Spring clean your mind - get rid of those cobwebs
It's Spring! That long awaited season when the sun is shining and the weather is getting warmer. Okay, it's freezing, but hopefully the warm weather will finally make an appearance soon.
At this time of year, it's traditional to give your house a thorough clean and put it back into shape. But, it's also a great time to declutter your mind and sort out your life.
Many people find that feeling overwhelmed by life's problems is a common experience. Here are some ideas to help you to make positive changes in your life. Dr Katrina Hinkley, a clinical psychologist in Bath, has the following tips:
- It really is true that having too many things in your head can affect your memory. Psychologists at Concordia University recently discovered that having a lot of things to think about affects your ability to recall information when you need to – like the fact you were supposed to be at your doctor's appointment at 11am today. Tackle this by writing down every problem or task you have on a piece of paper. Sort these into ones you can problem-solve and ones that you can't do anything about. Plan how to resolve the easier difficulties, and then you'll start to feel more able to cope again.
- Try practising staying in the present (a concept known as mindfulness). We often spend a lot of time thinking about what's happening tomorrow or worrying about the past, whilst forgetting we are actually in the here-and-now. Re-focus by noticing your surroundings – like the daffodils in Royal Victoria Park, or feeling the warmth of the sun on your face. You could also take time out to listen to a relaxation tape or practice yoga or tai-chi.
- Take some exercise – moving your body helps to detoxify it of all the stress hormones that can build up when you worry, and provides more oxygen to the brain to help it to think more clearly. A gentle stroll through Alexandra Park or a long cycle ride will help you to feel physically and emotionally stronger.
- Break out of your old patterns of behaviour. CBT therapists say that repeating the same ways of thinking and behaving can stop you moving forward with life. If you're always expecting things to go wrong, don't believe that you are capable of learning new things or always find yourself moaning about the same things, try to stop. Take a good look at the evidence for and against your beliefs, and see what happens if you try to do things differently. For example, if you think people are generally quite unfriendly, try smiling at strangers in the street or chatting to the shop assistant.
- Keep a positives' diary. At the end of each day, jot down a couple of good things that happened to you or that you've achieved. It can be as small as enjoying the moment when your grandchild smiled at you, or that you baked a cake which everyone enjoyed. It'll help you to feel good about yourself and keep life in perspective.
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Good luck with the spring cleaning - and let's hope the sun comes out soon!