How to Clear Emotional Clutter | Get Rid of Clutter (p
Some of the hardest clutter to clear doesn’t dwell in basements, attics or drawers. Emotional clutter — the thoughts, fears, and memories that lurk, even if we’d prefer to let them go — can be an obstacle to a peaceful, focused mind.
Donald Altman, a psychotherapist and the author of Clearing Emotional Clutter: Mindfulness Practices for Letting Go of What’s Blocking Your Fulfillment and Transformation, offers tips for identifying — and clearing — emotional clutter.
Notice Your Emotional Elevator
From happiness and excitement to sadness and worry, “our emotional elevators go up and down each day; that’s normal,” says Altman. The first challenge in clearing your mind of clutter is to recognize what pushes the buttons on your emotional elevator. A mention of retirement or an uncertain future, for example, might send your elevator down to a worried level.
Altman cautions against judging yourself by being negatively affected by what’s going on around you. “That just means you’re sensitive to your environment and world,” he explains. Instead, notice the cluttered thoughts that are sending your elevator downward, and remind yourself that there are many buttons — including positive ones — to discover and press.
Choose Your Focus
Altman offers some techniques for training your brain to focus on positive, empowering thoughts:
- Actively choose to focus on something other than the sources of your emotional clutter.
- List ways you have made your life easier and more tranquil in recent days, or even weeks. Let the list remind you that you aren’t stuck in negative thought patterns.
- Take a break from people, places, and things that are triggers. For example, if reading or watching news reports leaves you stressed and distracted, schedule a week-long news cleanse. See if the respite clears your mind of emotional clutter.
Find a Safe Anchor
To keep mental clutter from building in the future, choose a “safe anchor” you can carry with you, either in your mind, like a positive memory or a favorite color, or as a physical object, like a photo of a loved one, or a small item you can keep in your pocket or bag.
When you feel emotional clutter creeping in, connect with your safe anchor, either through visualization or physical touch, and feel soothed and grounded by its presence. Altman says that over time, this behavior, known as re-framing, actually rewires your brain toward more positive patterns.
“It’s easy to get that emotional elevator moving back up, so why wait?” he asks.
Read the rest of this series:
- How to Organize Papers | Get Rid of Clutter (part 1)
- Kids Left But Their Stuff Hasn’t | Get Rid of Clutter (part 3)
- How to Declutter Your Room | Get Rid of Clutter (part 4)
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