Photo Credit: William Stitt
By Emelda De Coteau
Everyone talks about clearing the clutter in their house, but what about the junk in your mind? We are a culture awash in distractions. And I believe it’s changing us; it’s harder to focus and finish one thing, because you are constantly pulled in numerous directions from tweets to text messages and breaking news, there is little time to rest the mind. Stillness eludes us.
For years I worked in busy office environments, and when I came home in the evenings, this habit of processing information at warp speed and constant juggling continued. Releasing an addiction to constant work remains a struggle.
As the lines between productivity and rest continue to blur with technological advancements, you and I find ourselves tied to phones and tablets. And yet without rest, the mind is a mess of emotions. How can we begin to quiet incessant noise and welcome clarity?
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Photo Credit: Anete Anete Lūsiņa
Three Steps to Begin Clearing Mental Clutter:
1) Release Hurts & Anger – Have you argued with a friend? Perhaps you are holding on to emotional wounds years old? Believe it or not, all of this impacts our minds, as we carry and hold trauma and pain there and throughout our bodies. We must begin to both forgive others and ourselves.
Not forgiving may exacerbate existing health issues or lead to new conditions, according to a blog post from Johns Hopkins Medicine: “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”
Think of it this way, forgiving may be challenging initially, but in the end, it frees you. Set aside time to journal – either writing out your feelings or expressing them visually. And then begin to meditate for a few moments a day, noticing your emotions of hurt and anger while not judging yourself for feeling this way. And come back to this thought: your freedom matters more than clinging to wounds and anger. Forgiveness is not forgetting, it radical love and care for the self. Pema Chodron, writer, thinker and Buddhist nun said: “The greatest obstacle to connecting with our joy is resentment.”
2) Digital Breaks – When your eyes begin to hurt or you aimlessly check email and social media feeds, it’s time to step away from the devices. As a work-from-home Mom, I am usually on and off the phone most of the day, but I am learning to force myself to take technology breaks. Our minds are not designed to constantly receive information with little downtime.
Schedule periods during the day when you are not staring at any screen, but enjoying time outside, talking with family and friends or whatever brings you joy.
The average American spends approximately 5 hours on their mobile devices or online, according to a study from eMarketer, with habitual checking of social media steadily increasing; the website Digital Trends notes: “… people in the U.S. check their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts a staggering 17 times a day, meaning at least once every waking hour, if not more… smartphone users in Thailand, Argentina, Malaysia, Qatar, Mexico, and South Africa checked these networking apps at least 40 times a day.”
In the midst of all this busyness, let’s ask ourselves some critical questions: Are we cultivating an inner world of chaos and clutter or calm? Choosing peace involves mindfulness, an awareness of our actions, and how they create our reality. If social media platforms and devices consume much of our time, how many beautiful moments pass us by?
Author, speaker and teacher, Rachel Macy Stafford, writes in Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More: “You have the power to evaluate your daily choices to ensure you are investing in a life that matters to you… It’s time you lay your head on your pillow at night knowing you achieved something of significance —not in terms of societal standards, but in terms of the light in your child’s eyes, the curve of your spouse’s lips, and the beat of your very own heart.”
3) Commit to Quiet Time – I’ll admit this is a tough one for me, but quieting our minds is essential. During these moments we develop clarity, and an increased understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Dedicate time daily to quiet – perhaps it’s during your morning or evening commute, or after your evening bath. Breathe. Connect with your mind, body and spirit. Even prayer can become a space for quiet. St. Teresa of Avila, a Christian mystic, once said: “We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to look upon Him present within us.”
You may think all of this sounds nice, but will anything fundamentally change? And my answer is yes. Why? Well, I am living and walking these lessons out through prayer, devotional time and small moments of meditation. Some days I manage to get it all in while other weeks are scattered, but I am not giving up, and neither should you. Each of us deserves a life full of serenity, joy and light. Step away from the clutter and into liberation.
Emelda De Coteau is a loving wife, mama, creative, and believer seeking God anew in each moment. She is the founder of the inspirational and faith blog, Live In Color. Emelda is a columnist for Beautifully Said Magazine, founder of #WomenCreativesChat, an online community, contributing writer and networking media ambassador for Pretty Entrepreneur, a supportive network for women in business, blogger at Positivity Warriors, and founding member of Black Womyn Rising, a radical organizing collective for Black womyn and girls.