• Ashley Poynter

Spring cleaning your way to optimal mental health


As we move into spring (and as many of us are staying at home to flatten the curve), many people go into deep cleaning mode. There will be cleaning out of closets and scrubbing of all those hard-to-reach places in order to usher in the new season. One thing that many people tend to overlook this time of year is all the clutter and mess that has built up in their minds. Just as that junk drawer needs to be decluttered and organized, so does your brain.


What often happens is that we let things pile up in our minds, turning bothersome thoughts and emotions into pesky weeds that need to be cleared away. Spring is a time of renewal, making it the perfect season for a little mental house cleaning, too. Decluttering your mind can give you a much-needed emotional boost and put you in a headspace that enables you to grow.


Organizing & Decluttering

A good place to start is to get organized. We live in an era of “always connected, always on” that can make it difficult to concentrate on any one thing at a time. Start by listing your priorities and writing down what things are most important to you in your life. Work, time with friends and family, hobbies, self-care, and rest are all different buckets of life that people want and need to engage in. Determine what you need to put first and you can reduce decision fatigue.


Journaling is another great way to get to the heart of what’s important to you and to keep track of your emotions and thoughts. Writing things down as they happen or as you reflect on them can help to organize your emotions and free up head space that you can use to focus on your priorities. This can lead to a more calm, level-headed way of living.


Meditation

Meditation is a great and effective way to declutter your mind. Meditation seeks to help you empty your mind and it can actually have significant mental health and physical health benefits. One study by the CDC showed that more people are meditating; 14% of adults in the US reported meditating in 2017 as compared to only 4% in 2012.


Meditating actually changes your brain in a way that can bolster positive thoughts and emotions and reduce negative ones like fear and anger. It also acts as a balance to the body’s stress response by triggering a relaxation response. This relaxation response can lower heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and oxygen consumption as well as levels of cortisol—the stress hormone.


Mindfulness

Creating mindfulness as an overall routine in the way you live your life can be a great way to engage in a mental “spring cleaning.” By being more aware and present, you are less likely to “hoard” negative emotions from the past or hold onto bad thoughts that don’t serve you.


One such application of mindfulness is mindful eating. This application means eating at a slower pace, without distractions (like television or smartphones). People engaged in mindful eating are encouraged to tap into physical hunger cues and to stop eating when full. IT also teaches people to distinguish between real hunger signals and non-hunger triggers for eating. Overall, it is about paying full attention to one’s cravings, physical cues, and experiences while eating.


This is just one application; however, mindfulness can be easily applied to anything you are doing, including cleaning, exercising, conversing, etc. The idea is to be fully present and aware and to tune into your body and mind’s cues about the experience you’re having in the present moment. Doing this can help people circumvent the mental clutter that comes up when there is too much focus on the past or future.


Trading negative for positive

As humans, we often tend to hold on to negative emotions far longer than we should. These negative emotions can build up, creating a mess within our minds that makes it difficult to gain clarity. One way to clear away some of this mental mess is to let go of a grudge. Whether it’s directed at you or someone else, forgiving can remove this negative energy and make it easier to focus on the good things present in your life.


Another tactic is to brush away self-criticism. When you notice yourself saying less-than-nice things to yourself in your mind, pause and say something positive instead. This can be difficult and takes practice, but adding positive self-talk into your routine can improve overall mental well-being.


Talk to your doctor

Recognizing that you have health needs and addressing those needs—even if it’s as simple as making an appointment for a checkup—are important tasks. Sometimes, the things we need to do start to pile up in our minds until the list seems almost impossible to tackle. Seeing your doctor regularly is important, and it’s also something you can take care of right away.


If you have a health plan through Decent, you can get same-day and next-day appointments to see your primary care doctor, either virtually or in-person. The best part? Primary care is included in our plans, so you pay $0 out-of-pocket to check this item off your to-do list. How simple is that! If you aren’t a member and would like more information, get your free quote today.

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