She slammed the cupboard shut. Get away from me! You are driving me insane and I can’t stand to be around you. Anger burned within her. I’ve had enough of this junk, and I’m done!
The words never left her mouth, but they seared her spirit with a life of their own. Energy had left many months ago, leaving behind an overwhelming air of exhaustion and discouragement.
She looked around her and found it difficult to find anything that brought her life and made her happy. She knew the apparent reasons, like the four beautiful children. But most generally, she struggled to feel the positive, even toward them. Instead, there was hurt, regret, and burden.
It will never be different. It will never be better.
Maybe you are reading those words and they sound familiar. Whether you have a “friend” who has voiced those sentiments or if you’d be bold enough to say you’ve experienced something similar, those consuming thoughts can easily take residence in our minds. They wreak havoc not only on our thought life, but on our physical and emotional health as well.
So what does one do with these thoughts? I’m so glad you asked! You do some spring cleaning on your thought life and unclutter the areas your tripping through!
How does one do that? Great question!
1. Look around you and assess, the situation.
Some would say that your inner condition is lived out in your physical space. So, those drawers crammed full might illustrate a jam packed schedule. The closet full of things you can’t get rid of might resemble the things you have a hard time letting go. The house that’s cluttered and messy could possibly indicate a life of overwhelm.
2. Identify the areas of concern.
When it comes to our thought life, there are typically some patterns that exist. When those thoughts are unhealthy or negative, we call that distorted thinking. Yes, it would be the equivalent to spilling a glass of milk, breaking a dinner plate, or having a toilet overflow. They can happen quickly, before we can stop it, and create a “mess.” But similar to how we might try to safeguard for spills, carry things with two hands, and train our children to not use more than 8 squares of toilet paper, we learn ways to effectively handle these distorted thought patterns. We learn to stop the thought, drop the thought, and roll with a new one!!
Did you see how we did that….stop, drop and roll?!?
Maybe one of the distorted thinking patterns trip you up more often than another.
• Do you find yourself exaggerating?
• Are you only seeing black and white? All or nothing?
• Do you filter out positive and focus on negative (filtering)?
• Do you imagine worse case outcomes (catastrophizing)?
• Are you making negative assumptions of other’s thoughts or actions (mind reading)?
• Do you predict that things will turn out poorly or negatively? (Forecasting)
• Are you trusting your emotions as your reality? (Feelings as facts)
• Do you find yourself looking to blame?
• Are you quick to label yourself or others?
3. Decide your new course of action.
Yes, this is where it is out with the old and in with the new. We replace the old thoughts with the crisp, clean, refreshing thoughts that help lead to health and happiness. Slowing ourselves down and choosing our thoughts is key. We may rephrase something that quickly jumps into our mind with something better and healthier.
So, in the beginning story, she might reframe her thoughts to be something like this. I think I need to take a little break. I’m feeling frustrated and upset. Maybe taking some time alone or doing something with a friend would help me get some focus again. Tough times will come and go, but I will take one step at a time.
4. Catch yourself when you slip and get back on course!
You will find yourself identifying these negative patterns and will need to make a practice of stopping them, dropping them, and rolling with a new one. But be consistent. Letting negativity erode our thought life really does change the physical chemistry of our brain. There’s some fascinating research about this for those who like the science behind things! It changes the neural messages your brain gets. When these unhealthy patterns start to overwhelm our bodies, we can start to experience issues with anxiety, depression, addiction, and many other unhealthy things.
5. Arm yourself with methods that lend themselves to positivity and healthy thinking.
These might look different for each person, but I can share just a few of my favorites!
• Quiet time to start each day (get your focus- reading your Bible, doing yoga, or just listening to calming or inspiring music, etc.)
• Practical ways to refresh and refuel (those simple little things that help you face the next little bump in the road)
• Quality tools that contribute to making you feel competent, capable, and connected to the task at hand (ex. Parenting resources, online classes, books that give practical tools)
• New insights (Such as positive ways to view the issues or differences you experience with your child, positive ways to see the traits you might not normally embrace in yourself or others)
Now, I would be remiss to title an article on Spring Cleaning Your Thought Life and mention that our physical space might resemble our inner condition and then not give a tip or two on addressing the physical space too. So here are a couple of my favorites for that area as well!
• Find 30-45 minutes each day that you address the high need area of your home that day. Whether it’s the start of the day, nap time, or end of the day, You can rest easy knowing that the big things will be addressed.
• Enlist the help of the family. Assign areas to each individual with tasks that they can manage. Then train them how to do the area and fight to urge to think that your way is the only way!
• Prioritize the top three areas you want to address in a week. They don’t have to be monumental projects…it may be the kitchen counter one week and your closet the next (ok, that is admittedly monumental!!)
• Clean the high traffic areas first. Then you will be easily reminded of the cleaning you have already done and feel a bit inspired to do more. It’s called being motivated by your successes. And trust me….it will work for both thought life and physical space!
AND my best spring cleaning tip…know what works for your personality and go with it! Invite someone to come help you, set aside a day and tackle it all, break it down into logical method, or divide the chores into small doable tasks!
Get to work now…on your thoughts and habits! And have some fun while you’re at it!!