We’ve had to deal with a lot of uncertainty over the last year, and whilst it might have been easier to manage at first, many of us have begun looking for new ways to give ourselves some respite.
Although we can’t control everything that’s going on around us at the moment, or how quickly our world returns to normal, what we can do, is try to give ourselves moments of peace and escapism. With that said, here are 11 ways to detox your mind.
1. Switch off
While staying connected in the ways that we can is important during our current climate, it’s also possible for our screen time to become a source of stress and negativity, if we have too much of it. If you spend a lot of time on social media, reading the news and attending Zoom meetings, then it’s only natural that at times you might begin to feel overwhelmed by just how demanding technology can be.
Sometimes you might not want to receive every breaking news headline straight through to your smartphone, worry about the lighting or the strength of the wifi connection in your next video call, or read about your social network’s political views on social media. And this is perfectly okay. Every one of us is dealing with the impact of the pandemic in our own way, and it’s important that we don’t succumb to the pressure (or feed the habit) of needing to be connected all the time, if we simply need a breather.
One of the main reasons that people struggle to take breaks from technology is because they feel as though they might be missing out on something, or because it’s a way to keep our hands busy during quiet moments. However, by taking some time to switch off and step back from technology every now and then to go do something else, we can often find the peace and relaxation that we’ve been longing for. Our article, 8 tips for coping with screen fatigue, will explain more about what screen fatigue is, how it could be affecting you and how you can cut your screen time down.
2. Set aside some ‘worry time’
If you have a lot of worries clouding your mind, then sometimes, rather than telling yourself that you simply need to ‘stop worrying’, it can help to set aside some time in your day to deal with those worries. This ‘worry time’ could be 30 minutes, or a full hour once a day – or you might decide to allocate yourself two worry slots (say one at the beginning and another at the end of the day).
This time will ideally be used to put any irrational thoughts and fears to bed; by letting them play out in your mind, or offloading them in a journal. Or you might use this time to deal with any issues that you’re still working to resolve, by contemplating your next steps, and considering how you could overcome a worry or a negative thought by tackling it head on. The idea is that once you’ve done this, you’ll hopefully feel better able to put negative thoughts and worries to one side, so that you can focus more clearly on the other aspects of your day.
Outside of worry time, it’s important to try and concentrate on other things. If you find a worry creeping back into your head, then remind yourself that it’s not something to deal with now, and that you will address it in your next allocated worry time. Sticking only to the time scheduled for your worries can be challenging at first, but will usually become easier the more you practice. The hope is that eventually, you will spend less time worrying, and more time enjoying the things in life that you actually want to do.
3. Use reading as a form of escapism
A good book has the ability to transport us anywhere; whether that be to a sunny beach where a holiday romance is taking place, to a fantasy world that feels incomparable to our own, or to a fascinating time and place in history that we’ve always wondered about. This makes reading, as a form of escapism, incredibly powerful. And the even better thing about it, is that you can escape anywhere, anytime. There are few better feelings than picking up a great page turner, only to be still glued to it several hours later. When I’ve been really immersed in a good book, I’ve often forgotten where I am, what time it is and about anything else that’s going on in my life because I’m hanging on every last detail of the book, wanting to know what comes next.
So, if you’re looking for a way to break negative thought patterns, then why not try to incorporate more reading into your daily or weekly routine? It can be surprising just how much more enjoyable reading can make everyday activities like commuting, having a bath or getting into bed in the evenings. If you’re looking for some inspiration, then you might find it helpful to take a look at our articles; 27 of the best must-read novels, or 17 books for your winter reading list.
4. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness, like any skill, can take a while to master, but once you do, it can become a great go-to tool during stressful or overwhelming times. Many of us spend a lot of time worrying about the past or the future, which can make focusing on and enjoying the present, quite difficult. Being more ‘mindful’ is about training your mind to focus only on what’s going on around you in a particular moment, or on how your body is feeling or behaving. For example, you might choose to spend 10-15 minutes focusing only on your breath as it enters or leaves your body, or on everything you can see and hear outside your window.
You might find it difficult to practice mindfulness to start with, as it’s common for unwanted thoughts to continue to rush in and cloud your mind. But this is something that will usually become easier to manage with time. As any unwanted thoughts arrive, it’s important to place each one in a sealed ‘box’, and watch them float away. Then, continue focusing only on your mindful activity.
To find out more about mindfulness could work for you, check out our articles; An introduction to mindfulness and 10 everyday activities that can help you stay in the present moment.
5. Unsubscribe from any unnecessary emails, and keep your inbox unreads at 0
Decluttering your mind is much easier if you can remove unwelcome stressors or pressures from your life – even ones that you might consider quite small in the grand scheme of things. If you want to keep your mind as clear as possible, then keeping on top of your emails can help. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, then seeing an unread email number of something that resembles ‘8763’ could have the potential to make you feel much worse.
Often, huge volumes of unread emails are the result of junk mail or spam that we just haven’t gotten around to deleting, marking as ‘junk’ or unsubscribing from. But this is something that can be easily rectified when you have a spare hour, or even half an hour.
If you want to learn more about how to keep on top of your inbox, then check out our article; 8 easy ways to manage your inbox.
6. Take up ‘junk’ journaling
Sometimes, when we have lots of thoughts circling our minds, it can be difficult to know what to do with them all. And if we allow them to keep circling, they can end up disrupting important tasks – like sleep, and our work. A good way to offload some of these thoughts, can be to practice junk journaling.
