With school in session, many of us are now back to our old routines. Just like many of us took inventory of what's available to start the school year, we should also take this as a chance to start with a blank state. I loved the school sessions because it always meant I had a start and a stop point. No matter if I had a summer class or an internship, I knew there was some built in time for me to clear my mind, but also clear out my space of anything no longer needed. Today, we are so busy jumping from one thing to another that we rarely stop to think if what we are doing is actually beneficial to us. Many of us are in auto-pilot, consuming and doing things just because we have always done so. The status quo can be a real killer sometimes. Routines can be great, but they can be harmful to the well being of our mind.
Today, I wanted to take some time to list out a few things to help us all achieve a happier, more focused mind. This might be a chance to modify the routine a little bit since we are all still getting into the swing of things. I think many of these tips and suggestions will not only lead to a happier, more focused mind, but more time to enjoy with family.
1. Cut Reliance On Sugar
Whether we care to admit it or not, sugar does major havoc on our brain power. If you have ever done whole30, paleo or any other food resets that reduce your sugar intake, you'll notice how much your body relies on sugar for energy. From a morning coffee with tons of creamers and sugar to cereal to soda to an afternoon cookie break to ice cream for dessert, your body can sometimes run only on sugar. This is bad and we know it! The rise and crash of a sugar high is bad for your heart, your brain and your overall mood, but we are just so used to routine, to saving time that it becomes our only alternative.
Let's start fueling our body with good old fashion nutrients from vegetables, fruits and meats. With only these natural items to rely on, our body will reset where to pull energy from. If we spend a few days doing a sugar detox and come back to it a few days later, we will notice that a grande PSL may give us a headache or make us nauseous after. Without sugar, our mind will be ultimately get clearer and clearer as it no longer needs to expend energy to help our body process sugar.
Try it out slowly. Give up soda or a few packets of sugar in your coffee each day. Have a water bottle handy next to you to reduce temptation. Do this for a few days,. You'll be surprised at how much your mood and your body changes. You may find yourself having a little more patience.
2. Cut Your Cable
My husband and I have not had cable for 4 years. This has allowed us to rein in our time as well as reduce exposure to advertisements and negative news. It's amazing how different your perspective becomes when you are not constantly being bombarded by marketing to get the latest car or gadget. We no longer watch the news before we go to bed which reduces anxiety and stops constant bad news from being streamed into our psyche. It's ok to want to know what is happening around the world. Read the newspaper, check in to some news channel, but do not be constantly on it.
We are purposeful about what we watch. We get by with basic tv + a subscription to one of the streaming services. I appreciate public television more and more. Even so, our tv barely gets turned on. The internet does remain which can bring all of these back into our living room, but we are careful not to.
Cutting cable can be a shock to our systems. We may find that we like to keep the tv on as background noise. We may also find that we never really liked the shows we were watching, but it was a way for us to unwind and disconnect a little bit. Channel surfing is extremely time consuming and very distracting to the mind. When we stop doing this to our brain, our brain becomes calmer.
Cutting cable has many benefits besides gaining more time, it also saves money and reduces mental load as our brain stops processing all kinds of visual information.
3. Remove Visual Clutter
This advice is from Marie Kondo. When we buy products, it is usually wrapped in so much packaging with various colors, words and textures. These can mentally make us tired. The constant barrage of things to look that, the lack of white space means your mind is processing information that are not relevant to what we want to do.
Go into your kitchen cabinets, among the sea of cereal boxes. How loud does it feel like in there? Each box is screaming for attention. Whether you realize it or not, this is distracting you. It's not just your kids or your pets or your partner that is vying for attention, but everything else asking you to look at it.
Consider buying things in bulk and out of packaging. Consider transferring food into clear containers. No letter, no visual distractions.
Do the same for your bathroom cabinets. How many various logos, colors are trying to grab your attention? This can sometimes result in us not finding the one thing you are looking for because our mind is already so busy processing something else.
