Decluttering is all the rage. If you have Netflix, I’m sure you’re aware of the show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. They’re promoting it like crazy! Ms. Kondo also has a book about decluttering called Spark Joy. In both she encourages you to get rid of the things in your life and your home that no longer—or maybe never did—bring you joy.
This week on the Woman Worriers podcast I spoke with Vidyamala Burch about her book, Mindfulness For Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life. We talked about how by choosing to place our attention in our bodies through mindful activities, we’re choosing not to get caught up in the worry, planning and negative thoughts that clutter our minds.
Ms. Burch also shares her experience with mindfulness and why she believes it’s so important for women to bring more mindfulness in to their daily lives.
Last week on the podcast I shared three nature-based strategies to help you be more mindful in daily life. And next week I talk with, Mari Lee, from Growth Counseling Services and The Mindfulness Academy For Addiction and Trauma Training, about why finding a therapist who’s been trained in mindfulness and trauma therapy is so important.
Mindfulness Helps Keep the Clutter in its Place
Imagine what it would be like to declutter your mind. What might you discard? Maybe you’d get rid of racing thoughts, constant worrying, ruminating, judging others, judging self, memories of all the things you might have done differently…. The list could go on and on.
What would remain? If you pay attention and focus on the present moment, what brings you joy or a sense of awe? Sunlight shining through a window? A child’s laughter? A favorite song or piece of music?
What helps you feel more grounded, calm or settled? Being with or petting your dog, cat or horse? A warm blanket? Your feet on the floor? When our thoughts and worries take over, we might miss all of these experiences.
Being caught up in worries and fears makes our brain think we’re under attack. It jumps into fight/flight mode. We feel anxious, and our fears and worries intensify. It’s a vicious cycle. And it’s hard to come back down.
When we practice mindfulness, we begin to notice how often we’re caught up in the clutter of our minds. Rehashing, retelling, re-worrying. Each time we find that we’re caught up in thought and worry, we can choose to shift our attention to the things that are happening right now.
Here’s a quick example:
The worry: “Oh no. We leave for our trip tomorrow. The Weather Channel says it might rain while we’re there. Should I bring my raincoat? What if I bring it and it doesn’t rain? Then I took up all that space in my suitcase for nothing. What if it rains the whole time? That would be terrible. The trip would be such a waste of time away. Just stuck in the rain everywhere we go. I wouldn’t have any fun and I’d come home from the trip more stressed than I am now.”
Mindfulness in action: “As I notice where my thoughts have taken me, I can pause and say to myself, ‘Wow! I just recognized that I’m caught up in my worries again and it’s making me really stressed out!’ I can take a slow, deep breath right now to help me tune into my body.
“Instead of getting caught up in the worry, I can choose to pay attention to what’s happening right now, where I am. So instead of being in my head, I can pay attention to folding this sweater for the trip. I can feel the softness of the fabric and I can see its beautiful texture. As I hold it closer to my face I can smell its clean scent. As I move about the room gathering my stuff, I can choose to notice how tense my shoulders and back are. I can breathe into that tension and notice if it changes.
“I can remind myself that I can’t predict the future, but I’d like to be prepared, so I gather my raincoat from the closet. I notice the sounds the fabric makes as I zip the zipper and fold it to fit into my suitcase.”
A mindfulness practice can help you declutter your mind. Focusing your attention on your body and breath will help you come back from runaway thoughts and worries. Mindfulness actually helps to build new neural pathways that allow you to break the cycle of the worry—>fight/flight—>more worry. You might still worry about things you can’t control, but mindfulness helps you to recognize that you have a choice in how you respond to the worry.
Woman Worriers Mindfulness Groups
Here in Annapolis the Woman Worriers mindfulness groups will begin again this Fall. If you live locally, or in Maryland I’ll be offering in-person and online groups. The groups are designed to support you in your new or ongoing mindfulness practice using meditation and other mindful activities. If you’d like to know more call or email me!
If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.
Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger, creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .