Too often, my mind gets crippled with worries.
When that process starts, everything feels like a serious and urgent problem: taxes, cat food running out, my next blog post that looks fairly bad, global warming, the cancer that I haven’t been diagnosed with yet.
I call it the problem solving syndrome, when you start to see everything as an issue and you forget that the main problem is your own anxiety.
Waking up in that mode guarantees you a mind totally jammed in an inextricable network of concerns for the entire day.
I hate being in that state; it’s a pain in the butt, not only for me but also for the ones I love (I’m nasty when worried).
Now that I’ve mentioned the dark side, here’s the nice part: I learned to snap out of mental traffic jams pretty fast, using self-help and meditation, and I’ll tell you how.
You might not recognize yourself as a brainy person with a cluttered mind, but if you do, I’d like to share some of my best practices with you, things that I do as a minimalist and a Buddhist.
I’m totally confident it’ll work for you as it did for me.
Let’s split these tips in two categories:
1 – Outer decluttering
2 – Inner decluttering
Outer decluttering means organizing your life so it doesn’t get flooded with things to worry about.
Here’s what you can do to apply that approach:
Fridges, cars, computers everything down to your coffee machine.
All that you own is not necessarily useful, still it’s always a reason for concern.
And that stuff is programmed to be obsolete in 5 years on average. That means these objects WILL break and cause you trouble. You’ll have to call help centers, find the invoices, return the items. You’ve been there, so you know what I’m talking about.
To avoid that, cut the problem at its root: every time you’re about to click on the “buy now” button for a feature rich iMixer, don’t forget all the hassle that’s awaiting on you in a few months/years.
The equation is simple: the less you own > the less you worry > the calmer you get.
STUFF YOUR SCHEDULE WITH SPACE
Don’t jam your schedule: leave time between tasks and appointments.
You thought you could grocery shop in an hour? Give it two.
Is 30 mn enough to commute? Take 45 mn: you’ll have time to enjoy the scenery and banter with a newly arrived colleague.
In general, life presents you with opportunities only if you allow it to, so leave a good buffer between your scheduled tasks, that’s just common sense.
WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT, ANYWAY?
Define what’s more important and do it first. Do the rest only if there’s extra time.
Here’s the equation to determine is something is important:
Important stuff = what you’d still do if you had only one day left to live + the activity that brings food on your table.
Anything else is clutter.
That was for the exterior part of your life, but you can also increase your level of well being by taking care of your mind and body:
LISTEN TO WHAT SHE SAYS
Take time to listen to people around you (if you managed to include free space in your schedule, it should be fairly easy).
It seems like a paradox, but when you pay attention to other people’s problems, you tend to worry less about yours.
Why? Simply because empathy is an endorphin that soothes anxiety. It’s also a free medicine that’s not addictive.
That kind of attitude frees a lot of space in your mental hard disk.
Oh, and by listening, I mean listen: if you look at someone with glassy eyes while you’re evaluating what kind of onions you’d like on tonight’s pizza, they’ll clearly tell that you don’t give a damn about them.
The stress release effect of listening will only take place if you actually listen, if you cheat and pretend to care, you’re simply wasting your own time.
BREATHE, DON’T FAKE IT
That sounds a bit lame, doesn’t it?
Yet, Yoga practitioners know what I mean: we usually think that we breathe but we choke ourselves up all the time. We breathe shallow, we don’t feed our body the oxygen it craves which increase our stress level.
Just try something right now, as you read: breathe deeply, stuff your lungs with fresh air, then release it calmly.
Can you tell something happened? I bet you did.
Do it again, the procedure will be 100% beneficial, the only hassle is you’ll have to do that for the rest of your life, now.
Breathing is what supports your cool, it provides the space you need to process things quietly as opposed to getting obsessed with a million thoughts.
BTW: did you know the main reason why people smoke?
That’s because when you smoke, you inhale deeply and calmly which tends to induce a calm state.
OPEN UP TO PAIN
open up to all your feelings: accept tensions and anxiety. Don’t hide your mental garbage under the carpet.
If you fully acknowledge anger and frustrations, they’ll start to dissolve.
I promise it works.
You can open up in various ways, whether by practicing relaxation of meditation or even by simply sitting in front of the sea and let your mind experience whatever state you’re in.
Opening up is difficult, it feels wrong for the first 5 mn or so, but I give you my word you’ll get a release quickly. It’s a bit like the Marathonian’s second wind, once you’ve gone through the hard part of fully experiencing a crappy state, it fades away, and the reward is peace of mind.
You have the power to heal by being fully present to what’s going on within yourself, particularly by being aware of what you’re usually trying to obfuscate.
This acceptance reflex works like a muscle: train it, take care of it and it’ll take very good care of you.
Instead of hoarding money to become rich and eventually start a charity foundation, give little things now that you’re still poor.
When it comes to generosity, size doesn’t matter, I’m sure you know at least one or two person that are fairly poor but always find a little something to offer you.
And anyway, if you start finding excuses not to be generous right now, there’s no reason you’ll improve in the future. Eventually, if you succeed financially, you’ll end up a rich asshole.
Try to give at least as much as you receive. If you don’t, your mind will get constipated: that’s precisely the kind of attitude that generates more mental clutter.
Also, At the very least, you can give some time, you can help a friend move to his new apartment, or you can pick up a subway ticket that someone dropped on the floor to give it back to her.
Back in the days, the Buddha gave a tip to a stingy guy that needed a workout to learn generosity. The guy was such a miser he couldn’t give a penny to anyone, so Buddha told him to get started by giving something with his right hand to the left one. And then alternate. And gradually he advised him to start giving tiny amounts. It eventually made the guys generous.
I’m sure you can guess how this applies to you.
That’s all for today, if you think that the list is not long enough, it means you didn’t start applying it yet ;)
Of all the trick I mentioned, I still don’t master any of them, but I try to apply them everyday.
I didn’t change that much since, but my life did, and my mind has gained the ability to step out of sticky confusion. Not so bad after all.
You have the power to do that too, if you want.
Let me know what you think in the comments below :)