Declutter your mind, and you will rid yourself of so much stuff! Just like when you clean up and clear out the clutter in your home – whether it’s the clothes you no longer wear, or the orange vase someone gave you for Christmas that’s gathering dust, or the exercise bike you haven’t taken for a spin in months – you let go of what’s no longer wanted nor needed. You free yourself of superfluous items carrying old and stagnant energy. You create space. Clean and clear chi flows through your home. Now it’s more vibrant, alive, and feels ‘fresh’.
Tidying up your cabinets, cupboards and living space feels really good. But what feels even better is to clear out the non-essential items congesting your mind.
Here are seven useful tips to free up some head space, so you can stay focused, be more productive and clear-headed.
1. Write it all down
Nothing creates as much brain clutter as commitments, concerns and mental to-do lists cycling around in your brain. It helps to write them all down. Once they are all down on paper, prioritize them and work out a plan to deal with them. Assess them to identify what’s essential and what isn’t. Once you’ve decided what’s important, get that sorted out. Now that you’ve freed up some of your mental space, you can think more clearly, focus easily on the tasks ahead and get so much more done.
2. Do only one thing at a time
Multitasking is very inefficient. I know that sounds counter-productive. You focus on more tasks, you achieve more, right? Not so. When you’re busy preparing a presentation, checking your email inbox, and look to order groceries online, it breaks your concentration, and your mind becomes restless and stressed.
The constant juggling between tasks limits your attention span and creates additional clutter by making it difficult for your brain to filter out irrelevant information. This makes it difficult to do any one thing properly. The result is your efficiency is reduced, and very little is accomplished.
Studies have shown that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on a task after an interruption. Do the maths, and you’ll be shocked at the amount of time that goes to waste from repetitive interruptions.
It’s better to focus on doing things methodically and thoroughly. Make a list of things you need to accomplish that day. Keep the to-do list simple and realistic. Start with what’s most important. As you finish one task, move onto the next. You’ll save time, energy and achieve so much more.
3. Stay in the present
Brooding over the past and worrying about the future take up a lot of space in your mind, drains your energy and achieves precisely nothing. The only place you can really and truly be is in the present. In this moment, you influence the here and now as well as the future by the thoughts you choose to focus on.
When you place all of your attention on one thing – such as your breath – all other thoughts fall away. Focusing on your breathing is the fastest and easiest way to bring your mind to focus on the present moment.
4. Be Decisive
When you constantly put off making decisions, your brain becomes overwhelmed by all the clutter that’s created by those pending decisions. So stop procrastinating and make that call. Whether it’s about spending more time with your kids, or the hobby you always wanted to try, or that email you’ve been avoiding for so long. For simple decisions, make up your mind and do it. For complex decisions, evaluate the pros and cons, then base your decision on what intuitively feels good and go with it.
5. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing
Most of us take 20, 0000 breaths a day. Yet, we hardly give any attention to our breathing, simply because our brain automatically adjusts our breathing in line with the activities of our body. When you’re jogging, you don’t have to remind yourself, “I need to take deep breaths, so that more oxygen moves to my muscles.” It just happens, naturally and automatically.
With our modern lifestyle, we are unfortunately sedentary most of the day. As we sit behind our desks or slouch on the sofa watching TV, we have created a habit of taking short and shallow breaths. We’re also more stressed, anxious and worried, hence our breathing is more constricted.
And, when we’re in a hurry, and rush through our day, our breathing follows suit with quick, nervous breaths.
One wouldn’t think so but slow, deep, rhythmic breathing helps to declutter your mind. It helps you detach from negative thought loops congesting your mind and helps to calm your mind.
Apart from that, deep diaphragmic breathing slows down your heart rate, relaxes your muscles, brings your awareness into the present moment and quietens your inner dialog. The subsequent physiological changes that occur are referred to as the “relaxation response.”
It’s a term first coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. He wrote the book The Relaxation Response in which he shares the benefits of a variety of relaxation techniques (including diaphragmatic breathing) to treat a wide range of stress-related disorders.
Here’s how you can create a daily practice of deep breathing:
- Find a quiet spot where you won’t be distracted nor interrupted.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes. (After a week, move to 10 minutes)
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose, to the count of four. Hold your breath for the count of two. Exhale slowly and completely to the count of four. Let your stomach return to its natural position. After you’ve exhaled, hold your breath for the count of two.
Some of us are ‘chest’ breathers, whilst others are diaphragmic breathers. This breathing technique is diaphragmic. So, when you slowly inhale through your nose, until your lungs are filled to capacity, let your stomach push out on the inhalation.
(Here’s a quick test: place your hand on your stomach. Breathe in. If your stomach does not move, you’re a chest breather. If your hand moves, when your stomach expands, your breathing is diaphragmic.)
If you notice you’re hyperventilating, don’t breathe in quite as deeply. With practice, you’ll increase your lung capacity, and you will be able to inhale more air.
To make this practice a natural habit, use this technique at different times throughout your day.
Over 300 scientific studies have shown how ‘being quiet’ moves your mind out of the frenetic beta-zone – your everyday state of consciousness – where you’re analyzing, organizing and strategizing, often at a crazy pace.
You move yourself into a calmer, quieter place. With practice, your mind reflects that tranquil space. You focus better, think more clearly and creatively. (If you would like to enjoy these benefits too, have a look at the Energy, Focus and Calm: Receive Your Custom-Fit Meditation Practice VIP Day. You’ll learn how to meditate using a technique that’s specific to your level of mental busyness, not a ‘one size fits all’ technique.)
Meditate daily, and your mind is less cluttered by thoughts that serve little purpose other than to drain you. You’ll clean them out and create some space. And you will see and feel the plethora of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual benefits increase over time.
7. Control the amount of data coming in
We live in a world of information overload and the 24-hour news cycle. Our mind is constantly bombarded with data streaming out of the news channels, social media platforms and apps we engage with. Too much information can clog your brain. Over time you become distracted, disjointed, even disorganized. It strains your brain. Heightened stress levels, inefficiency and poor concentration are just some of the side-effects.
Yet, there is one person who can control the constant influx of information and interruptions.
You can limit the time you spend scrolling through social media posts. You can get your news in a 15-minute snippet once a day – most of it does not contribute to your life in any meaningful way any way.
You can be selective about your media consumption, online activities and the amount of incoming data your brain processes.
You, and only you are in charge. And, when you control all incoming data, you no longer strain your brain, and feel more sane!
Declutter your mind and it will pay off in all sorts of ways you haven’t imagined yet.
When you sit at your desk, typing on your computer, calmly focused, you feel relaxed when you complete your tasks. You smile, maybe even shake your head, as you think “I get so much more done when my mind is calmer. I can’t believe how good my concentration is. I’m so glad I’ve put my phone away for an hour and a half. It’s crazy how quickly I can get things done now.”
As with any other habit, decluttering your mind requires practice, patience, and a willingness to start small, then grow from there.
Put these 7 easy tips into practice, and you’ll be able to think clearly and focus on what really matters. You’ll complete your tasks more quickly and easily and that gives you time for yourself.
At the end of your day, as you sip your green tea, you no longer feel stressed but rather impressed with your productivity. You feel a comfortable ease and peace within. And your brain thanks you because you declutter your mind daily.