For many of us our thinking mind is always chatting away. Non-stop. Whilst exercising we may be thinking about our latest work assignment, or, when we are supposedly listening to our neighbour, we are actually thinking about what to eat for lunch.
Our mind is a constant stream of (mostly irrelevant) thoughts, and it likes to control the narrative throughout our daily encounters. Often the excess noise distracts us from everything, hinders our creativity and productivity, as well as creates unnecessary fear and anxiety.
So, what can we do to declutter our mind for a more clear and calm inner world?
1. Nurture the Mind-Body Relationship
Your mind and body aren’t two separate entities. They work in collaboration and what harms your body will naturally also harm your mind. I have noticed that consuming too much alcohol, coffee, sugar, and irregular meals all fuel my anxiety and cause a chaotic mind.
Once I limited my alcohol intake, began to nourish my body with lots of healthy and fresh foods, and take part in intermittent fasting, I saw a drastic improvement in my mental clarity.
2. Declutter the Excess Physical
Have you ever realised that the physical things around you speak to you – constantly? You can try it for yourself. Next time when you walk into a room, notice how some of the things pop out and remind you of something you’re yet to do, clean, or fix.
Our thoughts form attachments to the physical objects around us, because of a related memory or belief we may have. That is why it can be difficult to declutter your space. You may feel guilty for wanting to get rid of a gift that you really don’t like, but since your grandma gave it to you, you feel obligated to keep it. Instead, aim to only keep the things which bring value to your life.
The same goes with the people around you. Don’t be afraid to ‘declutter’ or limit contact with those who constantly drain you energetically, or otherwise impact you in a negative or harmful way. Otherwise you may risk being swallowed up into their darkness especially if you are more of an empath.
You know what they say – misery loves company.
Journalling has been a crucial part of my self-discovery and personal growth journey, and I cannot recommend it enough to you. Writing down your thoughts onto a piece of paper takes all that excess junk out of your mind and frees up space.
During several mornings in the week, I like to do an exercise called Morning Pages, which is writing a stream of consciousness for three pages as the first thing when you wake up. The idea behind Morning Pages is to write non-stop without thinking what you are writing down. There is no wrong way of writing. Just write about anything and everything that crosses your mind. This exercise is especially helpful for clearing up your mind and preparing it for the day to come.
4. Deal with the past
Do you ever just lay in bed trying to fall asleep and suddenly you remember something embarrassing you said or did 10 years ago and can’t help but cringe? Yep, same here!
If given the chance, my mind loves to pick apart and criticise every interaction I had during the day, or several years ago. I will find flaws in every situation and dwell on them for longer than is healthy or needed.
Now, whenever I feel the anxiety creeping up about something I did or experienced in the past, I work my way through the following questions:
- How is this thought relevant now?
- Am I just worrying about this for the sake of worrying?
- Was I in control during that given situation? If so, what could I learn from it to avoid something similar in the future.
These three questions help me navigate through the thoughts that are relevant and those that aren’t. Often times, if we try to ignore a thought and push it away, it will only keep coming back stronger.
Therefore, it’s important to learn the difference between things that we can and cannot control. If you cannot control something, try to accept it and let go of it. Those things which you can control, you can also change, so save your energy for these situations.
5. Master your Mind
Learning to spend less time in your head amongst all the mental chatter is hard work. The thinking mind hates discipline, and it will do everything to try and resist being controlled or silenced. It pertains a level of self-awareness to be able to step outside from all the noise, and to moderate and direct your behaviour.
In his book Your Brain at Work, David Rock mentions the importance of being able to “free yourself from the automatic flow of experience, and to choose where to direct your attention. Without a director, you are a mere automation, driven by greed, fear, or habit.” If we don’t take any accountability for our thoughts and mind, then we risk drifting through life on auto-pilot.
That is why it is crucial for us to learn to tune in on the now and be wholly present, because that is the only moment we ever really have. In Eckhart Tolle’s words from his book The Power of Now, he writes:
“The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence” and “stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there”, or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.” Dwelling too much in the past may give rise to feelings of regret, shame, or guilt for the things we did, didn’t do or say, and as a result we may experience depressive feelings. On the other hand, focusing too much on the future and anticipating what has not happened yet, will increase our levels of stress and anxiety.
Therefore, using techniques such as learning to actively listen to our friends, family, or children, reading a book mindfully and slowly, or meditating, can help us train our mind to become more present. Once we’re here, in the now, our excess thoughts and worries quieten, and that, is the power of now.
To read more about the life-changing benefits of decluttering both your physical and your internal environment, be sure to check out my other article on minimalism here.
Do you often find yourself caught up in the stream of your thoughts? How would you describe them – are they mostly positive or negative thoughts?