You know, it’s not just our personal care products, homes, or cleaning products that can be filled with toxins. Sometimes, our thoughts can become just as polluted with negativity, lack and fear. These can all rob us of serenity and peace of mind.
Our thoughts create our experience. According to the Mayo Clinic, personality traits like optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of our well being. Researchers suspect that the benefits of positive thinking may include lower rates of depression, increased life span, and even reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately, according to a study in Cognitive Therapy and Research, we tend to dwell more on our negative thoughts than our positive ones, and the negative ones make a greater impact on our mental health. Those people who tend to think more negative thoughts than positive ones were found to be more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Those who had more of a balance of positive and negative thoughts were in general more confident, assertive, and psychologically healthy.
Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, irritated, or negative lately? Are you finding joy less often than you used to? Life can get any of us down at one time or another, but if you find yourself experiencing any of the following on a regular basis, it may be time for a mental cleanse. I’ll show you how below!
Signs It’s Time for a Mental Detox
- You snap at people: Are you angry a lot of the time? Easily irritated? When your child spills something on the floor, does it feel like the end of the world? Do you snap at a coworker for setting a cup on your desk?
- You’re often late: Do you feel like you’re always running behind? Can’t ever catch up with everything you have to do?
- You feel overwhelmed: Maybe you feel like you just can’t keep up with everything you have to do, and you have no one to help. Yet you feel like there’s no way to relieve yourself of any of your responsibilities.
- You’re often insecure: Find yourself putting on a brave face even when you don’t feel confident? Are you constantly criticizing yourself, and finding fault with how you’re doing things?
- You have more anxiety lately: Have you experienced panic attacks? Do you find your heart rate often racing, or your mouth going dry?
- You’re lonely: Do you tell yourself you have no friends, or that your friends aren’t interested in spending time with you?
- You’re pessimistic: Do you think that things will never get better, and that this is just the way your life is? Do you think you are fated to feel this way? Do you feel powerless to change anything?
How to Replace Out the Negative and Start Fresh
Just like a body detox involves draining your system of toxins and then starting over with a healthy diet, a mental cleanse simply means draining toxic thoughts and replacing them with more positive ones.
You know that old tape that usually runs in your head? It goes on with all the negative stuff, like how fat you look, how you could have done better in that presentation, how you may never get the job you want and how you are not smart enough, good enough, etc. A mental cleanse helps you become aware of the self-talk and replace it with new, positive and loving thoughts.
In the last couple of months, two of my dear friends and I embarked on a 40-day practice of a “Fear Cleanse.” It’s amazing how many of the thoughts we think are based on lack and fear. Sometimes we’re not even aware we’re the ones blocking the very things we want.
If you’re feeling stuck, like you’re not in the flow of life, or maybe you’re exhausted and drained, the one thing that may need changing is what you think about all day long. Here are some ways to help you move into a more abundant, centered and grounded mindset:
- Silence: This is the first step in any mental detox. Get somewhere where you can experience pure silence. In our world today, this is a rare thing indeed. Everywhere we go we’re bombarded by noise. According to a study in the British Medical Bulletin (2003), noise pollution increases annoyance, while reducing sleep quality and cognitive performance. Children near working airports had significantly higher levels of stress hormones. So go somewhere you can be alone, or go on a retreat, or take a weekend and find a quiet cabin by the lake. Try at least get 10 minutes of silence daily, preferably just after you wake up.
- Save your breath: How much do you talk in any particular day? Did you know that constant chatter can drain your energy and leave you feeling spent? In addition to enjoying silence in your environment, your own silence can also help you turn your energy inward for healing purposes. Many retreats, for example, ask residents to take a vow of silence for a certain period of time. You don’t have to go to a foreign city to enjoy this detox method, however. Even a few hours of your own silence can help restore your internal health.
- Take 10 minutes to breathe: Deep breathing encourages the release of oxytocin, which is a healing hormone. Unfortunately, most of us breathe in a shallow way most of the time. Take 10 minutes to focus on your breath-inhale from deep in your abdomen, then exhale through your mouth until all the air is gone. Do this for about 5-10 minutes and your body and mind will naturally relax.
- Wake up to positive thoughts and mantras: One of the things I learned in the fear cleanse is that how we start our day sets us up for the day. I now make sure the first 6 things I think or do upon waking come from a place that’s loving. Instead of looking at my phone and thinking of all that I have to do for the day, I now stretch, say my mantras, and enjoy several minutes of positive time to myself. (Then I look at my phone!) What do you do in the morning? Do you find yourself immediately going over all the problems you expect will happen? The difficult people you’ll have to deal with at work? Make a pact with yourself to start a new wake-up ritual. For the first 5-30 minutes of your day, try more positive, nurturing things like prayer, meditation, visualization, and mantras. Remind yourself of what you’re grateful for. Find something you like about yourself and compliment yourself on it. Think about one thing in your day that you’re going to enjoy. If you don’t have something, plan it. Could be as simple as a favorite lunch dish you really enjoy, an afternoon gratitude walk in the park, or listening to your favorite CD on your commute.
- De-clutter your space: If you’re surrounded by unnecessary “stuff” in your environment, your mind will be similarly cluttered. Take a weekend to clear out the things in your home that are unwanted, don’t fit, and are broken or unused. A lighter home will lead to a lighter mind. Be of service and donate things you no longer need that others could really use.
- Journal: Writing down your worries, fears and anxieties is a great way to get them off your chest and out of your mind. It also helps you to look at them more realistically, as somehow when they’re on the page, they’re less powerful. Once you have them down, find an alternative positive thought for each one.
- Get back into your body: How long has it been since you really got back into your senses? Does your home smell nice? How about some aromatherapy? Are you wearing clothes that feel good against your skin? Have you gotten back to nature lately? Enjoyed the scent of pine trees or the ocean? Getting back to your senses can help direct energy away from all those overwhelming thoughts.
- Listen to positive music: Especially if you combine dancing with music, you can experience a sort of mindfulness that disrupts negative thought patterns associated with anxiety and depression.
- Turn off the television: A study by Ahern, et al. (2004) found that people who watched more television images after 9/11 had a higher probability of suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Other studies have found that television, computers, cell phones, and other technological gadgets can keep you from hearing your own inner voice. Take at least a full hour every day away from all technology to enjoy some peace and quiet. It may feel odd at first-stick with it for at least a week to start experiencing the benefits.
Most of all, enjoy today. Be happy for what you have right now! We really only have today. If more of us lived like today was our last, I bet we would ditch the complaining and negative thinking pretty fast!
How do you detox your mind? Please share your tips.
Picture courtesy tumbledbones via Flickr.com.
Robert M. Schwartz, “The Internal Dialogue: On the Asymmetry Between Positive and Negative Coping Thoughts,” Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 10, No. 6, 1986, pp 595-605, http://www.cogdyn.com/documents/Schwartz.Asym.Pos_Neg.pdf.