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Spring Cleaning the Mind: How to Have an Emotional Clear-Out

spring clean your life

 

Maybe it’s the longer days and brighter sunshine, but as we stumble out of the fog of winter, the clutter of our lives can become very apparent. We look around our homes, eyeing up boxes of junk and brandishing a duster threateningly over neglected corners, all ready to throw ourselves into a thorough spring clean. But while giving the kitchen floor a good scrub is all well and good, sometimes it can be helpful to look beyond our surroundings and into our inner world, and clear out a little of the clutter in there.

 

Spring Clean Your Mind, Spring Clean Your Life.

 

In the hustle of life, with memories, worries and to-do lists crowding our minds and shouting for attention, it can be extremely difficult to think with any clarity. If we don’t give ourselves time to take stock, looking back over the past years and assessing where we are in the moment, we can become completely overwhelmed by “mind clutter”. So how do we stop ourselves from getting buried under all this detritus? Here’s a few tips.

 

Devote some time to yourself

 

It can be quite hard – between a busy job, kids, social life, hobbies and family members – just to let yourself be, and devote time to nothing but yourself. Taking half a day to give yourself some breathing space, slow down your mind and actually look about you can be extremely helpful if you can afford it. Then you can ask yourself some questions, like:

  • How do you feel about your job, circumstances, relationships and general place in life?
  • Are you where you wanted to be when you thought about the future as a younger person?
  • Have your priorities changed since then, or do you carry any regrets?
  • What bothers you most on a daily basis?
  • Is there anything your hanging onto from the past?
  • Where would you like to be, and what would you like to have achieved, this time next year?

The content and focus of these questions might be slightly different for you, but they are a great jumping-off point to start thinking about things you may want to change, rather than being swept through life with a whole load of flotsam and jetsam you’d rather be without.

 

Journaling

 

The act of writing down our thoughts can reveal a lot to us. If you spend a week detailing each day and your feelings throughout it, you may gain an insight that would otherwise have passed you by. For instance, you might pinpoint a worry that usually plays at the back of your mind, or notice that a particular event or person makes you happier, sadder or anything in between.

This kind of insight shines a light on all the dusty and overlooked corners of our life. In a normal spring clean, you have to actually go through the cupboards to identify what you need to throw away, and journaling is a way to do this for your non-physical life.

It’s easy to find ourselves carrying worries, troublesome memories, guilt and a host of other negative emotions and experiences; we think this is perfectly normal, simply because we’ve got used to it. Realising the true content of all those vague memories and worries is the first step in feeling lighter, happier and ready for a new start.

 

Forgive yourself

 

Whether you’ve been beating yourself up over an opportunity you missed, the New Year’s Resolutions you’ve already broken, or past mistakes that echo through your life, part of moving forward is letting yourself off the hook. You may have done something that hurt somebody else, or hugely regret not going down a certain path. However, regret is pretty useless unless you channel it correctly, and can safely be put in the “throwaway” box in an emotional spring clean.

You can use your negative emotions for motivation, and to give you the impetus to behave differently in future, while also divesting them of the power they have over you. For example, if you notice yourself brooding over something that upsets you or makes you feel guilty – from giving up on an exercise regime to feeling like you let somebody down – write down three practical ways to help others, help yourself, or avoid the same thing happening in future. Before long, the emotional weights which have been holding you back will become the force that moves you forwards.

 

Take up a new habit

 

It may go without saying, but we would highly recommend taking up meditation if you feel in need of an emotional spring clean. On a deeply held, unconscious level, Beeja meditation effortlessly untangles all the emotional pain and trauma which has stored itself up inside our nervous system, and allows us to become free of life’s debris. But while meditation is something we would always suggest, lots of new habits can help in an emotional spring clean alongside this practice.

For example, you may commit to going for a walk everyday, or painting a new picture each week. New habits focus our minds, and give us the feeling of a fresh start. And while we make our resolutions in the New Year, it’s always been spring that most strongly represents rebirth and renewal in our culture. So as sun begins to shine that little bit brighter, we can throw ourselves into change with new enthusiasm, and adopt the new habits which may just transform our lives.

 

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Dealing With Mental Health in the City

mental health in the city

 

2 million Londoners will experience mental health problems this year; and only 25% of these people will actively deal with their difficulties, according to the London Health Board. Living in the city can be much more stressful and mentally draining than living outside urban areas. City-specific stressors such as noise, lack of natural spaces and increased social interaction make us much more susceptible to mental health issues. Living in the city provides excitement, freedom, and opportunities; however, we have to remember to slow down, become aware of its effects on our mind, and care for our mental well-being.

 

The City’s Effect On Our Mental Well-Being

 

In urban areas, the main issue is over-stimulus. Excess noise, the lack of open and green spaces, constant interactions with people either directly at work or passively on the tube; they all keep our senses on edge. According to a study conducted by King’s College, London, the heightened biological response to stressors causes an excess in dopamine; which is one of the main causes of mental illnesses like schizophrenia or depression. Too much dopamine makes us more susceptible to many negative and dissonant feelings such as anxiety, stress, and paranoia. To compensate for all the over-excitement that city living provides, we must find the time to unwind and meditate; and allow these dopamine levels to return to their normal levels.

