How to Declutter Your Mind

Mental Health

Dr. Happy

Minimalism is all the rage these days. There are books and movies and blogs and…well, we’re at risk of having too much telling us how to have less!

But on a serious note, there’s a lot we can learn about and benefit from the minimalism movement. It’s variously been defined as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. [Minimalism] is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life” (Becoming Minimalist); or as “Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around” (The Minimalists).

Either way, rightly or wrongly, minimalism and the associated “de-cluttering” movement have predominately focused on the reduction of excessive “stuff” and belongings or possessions in our lives. Which in my humble opinion, are highly worthy pursuits.

At the same time, however, as I’m sure you know only too well, life’s not just about stuff. In fact, in contrast, so much of our lives and so much (especially) of our happiness occurs within us and depends upon what goes on inside us as opposed to what’s going on or what we own outside or around us.

From the ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers through to modern day scientists and psychologists (and almost everyone in between), it’s been widely acknowledged that the quality of our lives largely depends on the quality of our thoughts.

So what would happen, then, if we extended this minimalism approach beyond our material possessions and included, or focused even more on the content of our minds? Well, once again, many thought leaders from the Buddha to modern day proponents of mindfulness would strongly argue that this would be highly beneficial.

So how, then, can we declutter our minds and how, then, can we promote those thoughts we most value and remove everything that distracts us from this?

Recently I wrote and posted a “Manifesto for Simple Living” (HERE) which I simplify and briefly summarise below:

  • Define what’s important for you and focus all your energies on living a life consistent with this
  • Remove anything you can that distracts you from your goals, priorities and values
  • Ask yourself, regularly, whether your thoughts and beliefs, your assumptions and expectations are adding value to your life (are they helping you achieve what you want to achieve and/or are they boosting your happiness and your mood?); and if not, replace them with thoughts that are
  • In the same vein ask yourself, regularly, whether what you’re doing in your life (each day and each week) adds value? If not, simply stop it!
  • Acknowledge that as well as focusing mostly on thoughts and activities that add value to your life, it’s also more than acceptable to spend some of your time not thinking and not doing. Cultivating quiet time, time to reflect and/or just to “be” is just as important as constantly working and achieving
  • When you notice unpleasant or negative thoughts, don’t try to fight them or to push them away; rather, acknowledge and accept them and just let them be. Just because a thought pops into your head doesn’t mean you have to “own” or “take possession” of it
Finally, de-cluttering your mind depends upon an important realisation; a realisation that goes against much of what many of us have been taught and against which the minimalist movement has risen and is trying to defeat. It’s the commonly held belief that “more is better”! This is most definitely not true when it comes to wealth and possessions; and it’s just as not true when it comes to what goes on within our minds. So be happy thinking less; because you may well find that when it comes to happiness, less is more!

Dr Happy

Please note: Dr Happy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

Category:Mental Health

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