Get ride of unused furniture as they become storing ground for stuff. From my experience, we had a small couch and a chair in our bedroom. Over time, both furniture never got used as there were intended and instead became a dumping ground for clothes. This encouraged laziness as it was easy to throw a piece of shirt on the chair instead of hanging it up or putting it in the laundry. This was the same thing for our tables. We piled books, papers on of them.
Some people like to have furniture so that their space doesn't look empty, but empty space is actually a good thing. It reduces mental distractions and make it easier to clean. Have you ever sat on your couch trying to watch tv, but keep looking at the pile of papers on your dining room table. You know you should take care of them, but you just want to unwind, but the fact that you keep looking and thinking about those papers already has mind working overtime. The split in focus gets tiring and instead you zone out without even really appreciating what is on tv.
Clutter causes stress regardless of how small it is.
4. Unsubscribe to Marketing Emails
We've all been there. Signing up just to get a coupon. Giving our email address because we couldn't say no. Unfortunately, for many of us, we don't necessarily take an inventory to see if any of the emails we get are actually worth it. Instead of deleting them, why not actually Unsubscribe.
There might be feelings of being left out or missing something, but in all cases, if you no longer find content relevant or if you no longer patronize a store, get off of their email list. This reduces inbox clutter, saves you time and allows you to focus on the other emails that matter to you.
All emails are targeted to encourage you to buy something. Reduce and remove the temptation to consume. While the internet remains a vast place for content, it's up to you to filter content that is relevant.
With your inbox much cleaner and more optimized, you'll find things faster and remain more focused on the tasks at hand. You can also do the same for unwanted junk mail. Read more about how to do that here.
5. Clean Up Your Social Media
Similar to the email situation, it's also ideal to clean up your social media accounts. What does that mean? It means unfollowing people who you no longer like, support, etc. It means unliking brands, pages that are no longer relevant you.
I opened my Facebook account when I was a senior in college so it's been over 10 years since I've had it. (That sentence just made me feel really old!) In any case, I was a fan of certain bands, movies, organizations, people, but it's been ten years. My tastes have changed! These updates are no longer relevant to me. Instead of me skipping past these news updates on the feed, why not just get rid of it altogether, save myself a few seconds of scrolling and reduce the distraction.
The interesting thing about social media is that regardless of what you hide or unfollow, if the content is relevant enough, meaning your network likes and talks about it enough, the content will eventually surface on your feed. The algorithm is designed in such a way to surface popular content so the fear of missing out is subsided. No FOMO here!
6. Get Your Heart Racing
There are a million studies that show the benefits of exercise. One of its greatest advantages is to help cycle the blood through your body. Exercising can be therapeutic. If you do it alone, it's a good way to connect with your inner self. If you do it with others, it's a great chance to socialize and connect with people.
Your body is meant to be active. Sitting in front of a computer or in front of the tv is not what your body is supposed to be doing hours at a time. Both your mind and your body need to be active so that it can learn, generate new cells and improve over time.
Exercise prepares your body for stress allowing your body and your mind to handle the "Oh Shit" moments of your day just a little bit better.
Take some time to move your body, from walking to dance class. You'll notice that you will be smiling more which is indicative of a happier mind.
Last, but not least is to train your mind to slow down. We've already addressed how to reduce external distractions with the other 6 tips, but now we have to actually exercise the mind to learn to focus. I think people misunderstand meditation. When others meditate for the first few times, they think they can automatically clear their mind, but this is an impossibility. The mind is meant to function, to think, to grow, to understand, to learn. If we feed it properly, feed it positive information, relevant interactions, remove distractions, it can evolve.
Meditation takes time and patience. Meditation at minimum requires at least 10 minutes a day. Ahh! Don't panic, 10 minutes is actually not a lot of time when it comes to your well being. It's time that we have because we are no longer watching tv. It's time that we have because we are no longer scrolling through pages of irrelevant emails or content.
Check out headspace.com. There's a lot of science behind it. Do the free, 10 minute for 10 days session. You'll notice that it's not asking to free your mind, but training your mind to recognize when it strays and re-focus.
Share this with someone who needs some peace and clarity. Remember that a happier, focused mind is not only good for the individual but for everyone else around them.