How to Make Room for Rejuvenation in Every Area of Life
Want to rejuvenate your life? The new year is a natural time to set goals and make plans. But before you add more things to your schedule, start by detoxing and decluttering.
One of the greatest sources of clutter in our lives is our minds. “It has been suggested that we have up to 70,000 thoughts a day and 12,000 internal conversations,” says Susan Pearse, author and co-founder of Mind Gardener. Even worse, she says 95 per cent of your thoughts are the same ones you had yesterday. All this mental clutter reduces your mindfulness and contentment. “We become disconnected from life and the people around us. We also start to miss things because we are caught up in the thoughts in our heads instead of the life unfolding in front of us,” says Pearse.
Contributing to this lack of mindfulness are unhelpful thoughts like fears, habitual thoughts, worries about the future, re-runs of past events, things to do, and your inner critic. Pearse says that having negative thoughts like these is a normal function of your brain.
“Your brain’s main role is to keep you safe and so it is very good at detecting threats (both real and imagined). This means that it will often identify the negative before it identifies the positives in a situation,” she says. However, she warns that your actions always follow a thought, and actions coming from a negative thought take you down a negative path. For example, you might find yourself blaming someone else or turning down an opportunity that’s good for you.
It’s not just negative thoughts that clutter our minds. Pearse pinpoints mobile devices as one of the biggest causes of mental clutter. “Mobile devices are attention assailants. They often take our attention away from what’s really important,” she says. But Pearse says the bigger issue with mobile devices is that they’ve damaged our ability to control our impulses. “Someone’s email alert goes off and they automatically reach for it instead of making a conscious choice about what is more important at the time.” She says that digital detoxes and screen-free weekends, while increasingly popular, are not a long-term solution. You need to constantly practise making a conscious decision about where to direct your energy. “There is no point going to a meditation class but then letting your brain go to crazy town for the rest of the day,” she says.
Fortunately, our brains are changing all the time. “Every single moment, you are training your brain and shaping your life,” says Pearse. Just like physical fitness, it takes practice and consistency to control your attention, but it is a skill that can be learned.
Your family and friends
Social connections are important for your health and happiness. Yet there are some friends you are better off without. Unfortunately, it can take a while to realise who those friends are.
“It is often not clear to us why the relationship we have with someone is not healthy for us,” says Fiona Bennett, a Relationships Australia branch manager and counsellor in Western Australia.
For example, you might enjoy organising school events with someone, but find you don’t gel with her in social settings. Or a friend you had fun within your early 20s has never adjusted to you being a parent. When relationships are no longer quite right for you, Bennett says: “It is great when you can recognise this and put the boundaries in place that means you only see them when it suits you rather than feeling obliged to see them more than that.”
Some relationships suffer not just from mismatched needs, but toxic energy, which impacts your mental health.
“The relationship may lead to doubts about yourself, feeling drained of energy after being with them, hearing criticism or put-downs. These are all signs that the relationship is not healthy,” says Bennett. An unhealthy relationship with a family member or work colleague is often worth trying to salvage through honest communication. When there’s no hope of positive change, it’s normal to feel apprehensive about cutting ties. Bennett says: “You might worry about hurting the other person’s feelings, you will feel concerned about how to be honest without being hurtful, or you may anticipate a tricky backlash.”
It’s possible to say goodbye in a mutually respectful way. To begin with, Bennett advises putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and avoiding blaming them. Stop contacting friends who you no longer wish to see, and if they contact you, give them a believable reason why you can’t catch up. Bennett says they’ll start to get the message. If they don’t, explain directly how your life has changed and why it’s difficult to keep the friendship going. “Try to avoid feeling guilty about it – as that often makes us more likely to give in and see them again. You are doing something that you need for yourself in a healthy way, and that’s positive,” she says.
As well as enjoying time alone, proactively spend more time with people you feel at ease with, and explore fresh interests rather than the same old things. “By doing this you are likely to meet like-minded people who may be healthier in their relationships,” Bennett says.
If you feel weighed down by physical clutter in your home or like you’re drowning in it, Helen Butler, director of Clutter Rescue, says this is a common experience.
“Clutter can make us feel overwhelmed, exhausted and frazzled and really impact on the quality of our lives,” she says. “The kitchen plays an integral role in our health and wellbeing and I firmly believe it is one of the most important spaces in our homes to declutter and keep organised.”
