Mental Minimalism

Written by Dr. Gisela Berger

It’s that time of year when we look forward to a return to routine with school, social calendars, and holidays. It’s also a great time to declutter as we move into cooler weather. No, I’m not talking about putting away the swimsuits and shorts and hauling out sweaters and coats. I’m talking about ways to declutter our minds.

If we have trouble focusing and suffer from chaos and confusion in our mind, it may be due to trying to focus on too many things at the same time. We need to replenish our mind with nourishment.

Replenish — that’s actually important to note. Because minimalism — whether physical, digital, or mental — isn’t about having less. It’s about being intentional with your life. It’s about choosing what matters most.

This concept is related to flow or positive psychology. When we are “in the moment” we seem to be at our peak creatively, emotionally, with goal attainment, and attention. It is being present and being at our best.

Some easy steps toward that end include:

  1. Set and complete priorities—rank order your long-term to do list keeping in mind their importance to you and urgency/time sensitivity
  2. Practice decision making—keep your values in mind when making decisions; if you are a procrastinator, you might go into analysis paralysis so use your intuition; look at all the alternatives
  3. Invest in rewarding relationships—focus on people who bring you fulfillment; don’t overextend trying to please everyone
  4. Challenge negativity—ask yourself if it was a learning experience or a terrible disappointment; sadness and disappointment are part of life; let go of judging experiences as either negative or positive
  5. Give yourself a break—practice grace for time to nourish your mind; making time for relaxation is important, too

These practices, used with intention and consistently will lead to a more fulfilling life. Remember that it’s not what you have but what you do with what you have that is important. Also, keep in mind that what others (family of origin, friends, society, social media) define as important may not be what you deem as important. There’s an old southern saying that applies here: “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

If you would like to work in greater depth on any of these steps, or find yourself stuck, talk to a therapist who can guide you toward a more fulfilling life. Because, sometimes less truly is more!