The concept of mental decluttering is drawn from principles of mindfulness, cognitive psychology and self-help practices. All these practices encourage individuals to observe their thoughts without judgement and let go of any unnecessary thoughts or ruminations by emphasising the importance of organising and prioritising thoughts to improve cognitive functioning and reduce stress.
What is Mental Clutter?
Mental clutter is the accumulation of thoughts, worries, tasks, and distractions that fill our minds and contribute to feelings of stress and overwhelm. It impedes our ability to focus, make decisions, and experience inner peace. From a cognitive psychology standpoint, the brain’s limited processing capacity can become overloaded, leading to reduced cognitive function and an increased susceptibility to anxiety and mood disorders (Hart, Radua, Nakao, & Mataix-Cols, 2013).
What are the benefits of Mental Decluttering?
- Enhanced cognitive functioning by clearing mental space, allowing for improved concentration, problem solving and decision making. (Levy & Guttentag, 2010)
- Stress reduction by promoting relaxation through mindfulness and meditation. (Watkins, 2008)
- Mood improvement by replacing unease and anxiety with positive emotion and improved mood regulation.
- Enhanced creativity by creating more space and opportunities to engage in stimulating ideas and perspectives. (Kaufman & Gregorie, 2015)
- Increased self-awareness by encouraging self-reflection and introspection which leads to a deeper understanding of one’s own thoughts, emotions and motivations. (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006)
What strategies can be used?
- Mindfulness meditation helps to focus on the present moment without judgement and letting go of unnecessary thoughts and worries. (Holzel et al, 2011)
- Journaling offers an opportunity for individuals to process their emotions by writing down their thoughts and feelings. It also enables one to identify patterns and gain insights into the areas that need decluttering. (Smyth, 1998)
- Prioritisation of tasks and responsibilities to prevent mental overload. (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974)
- Digital detox by limiting exposure to digital devices and social media in order to reduce information overload and promote mental clarity. (Wolniczak et al, 2013)
As one can see, mental decluttering isn’t merely about tidying up one’s thoughts, but it’s about fostering mental health and well being. By consciously engaging in practices that help us clear mental space, we can experience improved cognitive functioning, reduced stress, enhanced mood, and greater creativity.
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- Hart, H., Radua, J., Nakao, T., & Mataix-Cols, D. (2013). Meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of inhibition and attention in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Exploring task-specific, stimulant medication, and age effects. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(2), 185-198.
- Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537-559.
- Kaufman, S. B., & Gregoire, C. (2015). Wired to create: Unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind. Penguin.
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- Wolniczak, I., Cáceres-DelAguila, J. A., Palma-Ardiles, G., Arroyo, K. J., Solís-Visscher, R., Paredes-Yauri, S., … & Mego-Aquije, K. (2013). Association between Facebook dependence and poor sleep quality: A study in a sample of undergraduate students in Peru. PloS One, 8(3), e59087.