7 Ways to Reduce Mental Clutter

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DO THINGS YOUR WAY

This one is huge. You will greatly reduce mental clutter, if you just allow yourself to do things your own way.

I have wasted much mental energy in the past trying to do things someone else’s way. Not only is this frustrating and draining, it usually doesn’t work. I’m different from them and that’s okay. Maybe you are too?

You may not have the same skills as others. But guess what, they may not have the same skills as you.

Use the skills you have.

Maybe someone else has the skill of just “toughing it out.” But if you don’t have that skill, you don’t need to pretend to. Instead, maybe you have the skills of creativity and problem solving and would know how to get out of or avoid a difficult situation. Use the skill you actually have.

We were all given a set of skills to get through this life. Life is going to be difficult if you try to use the skills of others, rather than your own natural abilities.

Let go of the mental clutter that is caused by trying to do it their way. You are allowed to do things your own way.

 

TRUST THAT THINGS WILL WORK OUT

We waste a lot of mental space on worry.

However, the majority of the things we worry about never become the worst case scenario that we imagined.

Most things turn out just fine. Or even better than we had thought.

Trust that things will work out. Optimism is so much more enjoyable than pessimism.

Most likely, everything will turn out okay.

And if it doesn’t turn out okay – an optimistic and positive mindset is a lot better at dealing with that outcome, than a pessimistic negative one.

Also, keep in mind, sometimes thinking about the worst possible thing is actually worse than the worst possible thing.

When the worst possible thing happens, we go into action mode and problem solving mode, because what has happened, has happened. However, when we are thinking about some terrible outcome that could happen, we are simply dwelling.

Don’t create misery for yourself. It’s not worth it.

 

FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION

I used to aggressively weigh my pros and cons every time I tried to make a decision. I would become stuck in analysis paralysis. Not only did this take up a lot of mental energy, but I also would never actually make a decision.

Being open to following your intuition will rid you of a significant amount of mental clutter. Whether it is the everyday little decisions or the bigger life change decisions.

Your intuition is telling you something – try to tap into it. Mental clutter will also arise when you are trying to force yourself to do the “rational” thing, but your intuition is telling you something different.

Intuition does not mean making decisions based on emotions. Intuition is just trusting that there is an inner wisdom that goes beyond the rational mind.

Since I have started to follow my intuition, I not only have reduced my mental clutter, but my life has also started going in a direction I am more aligned with.

Maybe this will happen for you too?

 
REALIZE CRITICISM IS JUST ABOUT PREFERENCES

I used to allow a lot of mental clutter by being concerned about what other people thought of me and taking their criticisms personally.

I wish someone had told me sooner: Criticism is just about preferences.

Don’t believe me?

Try looking up your favorite book on Amazon. You will find both the harshest criticisms along with raving reviews.

And often times, they are criticizing and raving over the exact same things.

“This book was not well researched or backed by scientific evidence. I could not take the author seriously.”

“I loved the author’s down to earth conversational tone! She doesn’t take an academic assuming approach, but rather shares her own thoughts based on her experiences!”

Imagine these being two reviews about the same book. As you can see, the first review, which was the “criticism” was purely based on a preference for a researched scientific book.

This happened for me at a job once. I had a supervisor who identified my strengths as being patient, empathetic, and willing to give grace to the clients in our youth program.

After this, I got a new supervisor. She said my weaknesses were that I was too patient with clients and let them off the hook too easy.

The exact same thing. But one person thought it was my strength and another person thought it was my weakness.

So, this is how we reduce the mental clutter surrounding criticism. Next time someone criticizes you, you do not need to go into a tizzy of  endless What’s wrong with me? thoughts. Rather, just realize your style is not their preference, and move on.

 

REALIZE YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS IS YOUR GREATEST STRENGTH

Sometimes we don’t need the criticisms of others to beat ourselves up, we do it to ourselves already. We think Why am I not like this? Why am I so bad at that? Why can’t I get this right?

This is where we need to remember that our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength.

It’s the thing that makes you special. It’s the thing that makes you stand out.

