Ever felt like you just need to download everything in your mind to create some space – even if just for 5 minutes?
24 hour lifestyles
We are living in a society where we are constantly bombarded with information. Maybe our phone is pinging notifications every few minutes. The TV or radio is blaring away in the background. The internet subtly flashes newsfeeds and adverts. Billboards sell us a perfect lifestyle. Our brains have to filter this information and sift through to decide what’s relevant. We can only hold a limited amount of data (7 pieces + or – 2) at any one time.
Our minds are easily distracted or pulled away from the task in hand and what should be a 10 or 20 minute job can take much longer. When we lose our train of thought it can take ages to get started again or we might lose an idea altogether. We are told that our concentration spans are getting shorter. This can make it difficult to focus on one thing and therefore completion of tasks either takes much longer or things never get finished at all.
So how can we mentally declutter?
Firstly, make a conscious choice about what’s important and relevant to you. This will then stimulate your Reticular Activating System which is basically a filter. You’ve just given your mind a heads up about what is important to you so it will now pay particular attention to anything that it deems relevant. For example if you’ve ever been looking round for a new car you’ll notice that you suddenly start seeing that particular model wherever you look!
Secondly, eliminate and reduce distractions. When you sit down to work on something turn your phone off or on to silent and move it out of sight. If you are working on a computer only have open the tabs you need. Create a pleasant working environment and find a comfortable position. Have everything you need to hand. Some people find having background music helpful whereas others don’t . Take notice of what works best for you – it might be different depending on the type of task you are doing.
Thirdly, create regular quiet time. Practise just ‘being’ without technology or other distractions. Either sit quietly or go for a walk in the outdoors (preferably a park or open space). If you find this difficult start with short bursts of 5 minutes and gradually build up to about 30 minutes. At first you might notice a constant stream of thoughts. Don’t try to stop them, just notice what the thoughts are about and say ‘thank you for sharing’. Some people find it helpful to focus on their breathing. I like to count while breathing in and out; 1 in, 2 out, 3 in, 4 out, up to 10 when I start over. When I realise that I’ve got distracted (as I invariably will) I simply start again.
Make a habit
All these suggestions are habits that take time to develop. Set your intention to keep persevering with them and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan straight away. Focus on what you are achieving. People refer to the term ‘practising’ mindfulness because that’s what it takes, practise. Whenever we learn a new skill we have to keep practising; at first it is time consuming and can be hard work but after a while it becomes easier and more enjoyable. It’s the same with creating good habits for our minds.
My monthly Well-being Walks are a great opportunity to create quiet time and space as well as meeting other like-minded individuals. Come along and join me sometime to just ‘be’ rather than do!