Spring Clean Your Mind
Sweep out the emotional cobwebs to reveal a better you
Hi all. Hope you had a lovely bank holiday. I did something entirely predictable (and arguably a bit boring) with mine – I cleared out and tidied my wardrobe. It felt great – it’s always nice to let go of things, to feel less overwhelmed by mess and clutter and stuff.
Buoyed by that experience, I’m sticking with the theme of Spring Cleaning today. With its associations of renewal – Easter, Passover, Ramadan, pick your holiday (or don’t, of course) – Spring is the perfect time to reset and declutter your mind. In fact, the ‘fresh start effect’ (human tendency to take action towards achieving a goal or making a change after a special occasion/key date) is very strong in Spring. So, let’s use this motivation to sweep out the cobwebs from our minds…
The brain likes to hold onto stuff, especially the stuff that hurts. This is no surprise; in evolutionary terms, it keeps us safe by remembering what’s painful (e.g. a burn from a lit match) so that we hopefully steer clear next time we encounter something similar.
Works brilliantly with fire. Less so with inner life stuff – breakups, losses, repetitive negative thoughts and the like.
For that stuff, the brain needs help. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself that’ll help you spring clean your mind.
What are the old, habitual thoughts that keep me up at night? A few to consider:
Do you catastrophise everything?
Do you obsess over what other people think of you?
Do you worry about things that haven’t even happened yet, and probably never will?
Are you still replaying that time an unpleasant colleague slighted you in front of the office?
Does a past relationship take up far too much of your brain/heart space?
Answered YES to all the above? You’re not alone. We all do all of this, to some degree, some of the time. The key to not letting these unhelpful thought patterns bed-in your mind for good is actually very simple: question them, regularly. It’s incredible what a difference simply becoming aware of our thoughts and then shining light on them makes to their potency. Then, once you’ve gotten used to questioning them, think of more helpful thoughts you could replace them with. If you’re stuck on this - imagine what would you say to a friend, chances are you’ll think more kindly and productively as a result.
Who are the people that aren’t adding much to my life? Start with social media, then move onto the real world.
Social Media: Trawl through Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Whatsapp and any other apps you’re using. Remove or unfollow people that you don’t remember meeting or that post annoying/negative/ unhelpful stuff. Leave or mute groups that are no longer relevant or make you feel bad.
Real World: Make a list of the people you spend the most time with (family, friends, colleagues) and ask yourself the following questions:
Does this person bring me joy? Am I excited to see them?
Is this a balanced, healthy relationship? ( ie this person respects my time, doesn’t talk behind my back, listens to me and not just talk about him/herself)
Is this person good for me? (do they support me in my choices? do the activities we do together fit my desired lifestyle?)
Does this person lift me higher? (Can I learn from them, do they give me honest feedback, am I the best version of me when I’m around them?)
Apparently we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with, so make sure you’re surrounding yourself with the right people! It isn’t easy to actively move away from toxic friends or family, but it’s worth it in the end.
What are my most unhelpful habits?
Our life is made up of our habits, rituals and routines, so what are the ones that are holding you back? Make a list of all the things you do in a week, then ask yourself the following questions:
Is this habit good for me?
Is this habit aligned with my priorities, values and mission?
Do I enjoy this or am I doing it just out of habit or social pressure?
Your best bet here for sustainable, lasting change is to replace an existing habit with a new one. And don’t overdo it with trying to impact too much change all at once – pick a few habits and make them stick!
All of these questions are about identifying the thoughts, people and behaviours that aren’t helpful to you. This doesn’t mean they’ve always been unhelpful – a negative thought could have once helped you through a breakup, an unpleasant friendship could have once been a healthy one – and it doesn’t mean they won’t be helpful again someday. But for now, you’re just letting go of the things that no longer serve you, so that you have more space for the stuff that does.
Know a loved one that would benefit from a mental spring clean? Send this on :)
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