For me, I have a “messy brain.” My thoughts are everywhere and there are sticky notes all over my desk at work. But guess what? I am very creative.

Also, I am an introvert. I tend to be very quiet in meetings at work. But guess what, I am incredibly observant.

What is it for you?

Next time you find yourself feeling bad about a weakness of yours – take a moment – and flip the thought around. Realize how this very thing you are calling a weakness has also been the source of your greatest strength.

 

EXPEND MENTAL ENERGY WISELY

Mental energy is a finite resource. It runs outs.

We must budget our mental energy just like we would budget our finances.

Where can we reserve mental energy in our life, so that we are able to increase mental energy in other areas?

An example in my own life, is my wardrobe. I used to try to stay up with the latest fashion trends. I used to strategically pick out what I was going to where every day. I tried to go weeks without wearing the same outfit twice.

For me, this took a lot of mental energy. Especially having to decide what to wear to work every morning. My job requires a lot of my mental energy, and I had used up quite a bit already, just deciding what to wear.

This is my new wardrobe for work: I wear pretty much the same thing every week. Nobody notices. I spend zero mental energy deciding what to wear. My shirts for work are simple button ups of varying colors. If I need new clothes, I limit myself to shopping at one store I really like, rather than going on a massive clothing hunt which is very exhausting for me.

This has reduced a significant amount of unneeded mental clutter and has provided me more mental energy for other areas in my life. Now I can invest my mental energy into blogging or writing, rather than perfecting a wardrobe.

This is my example. This does not have to be your example. If creating your wardrobe and choosing your outfits is a source of enjoyment, then do it! It’s all about realizing what is energizing us and what is draining us. And realizing we can’t use our mental energy on everything at all times, so choosing carefully what we decide to use it on.

 

DEVELOP SELF-COMPASSION

Treat yourself like you would treat a friend.
Cheer yourself on.
Give yourself a break if you mess up.

A lot of mental clutter exists because we are berating ourselves.

Why can’t you get this right?
Why are you still struggling with this?

This has to stop.

Would you allow someone to talk to your best friend like this?

If not, why would you let yourself be talked to this way?

I am not saying this is something that can be fixed overnight. These thoughts are pretty automatic. But next time you find your inner critic telling you something negative, just make sure to correct the thought.

Try,

You are feeling bad right now and that’s okay. It’s frustrating, but you are going to keep working on this. Even if it doesn’t get better immediately, it will get better.

Be gentle with yourself.

 

CONCLUSION

I used to be of the mindset that my problem with mental clutter could not be fixed. I used to believe that there would always be these negative, anxious, uncertain, critical voices swirling around my head.

I am here to tell you it does not have to be that way.

I’m not saying I have reached some zen state where this does not happen at all. I still do struggle with these things.

But with that being said, I have seen huge changes in myself in the last two years by implementing the above practices. I have a new inner voice – and that inner voice is kind and compassionate. She is confident and just a little more sure of herself. She trusts that things will work out. She allows and encourages me to be who I am, with no apologies.

Is the other voice still there? The “mean girl” that lives inside me is still there. But as the voice of the “Encourager” becomes louder and louder…the critical voice becomes fainter and fainter.

I hope and pray this can happen for you too.

Yours,

signaturesmaller

 

JOURNAL QUESTIONS:
1.    What would it mean for you to start doing things your own way? Have you felt pressured to do things someone else’s way? Would you be willing to let go of this pressure? What would that look like? What would you do differently?

 
2.    Do you operate in the mindset of optimism or pessimism? Do you dwell on worst case scenarios? Would you be willing to allow for more optimism and trust that things will work out? What would this look like for you?

 
3.    What is your relationship with intuition? Do you trust it? Why or why not? Would you be willing to start trusting your intuition more? Think of some decisions in your life right now. What is your intuition telling you?

 
4.    Have you ever thought about the idea that criticism might just be about other people’s preferences? What is your reaction to this? If you started thinking this way, how would it affect your life? Do you think you would be able to handle criticism more easily? Are you able to look at times in your past when you have been criticized and with this new understanding re-frame the way you are thinking about it?