To create a kitchen that supports your healthy lifestyle, start with the common clutter-attracting zones. Butler says one of these is the second or third drawer, where you probably have more than one of the same utensil (e.g. multiple wooden spoons) and gadgets you don’t use. The philosophy of ‘one is enough’ is a useful guiding principle in dealing with these items.
You probably only need one type of biscuit cutter, one bottle stopper, and one vegetable peeler. The same principle applies to your pots and pans cupboard – one small and one large saucepan and one shape of baking tin might be enough.
the problem area is the pantry. “Many people don’t know what they have in their pantry and tend to buy multiples of the same thing – because they simply can’t see what’s going on in there!” says Butler. Check for out-of-date food or anything that doesn’t support your health. You will eventually eat whatever is in your cupboard, so make sure it only stocks nutritious foods.
The under-sink cupboard is also a good one to tidy up. Butler says: “There are usually too many chemicals kept in this space that isn’t actually needed and it can become a bit of a dumping ground for all sorts of things.” Replace multiple cleaning products with one or two natural cleaners, like vinegar.
When looking at the rest of your cupboards and deciding how many plates and utensils to keep, Butler says it’s a simple maths exercise. If you want to have two plates per person and four people live at home, you only need eight plates. You might keep spare plates and special serving dishes for entertaining, but these don’t have to live in the kitchen and you can store them away.
In general, Butler says if you don’t use something, don’t let it contribute to clutter and distraction. “The space we have in our kitchen needs to work hard for us and everything in it has to earn its keep. If it’s not used it’s time to get rid of it!”
Only about 20 per cent of our clothes get worn regularly, and at least another 20 per cent never leave the wardrobe. Unworn clothing is not a source of physical clutter but also of mental stress.
“Having an overstuffed, cluttered wardrobe can mean a stressful start to the day,” says Sally Mackinnon, Melbourne stylist and owner of Styled by Sally.
“A woman will be more likely to put together an outfit she doesn’t feel comfortable in, both physically and emotionally, and this can impact on how she behaves and her attitude on the day.”
One reason you hold on to clothes that don’t meet your needs is because of what they represent. Clothes are a bit like photographs – they can take you back to a particular time. Choosing to let go of these clothes can be cathartic and help you mourn that period. You probably also keep clothes because you’re hanging on to the size and shape you used to be. Almost all women – 85 per cent – keep clothes that are too small. We hope we’ll need them again but in the meantime, they create clutter and stress.
When deciding what to let go, Mackinnon says: “One of the biggest ‘red flags’ is age and quality.” If something is obviously dated, worn or poor quality, it’s not a good use of wardrobe space. Instead of holding on to them, enjoy donating or upcycling them, and buy something up-to-date that fits now.
When replacing the clothes that no longer make you feel good, Mackinnon suggests you get some smart essentials in place first. She recommends a flattering pair of jeans for your shape, a blazer in a colour that works with most of your wardrobe (probably black, navy or cream), a good white t-shirt and ballet flats. Tops and accessories that match your style are the colourful icings on the cake.
Stop the clutter coming back by thinking twice before buying new clothes. It’s a tough but effective anti-clutter strategy to hold back from buying something straight away and come back the next day if you still love it.
It’s great to have a form of exercise you enjoy, but after time it becomes too comfortable. If your body is no longer challenged, it’s no longer improving. “Doing the same type of exercise every week at the same intensity will not allow your body to work to its potential,” says Brisbane personal trainer and women’s fitness expert Vicki Black (ascenthealthandfitness.com.au).
Black suggests replacing your stale routine with new types of exercise. For example, try high-intensity interval training if you haven’t already. “HIIT is an excellent workout choice for burning fat and improving fitness,” she says. These workouts use bursts of intense activity alternated with short rest periods, such as running and walking. You can do them skipping in your backyard, swimming at your local pool, or running on the beach.
Simply introducing a variation on your favourite form of exercise also stimulates your body to grow stronger. Try ashtanga yoga if you usually practise Hatha, or run up and down hills if your route is usually flat.
Another way to mix things up is by setting a goal, like a fun run for charity or a 30-day yoga challenge. Having a goal to reach for will not only improve your fitness but your overall confidence at trying new things.
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