 

How We Can Care For Our Minds Through Meditation

 

Being subject to all these additional stressors, it is necessary for our minds to have down-time in the midst of urban life. We must allow our minds to enter their natural, meditative states on a much more regular basis; and the practice of meditation offers a holistic and accessible solution. Whether it’s through beginner’s classes, drop-in sessions or one-off retreats, there are many different methods of incorporating meditation into our daily practices – even for busy city-dwellers.

Meditation not only gives our senses a break, returning us to our core state of relaxationit also teaches us how to reduce the dissonance when experiencing city life through breathing techniques and mindfulness. Meditation repairs the parts of our mind that have become desensitised to direct and visceral experience, whilst simultaneously helping with symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, stress and anxiety.

City life can have an unavoidable, negative affect on our mental health. The over-stimulus of urban living and working can unconsciously take its toll on our minds, resulting in feelings of anxiety, and can even lead to much deeper set mental illness. However, by incorporating meditation into our regular routines – be it a morning exercise or a way to unwind after work – we can care for our minds whilst still functioning in the bustling city.

 

This post was kindly written for us by Lucy Lucas. 

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Learning From Plastic-Free February

going plastic-free

 

It turns out that going plastic-free is far from easy. In fact, as Will mentioned in his last post, it’s nigh-on impossible. The use of disposable plastics has become so pervasive that it’s only possible to appreciate it once you are trying to cut down, and the problem goes far beyond taking our own bags to the supermarket (although this is a great start). If we all want to make a change in our consumer habits, which as Will explained here is the best way to convince corporations to change their behaviour, then we may need a little extra help. This post will give you a few pointers on where to start. 

 

Consumer activism on plastic.

 

We can feel as if we have very little control over what goes on in the world. From the use of child labour in cobalt mining (which keeps our smartphones running), heavy metals in the air, to the fact that some corporations pollute on such a vast scale that individual action apparently dwarfs in comparison, it can all feel pretty helpless. However, if enough consumers changed their behaviour, it could make a real difference – especially if it threatens the bottom line.

By committing to reduce our plastic consumption by 50%, the shops who cater to us will naturally change their practices in order to gain our custom. Think of each pound you spend as a vote of endorsement. By choosing items that aren’t covered in plastic as much as possible, you are indicating your approval of less plastic packaging – and shops will quickly adapt to meet consumer demand.

 

Letting retailers and manufacturers know when they can do better.

 

You and like-minded friends can send letters or emails of complaint to organisations* when you believe their use of plastic is excessive, and even suggest alternatives. Mention that you will take your custom to competitors who use less plastic, and use specific examples of what they can change.

For example, we recently saw a pack of two avocados (which one may observe are already covered in their own natural packaging) wrapped in a plastic container, which was then placed in a plastic bag. Then there are pears, apples and other fruits, placed to no real benefit on a plastic tray, or the choice to bag bananas even though there’s no conceivable reason for doing so. You may point out that supermarket bakery bags for fresh bread often include a plastic window – even though you’ve had a very good view of the bread as you’ve picked it up to place it in said bag – and this feature is quite wasteful.

When we examine these packaging decisions, they soon appear completely senseless. Plastic may be cheap and available, but considering the damage it’s causing to our bodies and the environment (and the fact it’s made from a finite resource), the nonchalant use of this product is clearly irresponsible. But we all use plastic irresponsibly until we are educated about its impact. Much of the inclusion of plastic in packaging is so casual – often incorporated as a design feature or to make products more appealing – that it may only take pointing out how silly it is to retailers and manufacturers for the situation to change. And as soon as plastic-covered products no longer sell, they will slowly disappear.

 

Other ways to spread the message.

While focusing first on reducing your own use of plastic is a huge step, there are small things you can do to help others make the change. For example, you might:

  • Mention to your favourite coffee shop that encouraging customers to bring their own reusable cup for takeaways is a great idea. 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK – and less than 1 in 400 are recycled. Perhaps they could offer a 10% discount to those who bring their own cup, or give them their 7th coffee free. Even just putting a sign in the window may be enough to jog people’s memory.
  • If you have school-age children, you could suggest to the headteacher that an assembly or perhaps some lessons based around the use of plastic and plastic pollution could be really helpful, and encourage the school canteen to cut down on its plastic use.
  • Write to your local MP to communicate how important this issue is to you, so it gets more representation on a government level.
  • Suggest initiatives at work to reduce the use of plastics in the workplace. For instance, your employers may be willing to provide everyone with a reusable water bottle and put a filtered-water pitcher in every break room, to stop people heading to the vending machine for bottled water. Or they might put up posters encouraging staff to bring in their own fountain pens to cut down on the use of throwaway biros. Even small steps like this, across a company, can make a big difference.

It’s in small, everyday steps that we’ll reduce our use of plastics, and empower ourselves to change the world around us.

* When dealing with large chains, try to get in touch with the dedicated customer service team (who can refer the complaint to the relevant staff member) through contacts on brand websites, rather than bringing it up in-store. Alternatively, reach out to higher management, or product manufacturers. Those “on the ground” in shops often do a busy job and have next to no say in how their organisation is run, so won’t be too pleased to deal with complaints that are well above their pay grade!

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