When you hear the phrase “spring cleaning,” an overhaul of your closet and many trips to Goodwill probably comes to mind.
But what about the junk that’s living in your mind?
We all have those heavy thoughts that don’t seem to give us a break—the conversation that didn’t go well with your boss that you keep mentally having over and over again, thinking about all the brilliant things you could have said but didn’t. The memory of the fight with your ex where he made you feel so small and insignificant, which resurfaces every time you’re on a promising first date and leaves you wondering whether you’re good enough.
It’s time to get rid of all the stuff in your head that isn’t serving you. Here are five tips for decluttering your mind this spring.
Keep a daily journal
One way to get the stuff you don’t need out of your mind? Write it down. “Journaling regularly allows that clutter to be removed from our brain and put onto the paper,” says therapist Erica Labuzan-Lopez. “You can do this by writing or drawing.” Don’t go editing yourself afterwards, either—just get it out! “Journaling helps us to sort through our thoughts and feelings,” she explains. “You can keep the journal and read it later, or if you are looking to remove baggage, you can rip up and throw away the pages.”
Look at the big picture
We humans have a tendency to focus on the small-scale tasks in our lives that need to be completed. But Labuzan-Lopez points out that doing so often gets us stuck. “Getting bogged down on the details means we are spending too much time doing things that are not getting us where we want to go,” she explains. “Write down the big-picture ideas for your life, then set goals to achieve that would get you closer to your vision. Break that down into projects for the year and tasks for each month. This is a great way to rid your brain and body of focusing on irrelevant tasks that do not yield results.”
Stop holding on to bad feelings
When painful thoughts pop into our minds, it’s important to remember that we have the power to push them right back out of there. It can be tempting to let them stay for a while, but behavioral health coach Gabrielle Loehr says that doing so is just a waste of energy. “The world is full of injustices and people do terrible things to each other,” she says, “but the energy you use to hold onto the pain and anger is the same energy you could be using to give yourself a better life. Stop spending time on things that make you feel bad or resentful. Let go of grudges, past hurts, jealousy and resentment.”
Focus on the moment
Nowadays, most of our time is spent in front of a screen, where our brain doesn’t have the opportunity to zone out or relax. Then, when we finally do get a moment to think, our brain becomes flooded with negative thoughts and worries. Dr. Acacia Parks of Happify says one way to clear out your mind is to get hyper-focused on the moment you’re currently experiencing.
For example, while you’re showering—and likely stressing out about all the things you need to get done today. “Ask yourself, what can you notice about the shower experience that you don’t usually notice?” she recommends. “What smells can you notice? The smell of steam, of your shampoo and soap? What sensations can you feel? The temperature of the water, the feeling of the soap? What can you hear? The sound of the water falling, the sound the soap makes as you wash yourself? What can you see? How do the soap bubbles move as they fall down your arm? What does the water look like when it splashes on the floor of the shower?”
Taking the time to go through this process clears out all of the extraneous thoughts you’re having, and gives your mind a much-needed break.
Instead of letting your mind fill up with your laundry list of worries or replaying all the things that went wrong today, Dr. Parks says that focusing on the good will help drive those bad thoughts away. “Practice gratitude before bed,” she suggests. “Write down three things that went well during your day, and make that the last thing you do before you close your eyes.”