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Mental Clutter

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Clutter isn’t just physical clutter that we collect, clutter can include mental clutter. Mental clutter is when our minds are overwhelmed by too many thoughts that can make it difficult to concentrate and maintain focus, leading us to forget important dates and create a feeling of being pulled in all directions. In modern-day life, brain fog and mental clutter are becoming increasingly common due to constant stimulation from this busy world and our seamlessly endless to-do lists.

The human brain is not engineered to perform more than one task that requires high-level brain function at once. When we switch focus from one high-level task to another, we may think we are multi-tasking but actually, we are merely switching our focus on and off so rapidly we don’t even notice which results in loss of focus and efficiency. Multi-tasking is unproductive practise and only adds up our mental clutter day by day. Furthermore, the University of London studied the effects of multi-tasking of participants doing cognitive tasks and discovered that the participants experienced a decline in IQ that was similar to an 8-year-old child or someone under the effects of marijuana. Whilst further research is needed to determine whether long-term multitasking is damaging to the brain, but it’s clear that multitasking has negative effects on our daily productivity.

However, there are little things we can modify in our everyday lives to help limit the constant mental clutter and anxieties.

- Write things down

Sometimes it can feel like we have an endless list of things to do, but by writing it down and prioritising tasks can really help lift a weight off your mind. You may find it useful to have a notepad by your bed at night for those worries that keep you up at night. If you are struggling to fall asleep, write down your worry or that thing you need to remember and schedule a time to think about it the next day.

- Limit notifications and technology

Our phones keep us constantly connected to our online lives night and day. It may be overwhelming to see the list of notifications on your home screen, that why it is suggested to limit push notifications and even delete apps and subscriptions that are no longer benefiting your life

- Meditate

Meditation is a powerful tool to help control and manage our thoughts. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioural Neuroscience published a study about the effects of an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, and it was found that participants saw an improvement in their ability to maintain focus and attention. Many people meditate as part of their daily routine and see huge improvements throughout all aspects of their lives.

- Clear up physical clutter

Clearing out physical clutter in your home or workspace can help regain clarity in the mind. Piles of mail, busting wardrobes and cluttered corners of the room may not seem important, but over time clutter can have cumulative effects on the brain. Research has discovered that a cleaner workspace can boost productivity, focus and make it easier for the brain to process information.

- Let go

For many people, mental clutter comes from past events and fixating on things beyond our control, whether it’s obsessing over past mistakes or worrying over what others think. It’s important to let go and learn to live in the present.

By Rachel at Cheswold Park Hospital

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