When we are feeling stressed, anxious or low, we tend to focus on fixing the overwhelming source of our worries. The big things: our jobs, our relationships, our health. These are all huge issues for our brains to tackle, and will most likely take a lot of time and energy to resolve. What if tackling the little things first allowed us to tackle the bigger issues more easily? Recent research over has shown that some small, seemingly superficial changes can make a big difference to our mental focus and wellbeing.
In fact several very popular books have been written on the subject, and the blogosphere has followed close behind. It seems that we can be more affected by our environments than we realise. Here are four small changes you can make today to help clear your mind:
1. Your House
"From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That's why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order."
We all know how clutter can be distracting. You sit down to do something that really needs doing, and you start to notice all of the things around you that you've put off cleaning or tidying. So how about rather than using tidying as a procrastination tool, you use it as a form of therapy?
As you declutter and organize your house or your room, you are subconsciously organizing the chaos in your mind. It can be a form of mindfulness, distracting your brain from real life issues, and allowing you to feel a sense of achievement in organising your physical space before tackling the cause of your mental disorder.
2. Your Office
"A light, bright and clean office significantly contributes to staff morale. Dirtier offices where dust is being breathed in, keyboards are sticky and bathroom facilities are left unclean have a higher employee turnover than others which are kept clean."
Says Rachel Barton
We spend a considerable amount of our waking hours at work, and therefore it stands to reason that our work environment will also have an impact on our concentration. I know personally that when I am trying to write I get distracted if I have a dirty keyboard or an untidy desk.
A couple of minutes spent cleaning and de-cluttering your work space can have a significant impact on your concentration and focus throughout the day, leaving nothing to distract you from focusing on the work in front of you!
3. Your Possessions
"Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle."
"The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life."
Most of us will be familiar with the pattern of keeping things we never use. Even if we don't particularly like them, we keep them on the off-chance they may come in handy again in the future. But if you're anything like me this act of re-sorting belongings that haven't been used in years will make you feel a sense of guilt.
Looking at that dusty exercise bike will just remind you how you failed at keeping up with that new year's resolution of three years ago. So make a change, keep only what you use, and is part of your life NOW . Belongings from the past don't represent who you are anymore, so leave them in the past! Even better, make yourself feel good by giving them away to a charity shop.
4. Your Clothes
"When you put effort into your appearance you don't wallow, you move. Caring about how you present your physical self to the world makes you more present in your body."
Several studies have been done on the impact that your choice of clothing has on your behavior. 'Power dressing' is now a well known technique used by successful business people. On a smaller scale, what you wear, even around the house, can have an effect on your self-esteem and mental focus.
If you're working from home for example you may be tempted to just stay in your pyjamas, but a recent study has shown the effect of 'enclothed cognition', where by participants who were dressed in clothes associated with higher intelligence (e.g white lab coats) performed better in cognitive tasks. So next time you go to throw your joggers on when you've got an important report to write, maybe you should think again!