Psychological Spring Cleaning: Tips on Reducing Mental Clutter
“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits.” -Eleanor Brown
Spring has officially sprung, and with that hopefully an abundance of new growth in your geographical area in the form of wildflowers, green grass, running streams, and chirping birds. Symbolically, the vernal equinox represents new life, fertility, new beginnings, the cycle of life continuing forth in new form. Just like birds creating nests for their new chicks, humans are often compelled this time of year to create their own nests of order, peace, tranquility, letting go of the old, feng shui, and minimalism in their own homes. With that is often an urge to purge old stuff that inhabits the brain like a squatter taking up free rent in the cerebrum. Just as it’s healthy to shed that which no longer serves you well tangibly (clutter, things that can be donated to a shelter, etc), so is it an opportunity to clear out the psychological clutter.
Here are some tips for doing some psychological spring cleaning:
1- Take some time to physically survey your living environment and first, do a physical purge of clutter. Take out the trash, sift through stacks and recycle, store, or give away. Items that you no longer wear or old toys can be donated to thrift stores or shelters for folks who can really use these items that are just taking up space in your home. Clearing out tangible visible clutter paves the way to clearing out mental clutter. We need to have an orderly environment to create the mental space for releasing that which does not serve us well.
2-During a time of reflection or meditation, take out a journal and make a list of habits you’d like to change. For some, this includes eating more nutritiously, increasing exercise, reducing/eliminating alcohol or caffeine, going to bed earlier, etc. Write down the habit that is troublesome and then create a positive, affirming goal such as: “Habit to change: I am tired of waking up exhausted. Goal: Commit to going to bed 30 minutes earlier 5 times/week; adjust times accordingly to elongate sleep.” Understand that psychological spring cleaning often does include other life domains — like incorporating wellness strategies.
3- The above task could take some time, as you sift through all your life domains: physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Perhaps there is a need to “pull some weeds” in the garden of your support circle? Do you have some “friendships” that are really one-way, energy-draining, and/or exploitive? Be ok with examining the level of reciprocity and integrity present in that relationship (whether collegial, friend, lover, family member, neighbor, etc) — and make a determination if this social connection adds joy, comfort, knowledge, empathy to your life. If not, then it’s ok to pull that weed to make space for new, healthier growth (in the form of social supports) to occur.
4- Make time for connecting with self-compassion. Do you often fill your brain with automatic thoughts that are hurtful and perhaps from a different source (person) or chapter in your life? Meditate for a moment and pay attention to the thoughts going through your mind. Gently excuse the negative chatter out. Welcome a reality-based, positive and affirming statement that honors your self-worth. For example, “I am enough.” If you find that the negative thoughts are pulling you down and potentially leading to anxiety or depression, seek out a strengths-focused therapist who can help you harness the power of your thought process with self-compassion.
5- Do one productive task per day that allows the “decluttering of the mind” to occur. This goal can be as simple as doing a 5 minute deep breathing exercise every morning before you get out of bed or it could be a mindfulness meditation or prayer. Set your intention for clearing mental cobwebs by creating time for this process to occur.
6- Have fun with this process of getting into the now – As you release that which does not serve you well, including old habits and thought processes that are unhealthy, as well as toxic relationships…suddenly there is time and space for new growth and new endeavors. The skeletons in the closet have been removed, opening up space for potential, creativity, freedom, joy, and wellness. Enjoy your newfound time and space to engage in practices such as yoga, hiking, healthy social supports, creative endeavors, new career goals, deeper spirituality, volunteerism…all of which contribute to positive mental health and harmonious living.
Happy Spring Cleaning!
Good reads for further assistance with “spring cleaning”:
Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever (1999) by Karen Kingston
Minimalist Living: Decluttering for Joy, Health and Creativity (2013) by Genevieve Parker Hill
Schneider, A. (2018). Psychological Spring Cleaning: Tips on Reducing Mental Clutter. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2018/04/psychological-spring-cleaning-tips-on-reducing-mental-clutter/