In a nutshell, this involves putting anything that’s taking up a lot of your headspace, such as worries or things on your to-do list, onto paper, so that you can revisit them in the future. Writing things down can not only give us clarity and allow us to see our thoughts for exactly what they are, but it can also allow us to store thoughts that we’re worried about forgetting, so that we can come back to them when we have time to deal with them. Some people find it useful to keep a notebook by their bed, so that they can write down anything that pops into their mind before they go to sleep, to prevent it from repeatedly running through their mind.
If you’re interested in finding out more about journaling, and how it could benefit you, you might want to have a read of our article; The power of journaling as a life habit.
7. Declutter and reorganise your home, or your car
Decluttering and reorganising are tasks that are great for keeping us distracted, and they also have a high satisfaction rate at the end. Restoring order to things is something that will satisfy most minds; and it’s quite easy to get engrossed in organising your wardrobe by garment colour, or clearing out a cluttered, disorganised space that you’ve spent a long time avoiding. Decluttering can also be very liberating, and many people say that they feel lighter, and better able to think, when their surroundings are well organised.
It can help to start with a room, drawer or cupboard that you spend a lot of time in, or use regularly – as generally the desire to work on these will be greater, and everytime you interact with the space, you will continue to reap the benefits of your hard work. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to decluttering and reorganising a space, then you might find it helpful to read our article; which is packed full of helpful tips and advice.
8. Get creative
A great way to quiet a busy mind, is to find a creative outlet – something that allows you to express your feelings in a positive way. This could be anything from painting and drawing to photography, through to baking. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but it should always be something that you enjoy, and that makes you feel good.
Exploring a creative passion can also be a wonderful way to steer your focus away from negative news headlines, and towards something brighter. The idea is that once you truly immerse yourself in a creative hobby, unwanted thoughts will fall away, even if just for a few hours – so that it’s just you, your pen, your paintbrush, or your whisk.
If you’re looking to get inspired, then you might find it useful to take a look at our articles; 9 creative skills that you can learn from home, 8 interesting craft ideas to try at home or 12 activities to help you get through lockdown.
9. Let go
It might not sound like the easiest solution, but sometimes when we feel overwhelmed by our busy schedules, or by racing thoughts, the best thing to do can be to simply let go. Letting go can often feel impossible, but once we do, it can be incredibly liberating, and bring us a huge amount of relief.
When we talk about letting go, we usually mean accepting that we can’t control certain things around us, and so deciding not to expend energy thinking or worrying about them. This often becomes much easier once we start focusing on the things that we can control, and that we have the power to do something about. It also feels more possible once we set our boundaries and limits; and decide just how much we can take on or cope with before we need a breather, or before we need to let go of something for good – like a toxic relationship, or a job where we perhaps feel overworked and underappreciated.
For example, if you’ve been stressing about a relationship or friendship with someone who doesn’t make as much effort as you do, then rather than worrying about this, or trying to get the other person to match your expectations, you might decide to simply step back, and focus on looking after you instead. If the result of this, is that the relationship comes to an end, then chances are, this would have happened anyway. And at least you can now take that time and energy that you spent worrying, and use it for something more positive instead.
10. If you can, get outside for some fresh air every day
When we spend a lot of time indoors, which the majority of us are at the moment, we can end up feeling somewhat closed in. This can make our worries and anxieties feel harder to bear, or to escape. But the good news is that even stepping outside for a period of time, to go for a walk, run or cycle, or even to sit and simply sit and soak up your surroundings (for example, in your garden) can be a great way to detox your mind.
Often when we get outside and move our bodies, or spend time interacting with nature, our problems can seem smaller. This might be something to do with the fact that we’re out in the world, we tend to feel part of something bigger, coupled with the fact that fresh air, a change of scenery, and some exercise can do wonders for both mind and body.
When you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, it might be natural for your default mode to be that you want to hide, and come out when everything feels better – but in reality, this can often make our problems feel greater.
If you’re struggling to get outside at the moment for some fresh air, then try to start small and commit to doing so for 10 minutes a day; even if that means doing a lap around the block. Or, if you’re unable to venture out, then perhaps you could still wrap up warm and sit in your garden, or do a spot of gardening. Or perhaps you could do some bird watching or people watching at an open window, so that although you’re not getting out, you’re still getting the benefits of some fresh air.
11. Get lost in music
The world would be a different place without music, and no matter what’s going on in our lives, music is always there to get us dancing, cheer us up, or to allow us to have a good cry.
If you just want to have some fun and to forget about the world outside, then why not put on your most upbeat, toe-tapping playlist, and dance like no one’s watching? Letting all your inhibitions go can be a great way to clear your mind, and feel liberated. Similarly, if you’re feeling fragile, then often it’s better to let it all out, than to bottle it up and keep it in – and music can really help with this. The majority of us have spent an hour or two singing along to power ballads and having a good cry, and often we feel lighter afterwards.
However you choose to get lost in music, it really can be a great escape – and is something that you can carry with you at all times, should you need it. Spotify has a huge range of playlists to suit every mood and occasion. Whether you’re feeling happy, sad or in need of some inspiration, there’s something for everyone. It’s free to sign up for a basic account – which will allow you to create and listen to your own playlists – or you could go premium if you want to listen to music without the interruption of adverts, and download songs to listen to offline.
If you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed by negative thoughts at the moment, then you’re not alone. But, the very best thing that we can do at the moment, is to take care of ourselves – both mentally and physically.
Hopefully, using the steps above, you can experiment with different ways to relax your mind, even if just for a few minutes or hours. It’s also worth keeping in mind, although it might not feel like it, Spring is just around the corner, and with it, will come brighter, warmer days, which can deliver a renewed sense of hope.