Spring Cleaning: Mind Edition

We live in a world that bombards us with information constantly. We work too much. Play too little. Stress levels in North America are through the roof. Our ridiculously fast lifestyles have given us a lot of material comforts in life, but they have robbed us the luxury of downtime for our minds and our spirits.

So what does it really mean to ‘spring clean’ our minds and spirits? Here are a few ideas on how to renew our spirits.

  1. Bury the hatchet: if you have been holding a grudge against someone, you psyche is stuck in a place of anger, resentment and perhaps sadness. Nelson Mandela once said: “Holding a grudge is a like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die”. Call that person and let bygones be bygones. If you cannot contact that person or are not at a place where you want to continue that relationship, write them a letter forgiving them and then burn it. One of my favourite quotes about forgiveness comes from a guest on the Oprah show: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different”. Letting go of anger and resentment is the best gift you can give yourself. Let go of that stale negative energy and let new energy enter your life!
  2. Spring clean your schedule: are you finding yourself running from one appointment to another, eating on-the-go and never getting enough sleep? It may be time to look at your schedule and cherry-pick the activities, friends and errands that enrich your life and ultimately lead you to a path of happiness. You can’t skip laundry (well, technically you can but then you may lose some of those life-enriching friends), but you can start getting dress shirts laundered so that you are not spending 2 hours every week ironing. If you have kids and they participate in a whack load of activities, consider the value of down time. Kids these days have no time to be “bored” (remember what it was like to be bored??), and create their own activities to entertain themselves.
  3. Seek time to rest your mind: in this day and age, we are all in desperate need of time for our minds to be quiet and at rest. I get the “empty time” on the subway everyday. Each morning I meditate on the subway, even if only for a few minutes. I used to read or sleep, but I find that meditating helps me centre my thoughts, and set an intention for each day. At times I also meditate on the way home, especially if its been a tough day and I need to let go of ‘work-noise’ before entering my home and spending time with loved ones. Yoga is another great form of meditation. While doing yoga your focus is on our breath and our body. Our mind naturally quiets itself down. If you have never meditated before, don’t worry. It’s not hard. Just find a place to sit where you can close your eyes for a few minutes. Focus on your breath, breathing deeper with each inhalation and exhaling slowing. If you find your mind wandering and thinking about your to-do list or what you need to make for dinner tonight, just acknowledge the thought and then, like a bubble, release it from your mind and let it float away. Try meditating for 3 minutes a day to start with and increase by a minute each day. It will change your life.
  4. De-clutter your space: there is something to be said for actual spring cleaning. In order to be productive, your workspace has to be cleared of any clutter. I completely believe in the power of letting go of possessions to move forward in life. Pick a Saturday and sort through your papers in your office or your bookshelf. Donate what you don’t need. A clean, streamlined home and workspace will work wonders in helping your mind be free of clutter and confusion.
  5. Unplug: I am guilty of being addicted to my iPhone. It is my personal assistant, music player, video-game console, newspaper, GPS, journal, messenger and my connection to the world at large. I have gotten into the habit of looking at my phone whenever I have a free moment. This spring I have vowed to unplug. Instead of rushing to my phone whenever I have a free moment, I am going to just ‘be’. While walking to the subway, I am just going to WALK (instead of texting, tweeting, checking email and writing out my grocery list). I urge you to do the same. Start the habit of unplugging for a few moments everyday from all electronic devices. In fact, April 29-May 5 is Screen-Free Week. Take a pledge to turn off those TV screens, phones and tablets (at least for one night?).

Sometimes a good ‘ol weekend away or “me-time” (massage anyone?) can really do the trick in clearing our minds, reducing stress and de-compressing. We all need that. However, the real trick is to find a little sliver of time each day to clear your mind.

How do you spring clean your mind? I would love to hear your secrets of staying sane!