 
5.    Make a list of what you consider as your weaknesses. Now next to these “weaknesses,” write out how these same things take the form of a strength. Are you willing to recognize that your weaknesses are your greatest strengths?

 
6.    How do you currently expend your mental energy? Are you using it wisely? Or are you using it on things that don’t matter to you, and not having any left for things that do? If the latter is true, how could you change this? What action steps could you take to make a change?

 
7.    Do you currently offer yourself self-compassion? Why or why not? When something doesn’t go as planned or you “mess up,” what do you tell yourself? Is it kind or is it mean? If it is not kind, what could you tell yourself instead?

 
8.    Are you willing to implement these practices into your own life? Develop a plan to start today/this week so that you can reduce mental clutter and enjoy the freedom and joy you were meant to have.

 

ADDITIONAL:
If you are really serious about this, I want to offer you two additional pieces of advice.

1)    Patience
2)    Everyday mind renewal

First, I say patience because as I said, I have seen a huge change in myself in the last 1-2 years. That’s not an overnight fix. However, I do think you can begin to see changes right away. But you may find yourself doing great one day and back to negative patterns the next day. Don’t feel bad about this – this is part of the process. Trust that over time, as long as you continue to work on this, it will change and it will become easier and easier.

Second, to find the change I wanted I had to “renew” my mind daily. I didn’t read one book and suddenly change, rather, I kept putting positivity into my life daily. You can check out my previous resource list post for some additional resources to use for the renewal of your mind. Some books I have not read but have heard highly recommended (and are on my reading list!) are Loving-kindness by Sharon Salzberg, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, The Gifts of Imperfection  by Brene Brown, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and Self Compassion by Kristin Neff. I also recently found Katie Dean through a podcast I listen to – I have not read her stuff yet but thoroughly enjoyed her podcast presence and know she speaks on these topics on her blog.

Wishing you patience, perseverance, and the renewal of your mind.

6 thoughts on “7 Ways to Reduce Mental Clutter

  1. Wow, this is a good post for me to read! I am naturally very bad at having compassion for myself, and I like how you talk about “messy brain” – I spend too much of my time frustrated with myself, or worried that I’ll make some small mistake that will become a big mistake later :-). Thanks for your article and questions!

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    1. Hi Katya!

      I am so glad you found this article helpful! Self compassion definitely does not come natural for a lot of us, but thankfully, it is something we can teach ourselves! I am wishing you the best in your journey toward self compassion! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      Nicole

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  2. Hi Nicole! I really love this article – the problem I’ve been having lately has everything to do with mental clutter, and being too harsh on myself because my work is very harsh, too. My problem is with a relationship that I’m in. Honestly, my intuition is telling me I should get out: without going into details, there has been a rough patch going for about a year now. And sometimes I think I should be optimistic, and trust in the future to be better, but sometimes I feel like following my intuition, not sure if the situation I’m in is good for my mind! How do you know when to change or not? Thanks again for this blog/article!

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    1. Hi Britney!

      So, I think it is very important to follow your intuition – there is a lot of inner wisdom within your intuition, it is important not to ignore.

      Trusting that things will work out does not mean staying in a bad situation. It means being brave enough to trust your intuition, and trusting things will work out with the decision to trust your intuition.

      It is important to distinguish between ego and intuition. The ego part of us is often scared to make changes and it will often tell us just to stay where we are. But your intuition, your deeper wiser self, usually knows what’s best for you.

      I know this is a challenging situation, but I hope this helps a little. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Nicole

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  3. So glad I checked back in to see two new articles! I can only do one at a time, because I’m slow with journalling! I want to try that wardrobe trick myself, that is something that clutters my own mind. I love the journal questions!

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    1. Hey Andi!

      So glad you stopped back in! I hope the changing of your wardrobe is helpful to you! I know that one helped me a lot!

      Wishing you less mental clutter & more mental clarity! 🙂

      Nicole

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