As spring slowly but surely creeps closer toward us, the anticipation of warmer weather and longer days tend to put the idea of “spring cleaning” on our minds. It’s common practice to clear out the physical clutter in our homes this time of year, but what about mental clutter?
By decluttering our minds from negative and counterproductive thought patterns that only contribute to stress and anxiety, we end up creating more awareness and freeing up space, which we can eventually use to develop more positivity. Just imagine what could be possible for you in your life if you stopped wasting so much time and energy on thinking and feeling some of the useless things you’re used to thinking and feeling right now.
Of course, thoughts and emotions arise so instantaneously that most people never even consider making an effort to question them and meditate on them for a while. Unraveling these types of automatic negative thought processes takes a lot of inner work, but anyone who’s willing to stick with it can achieve that state of mental clarity that’s really needed to serve as the foundation for real growth. Here’s how to do it.
Pick one bad thought that arises frequently.
We’ve all had recurring negative thoughts and emotions about ourselves or our circumstances. An example might involve assuming that you’re undeserving of a promotion you really want at work, thus invoking feelings of shame and inadequacy. Once it hits you, it feels pretty bad, and often gets worse as your mind runs with it.
Identify your triggers.
Our thoughts arise seemingly out of nowhere or are clearly triggered by something external, which is why it feels like the following emotions and subsequent thoughts seem just as wild and uncontrollable as the original thought itself. Take some time to think about when and where that thought arises and make a commitment to start bringing this thought into your awareness whenever it arises in your everyday life.
Investigate its usefulness.
Whenever you become aware of this thought and its emotions as they occur, ask yourself what value they have. Since this particular mind decluttering technique is of course all about targeting negative thoughts, your investigative work should reveal to you that there’s really no value in thinking in a way that makes you feel shameful, anxious, frustrated, impatient, or any other negative emotion.
Challenge it by using a power phrase.
A good power phrase is a short and concise statement that directly invalidates your thought. Training your inner voice to automatically say something like “that’s not true” will help you to start believing it. Keep in mind that challenging the thought doesn’t guarantee you’ll completely eliminate it–remember, thoughts are automatic responses to situations. You’ll mostly just put a stop to the snowballing effect of the thought → emotion → thought → emotion feedback loop most people aren’t even aware of when it’s happening to them.
Find peace in the mental space you just created.
The above steps essentially help bring you back to reality and free up mental space that otherwise would continue to be filled with useless thoughts and emotions that consume your consciousness as they feed off each other. Take some time to just enjoy being grounded in the present moment, detached from the hamster wheel running inside your head.
You can start using this new mental space to fill it with more of the positive ideas that might naturally cross your mind during your investigative work. With enough hard inner work over time, it will become second nature to you.