of the mind.
Here’s 3 simple ways you can mentally de-clutter, let go of what doesn’t serve you, and create some better mind habits.
De-clutter your working memory
“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are full of yesterday’s clutter” - Louise Smith
Our working memory is a short- term storage facility for any tasks that need reasoning, comprehension or learning. So, if you want to solve a problem or make decisions you can easily access the information you need to get the task done. BUT it can only hold so much before “decision fatigue” sets in.
The consensus is that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions every day. These could be conscious, thought through decisions, or quick impulsive decisions. A tiring thought!
To combat decision fatigue, you can “pre decide” some of the simpler decisions that you make every day. Our brain loves being on auto-pilot, and although as a coach I spend most of my time encouraging people to get off auto-pilot, it’s still useful for those mundane day to day decisions such as what to wear in the morning or what to eat for breakfast. So, make those decisions in advance, create a routine that works for you and free up space for those bigger decisions that require more energy.
Many successful entrepreneurs do this, including Steve Jobbs, Co-founder and CEO of Apple, who famously wore the same clothes every day to save his “decision energy”.
For those bigger decisions, write them down along with possible solutions and pros and cons. Once they’re out of your working memory and in front of you in black and white you can apply more conscious reasoning and remove some of the anxiety you may have been feeling when they were swirling around in your head.
And this always seems to shock people when I tell them that they can always UN-decide after. Now I know if you’ve decided to cut all your hair off and go for a short bob, you can’t un-decide that. But then again you could always invest in extensions… you just have to make different choices!
Spring Clean your relationships
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
Whether you believe this or not, it’s a good reminder for us to pay attention to the impact our close relationships have on our wellbeing. The people we spend time with can have more of an impact on how we think feel and act than we notice.
Take an honest look at who you surround yourself with. Who lifts you up or gets you down? Who drains you and who energises you? Who do you want to spend more time with, and who would you prefer to see less often?
I’m sure you’ve noticed when you’ve spent a lot of time with people who are negative or complain a lot, you can either find yourself irritated and drained or even joining in and feeling bad about it after. If you want to feel energised, uplifted and happy, then it makes sense to spend your time with people who have good energy, shared interests and a positive outlook.
And yes, we probably feel guilty about choosing who to spend our time with. We all have commitments, obligations, family ties…but life’s all about balance and it’s OK for you to set some personal boundaries and get your own needs met. When we feel mentally nourished it’s easier to show up as our best selves.
Get out of your comfort zone
"A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there" - Unknown.
A comfort zone often feels familiar and safe. Even if you’re unhappy in your current circumstances it can still be easier for your mind to accept what’s familiar rather than venture into the unknown. Stepping outside of what you know can trigger fear, insecurity and anxiety. But it can also lead to excitement, joy and growth.
Worrying about doing new things is usually worse than actually doing it. By the time we’ve mentally rehearsed everything that might happen or that could go wrong we already feel mentally exhausted.
So how can you step outside your comfort zone? Stop imagining it as a huge event and start small. Identify something you would normally feel uncomfortable about and just do it. It could just be taking a different route to work, speaking to someone you don’t normally speak to, wearing something different. See it as an experiment – notice what you say to yourself in your head and how you feel when you’re doing it. Then notice how you feel when you’ve achieved it. And do it again!
Your mind’s number one job is to keep you safe, so once you prove to it that taking a different route to work won’t lead to a lion attack or an untimely death it will be quite happy for you to do this without feeling anxious.
And don’t just save your mental spring clean for Spring, a regular “audit” and creating better mind habits will keep you on track leave you with less to de-clutter!