1. Question your stories.
You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read. Don’t believe the gossip columns in the magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV … until you have verified it.
Well, the same concept applies to your inside world – your thoughts.
We all have stories about ourselves even if we don’t think of them as stories. Case in point: How often do you pause and logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges? How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind first – i.e., the pre-recorded story you’ve been holding on to – without even thinking?
Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at work,” or “I have intrinsic procrastination problems.” If we were to dig deeper, you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why that is the case.
So the uncluttering exercise here is to question your story. For instance, let’s take the writer example. Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer? What would it look like to be a good writer? Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?
You will be surprised how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a much better and more accurate version of your story. Give it a try!
2. Prove the power of affirmations to yourself.
You may have heard of positive affirmations. They are statements in the affirmative implying something is already so, such as:
I am a good writer.
I am a talented person.
I am a kind loving person.
Now let’s be honest. When you are feeling frustrated or unhappy, do you really feel like saying a positive affirmation and, more importantly, believing it? Um… probably not, so how do we outsmart our own negative side? By disarming what we call “blurts.”
Blurts are the rotten terrible things that your subconscious mind spews out at you every chance it gets. The idea is to leverage these inner demons by forming an inner dialogue with them that helps you get past your mental clutter and negativity.
Here’s a fun way to think about it: Remember in the old cartoons, they had a demon on one of the character’s shoulders and an angel on the other? Well your blurts are the demon and your affirmations are the angel. Now just play the part of YOU.
Let’s start with a blurt that is running in your mind: “I am going to be alone forever.”
Your affirmation rebukes that with, “Actually, I am going to find the right person to share my life with.”
Now your blurt will come back with: “Oh yeah, and when is that going to happen, 50 years from now?”
To which you say, “I’m not sure, but I feel confident that the right person will find me.”
“Well, what makes you so confident?” says the blurt again.
“Because I am a wonderful, loving person and have a lot to offer,” says the affirmation.
To which your blurt responds, “Oh really? Well, why hasn’t’ it happened already if you’re so great?”
And you reply with, “Well, everything in life comes at the right time.”
You may be chuckling, but I promise you this much, if you just commit to doing this (and it may help to actually write it out) you will be engaged in your own inner thoughts as you are “cleaning house,” and you will understand yourself and the root of your negativity far more deeply.
That is when you start to master peace over chaos in your mind – the beginnings of that internal simplicity.
3. Run your thoughts through three key filters.
Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot. On days like this, there’s a mental decluttering exercise I use that’s super quick and keeps you in check…
I’ve been in arguments with my husband in the past and one of the things I regret is not filtering my words before saying them. At the time, I did not have the right tools, except “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you are feeling the opposite of nice. Some years later, I ran across this simple trick and it helped me shift my behavior. Here’s how it works:
Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding YES responses:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it helpful?
For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested. Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me? Is it kind for me to say or think this? Is it helpful for me to say or think this?
Remember you can’t take your words back. What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road. So get in the habit of applying your three key filters.
4. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend.
We’ve all heard the expression “Treat others as you would treat yourself,” but do you see the irony of it? As I grew older, and became more aware of my thoughts and stories, I realized that I hardly ever treat others as I treat myself. I actually treat others much nicer, much kinder and way better all around. Yet I manage to treat myself with so much anger, harshness and impatience, and I know I’m not the only one.
When was the last time you said something loving to yourself? When was the last time you held your own hand and hugged yourself just for trying?
Poor self-treatment has become an epidemic, often confused with self-discipline and the drive for success, and it is hurting us far more than it’s helping.
Here’s the truth: You can be both driven and kind, self-disciplined and gentle, successful and happy.
The mental decluttering exercise here is to turn around the statement: Treat yourself the way you treat someone you love. Pick a beloved person or a best friend. How do you treat them? Are you kind, thoughtful, generous, forgiving, and compassionate with them? Now do the same for yourself. After all, are you not worthy of the same treatment, if not better? Of course you are!
5. Simplify, simplify, and then simplify some more.
The easiest yet most challenging decluttering exercise is to think from a place of simplifying. When you have no idea how to tackle the mental clutter, the troubling thoughts or just the general sense of overwhelm, step back and ask:
How do I simplify this situation?
What can I let go of without losing a thing?
Come up with at least one creative way to simplify, to take away the complexity, to make your situation easier. Maybe you take a five-minute break and come back to the problem. Maybe you let go of one unnecessary obligation. Maybe you eliminate distractions for a set time frame. Or maybe you simply decide that, for now, you will accept it the way it is and not fuss over it.
Just remember that these two questions apply to all situations and they give you the space and permission to take a step back and decide on the next best course of action.
Trust yourself in this process of simplifying. Your nature does not consist of complication and overwhelm. Your negative thoughts are not true, but they are real in your mind and questioning them helps you overcome these ingrained self-sabotaging beliefs.
At your core, you will find your essence on this journey. Your nature is peace, simplicity and love. You may be far removed from that state now but you are just getting back to where you really belong, so stay with the right questions and the right answers will gradually show up.
It’s all about uncomplicating your life, one thought at a time.