While you clean up your space, your finances and your digital life, don’t forget that your brain can end up cluttered as well. Here’s how to sort things out so you end up happier and (mentally) healthier.
Check In With Your Mental Health
Before we proceed, let’s make one thing clear: a few life hacks aren’t going to singlehandedly resolve depression, anxiety, or other major issues with your mental health.
If you’ve struggled with mental health problems in the past, consider whether you’re slipping back into old habits and whether it might be time to check in with the professionals who helped you in the past. Don’t forget about hotlines and support groups, too.
If your problems are new or you’ve never bothered getting a diagnosis, consider talking to a professional.
Make More Time for What You Love
Make a list of every good thing in your life — past, present, or future. With luck, that would be a long list; maybe you can narrow it down to a top ten. Include anything that makes you happy, or that you find satisfying or worthwhile in some way.
Chances are, there are things on this list that you haven’t done in a while, and maybe you feel guilty about that. There are probably others that you wish you could do but you don’t have the time or the money — a holiday isn’t going to materialise just because you wish it. But don’t forget to look for easy wins, too: maybe you totally forgot that you like to take relaxing baths.
Use this list as a guide, and see how many of the things you love can find a place in your life. Maybe you can make that vacation happen next year if you start saving for it now. Include all the little things you can, but don’t feel bad if you can’t fit everything in; it’s fine to have some hobbies that you’re actively pursuing and others that are on the back burner for now. No guilt.
Establish Systems for Silencing Self-Criticism
We all have negative thoughts sometimes, although if you’re overwhelmed with them, definitely revisit your mental health options above.
Fortunately, there are tons of ways to deal with negative thoughts in ways that leave you feeling better, rather than worse, about yourself. One simple way is this “stopping stupid thoughts” worksheet from Mental Health America.
The core of that approach is to identify your stupid thoughts and write one down on a card. Then flip that card over and write a corresponding compassionate thought, like what you might say to a friend if they said that negative thing about themselves.
If your problem is with anxiety or worry, try this flowchart for dealing with those stressful thoughts. You’ll question whether the worry is actually something that should concern you, and then turn your mind to finding solutions.
For other harmful thoughts and urges, there are apps that can help you to calm down or distract yourself until the thought subsides.
iOS/Android. The urge to self-harm, the Calm Harm app tells us, is like a wave. It's strongest at the beginning, but if you ride the wave, it will soon be over. Apps are no substitute for a good therapist, but people who struggle with these moments of crisis say the right app really helps.Read more
Your job right now — while you’re “spring cleaning” — is to decide which of these approaches will help you, and then have it in place for when the next negative thought hits.
Give Yourself Time to Think
If these aren’t for you, no worries — you can clear your mind any way you like. Runners often swear by running (with or without music) as a way of processing whatever is going on in their mind. You can spend time walking around your city, or “bathing” in nature. Maybe what relaxes your mind is working on a repetitive task, like knitting or doing the dishes.
Break Unhelpful Tech Habits
Our phones are both great and terrible for our mental health. It’s excellent that we can reach friends at any time, and easily look up pictures of puppies or download games that help us relax.
But phones and everything on them are addictive. Do we really need to scroll through more social media, even though we know it makes us sad? Figure out what you really do and don’t want to do on your phone and rearrange your home screen and your habits accordingly.
The balance here will be different for everyone, but the crucial thing is that you figure out what puts your mind in a better place.