Tuesday 27 September 2016

Well-being: Spring clean - Our minds need a deep cleaning too

Our minds need a deep cleaning too, writes

Published 05/04/2016 | 02:30

Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo

Spring is the time of year when we spruce up our living spaces, clean out our closets and get the house in order. I recently attended a yoga class where the teacher advised that we apply the same principle to our minds.

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Just as we get rid of items that no longer serve us, we can also try to overcome thinking patterns that no longer benefit us.

Self-limiting beliefs and destructive thought patterns are forms of emotional clutter that create disorder in our mental health space. Like physical clutter, they block our way and prevent us from seeing clearly.

As inspirational author Eleanor Brownn writes, "Clutter is not just physical stuff. It's old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self."

Clutter weighs us down and our thoughts can be just as burdensome as the physical items that we accumulate.

William Morris famously said, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

It's helpful to apply the same dictum to the thoughts that occupy your mental headspace. Self-doubt and self-condemnation are neither useful or beautiful emotions.

The season of renewal is also a good time to consider the self-limiting beliefs and destructive thought patterns that might be holding you back, particularly after the inertia and ennui of wintertime. Think of it as a mental spring clean.

Take a moment to consider the predominant scripts that run in your mind. Fear of lack? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? These thinking patterns are like the dresses at the back of your wardrobe that you're never going to wear: they just take up space.

We know it's easier to throw out old clothing when we've tried on some new pieces for size. It's much the same with thinking patterns: we have to try on a new pattern in order to get rid of the old one.

For instance, if you're constantly worrying about finances, stop thinking about what you don't have and instead be grateful for everything you do have.

This isn't an exercise in happy-clappy positivity - it really does help to stop the never-ending arithmetic that overwhelms the mind when we're under financial strain.

The comparison trap is another example of emotional clutter. In fact, it has about as much use as the George Foreman grill that's been in your shed for the last eight years. Comparison is the death of joy, according to Mark Twain. It's also the birthplace of envy, anxiety and general discontent.

Obligations could also be considered a form of emotional clutter. Spring is a good time to reconsider the people and places that weigh us down. Do you really 'have to' meet that old friend or attend that function?

Remember that acting out of a sense of obligation is disingenuous, both to yourself and the person you feel obligated to please. Nobody wins when you show up half-heartedly.

Spring-cleaning is an act of surrender. We have to let go of items that we no longer need, even the sentimental ones. The same is true for those who permanently live in the past, whether by constantly recounting the good ol' days or incessantly recalling their darkest times.

Those that live in the past are not unlike hoarders whose homes are overflowing with needless items. The memories that they refuse to let go of take up just as much space and leave little room for new people, opportunities and paths to emerge.

As the saying goes: "You can't reach for anything new if your hands are still holding yesterday's junk".

Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a surprise bestseller last year, perhaps because the wisdom she imparted around the tangible act of decluttering has emotional parallels too.

"When we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future," she says. It's advice worth considering if you can't stop thinking about a situation that happened long ago.

Conversely, some people are fastidious in their spring cleaning - a place for everything and everything in its place.

They invest in drawer dividers and clever storage solutions and they visibly bristle when somebody so much as moves a teacup. They also tend to have five-year plans… and 10-year ones too.

The trouble with this approach is that it doesn't leave much room for order to establish itself organically - it prevents the natural flow and balance of an interior space.

Likewise, when we micro-manage our lives and try to forecast every possible outcome, we fail to see the golden opportunities that always seem to come out of nowhere.

Mental spring cleaning is just as important as the physical act of clearing out cupboards and consigning items to the attic.

Every so often, we have to access the deepest recesses of our minds to clear out old ideas, beliefs and philosophies that no longer serve us.

Perhaps the most entrenched form of emotional clutter is the idea that we don't have to change anything at all…

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