We live in a world that values material possessions and achievement. It’s no surprise that we’re also overwhelmed and unfulfilled. In her New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo introduced the world to the philosophy of living with only those items that “spark joy.”
While that may be true of the items we stuff in our closets, it’s also true of the way we live our lives. People who organized their homes with the method say they changed their lives too. A new year is a good time to detox the clutter that’s holding us back and embrace a happier, healthier lifestyle – but decluttering your space means decluttering your mind as well. Here are five ways to clean up the clutter of an untidy mind.
Get rid of the stuff
Whether it’s an inbox stuffed with emails or a drawer stuffed with socks, disorganization and clutter affect our mental and emotional attitudes. A 2016 study by Joseph Ferrari, psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, found that procrastination led to clutter and had a negative effect on the participants. We can ease our emotional lives by devoting our time to our relationships, not our stuff.
Adopt a healthy diet
At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, researchers found that people in disorganized, messy kitchens were more likely to overeat than those in tidy ones. Kathleen Voss, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, says chaotic spaces may enable people to think less is expected of them and act accordingly. When we have a sense of control, we are more likely to make good choices.
New York psychiatrist and author Dr. Edward Hallowell says clutter leads to conflict between couples and suggests handling the challenge with mutual respect and humor. While tidying up spaces might improve relationships, sometimes we need to get rid of the relationships themselves. When people around us criticize, complain or gossip, we are less productive and happy. We may not be able to avoid some people, but we can set boundaries. Build stronger relationships with your romantic partner, friends and family to reap positive mental health benefits.
Be good to yourself
Trying to please other people or even measure up to our own ideals often leaves us feeling depleted and unhappy. We can’t give back if we don’t take care of ourselves. This means different things for different people, but it requires setting aside time and mental energy to doing the things we enjoy and treating ourselves with kindness. Some psychologists now recommend self-compassion over self-esteem and suggest practicing mindfulness, the act of being present in every moment.
Quiet your mind
Mental clutter is the negative chatter inside our heads that keeps us from accomplishing the things we want to do in life. Besides making us feel stuck, it affects our short term memory and may even be linked to memory loss as we age. It keeps us from thinking clearly and reminds us what we can’t do in an endless loop of thoughts. Yogis call it the “monkey mind.” Try these tips to get rid of the monkeys in your head:
- Put your thoughts on paper
- Practice gratitude
- Listen to soothing music
- Spend time in nature
- Practice deep breathing or yoga
- Live in the moment
When we detox our mental space, we’re also doing our part to improve relationships with other people and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. Our thoughts determine our actions, and our actions determine our reality. We can become healthier and happier by honoring the connection between mind, body and spirit.