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Sherri Calder: Clear your mind of clutter

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A bird lives among the cluttered reeds at Diefenbaker Park in Tsawwassen. Photo: Adrian MacNair.

Something special happens each spring. Longer days of sunlight and buds in bloom spark an urge to renew and refresh our lives. Many of us get outside more to soak up the sun while others de-clutter living spaces and breathe a sigh of relief at calmer surroundings. Spring is a time of a new beginnings.

All the natural changes and motivation spring provides can lead to a greater sense of well being as we engage with our external environment in a new way. But what about our internal environment? Spring is the ideal time to clear out some our internal clutter as well. A spring cleaning of the mind is in order.

Awareness is the first step to being able to manage your mind clutter. It is similar to clutter you have in your living space that fades into the background over time but continues to be a source of annoyance. Mind clutter is ever present but usually becomes easier to spot during times of stress when we almost ‘trip’ on it.

What does the clutter of your mind look like? It usually takes the form of unhelpful and unproductive thoughts. ‘All or nothing’ thinking is a perfect example, “I never get out the door on time.” The words never and always are mind clutter giveaways.

There are many types of thought distortions that can clutter the mind. Noticing that you have mind clutter and identifying what type of clutter it is can be a big step towards dealing with it.
This would be similar to you looking around my living space and saying, “there is a lot of clutter in here and most of it is papers and magazines.” You have identified the source of the problem and can tackle it head on.

Another step is deciding what to do with your mind clutter. Similar to physical clutter we can get attached to things that are no longer useful or unknowingly bring us unhappiness. As you sift through your thoughts be ruthless with those that are causing you distress. Imagine a mental garbage bin where you will collect those thoughts and dispose of them. If they continue to resurface direct them right back into the garbage bin.

If you prefer recycling to disposing, you could take your unproductive thoughts and recycle them into productive thoughts. Using my earlier example, I could recycle my ‘all or nothing’ thought into “I am running behind today but most days I make it out on time.” Recycle an unhelpful thought into one that considers more realistic interpretations and will influence your behaviour in a positive way.

Attending to mind clutter can be challenging and requires regular maintenance but it can also provide great rewards in the same way clearing clutter from your physical space or riding a bicycle in the sun gives you a new found feeling or freedom and lightness. If you’re interested in more information on mind clutter click here.

Sherri Calder is Registered Clinical Counsellor in Tsawwassen.

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