3 Simple Steps for Creating Mental Space
Do you ever find yourself going over and over something in your mind? Maybe it’s a situation that’s causing you stress right now, maybe it’s an event that happened a long time ago that you wish you could change, or maybe it’s something of little consequence and you’re not really sure why you’re fixating on it. If you find, like me, the answer to this question is yes, then it could be time for you to work on creating mental space.
A few months ago I realized my mental space (aka thought life) was being filled with less than productive thoughts. By now we have all heard of the power of positive thinking, so for years I’ve been aware of the dangers of letting negativity creep into my thoughts. What I hadn’t considered was how you can waste precious mental space by dwelling on things that are of little importance.
Being a perfectionist, I found that my thoughts tended to drift back in time to events and circumstances that didn’t play out the way I wanted them to; a conversation with a professor where I could have expressed myself better, several instances where I should have stood up for myself and didn’t, and making many (I have a plethora to choose from and mull over) bad relationship choices.
One day in the midst of washing dishes, it suddenly struck me I had been ruminating all day over something that happened years ago. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, an epiphany while washing dishes, seriously? Yes. Whoever said washing dishes was meaningless? Well, okay, most of the time this chore is just plain tedious, but for whatever reason this time was different.
I began thinking it through, was I supposed to learn a new lesson I hadn’t already learned from this situation? Or was this simply unproductive thinking and a waste of mental space?
I determined I had already learned the lesson from that particular situation and that this type of thinking was simply not productive. I decided from then on that if my mind drifted to past situations such as these, to immediately change the direction of my thoughts. As I did this I was shocked at how much thought space I had been giving to the past. My body was in the present, but my mind was being drawn back to the past.
The first few days I often had to consciously change the direction of my thoughts, but as the days went by it became easier and easier, to the point where it was second nature. And what happened as a result was nothing short of amazing.
With the new mental space I created I began to focus on the future; my goals, my dreams, and my ambitions. And the crazy part was that this just started to happen naturally. For a year and a half I had the desire to start this blog, but hadn’t gone through with it. But with the past no longer occupying my thoughts, my mind was free to start brainstorming and dreaming about creating again. I began to get excited about the possibilities again, so much so that I finally began work on this blog.
I had thought that my lack of time was the reason I hadn’t begun working on my goals, but what I found was that it wasn’t the lack of time, but simply the lack of mental space.
It made me wonder how many people are being held back by wasted mental space without even realizing it. So without further ado, here are a few easy tips to help you figure out if you’re wasting mental space and how to change your thought patterns.
1. Take stock of your thoughts.
Choose a day to monitor your thoughts and be aware of where your mind goes when it drifts. I find that my mind tends to drift during routine daily tasks such as showering, dishes (obviously), or driving, so those are good times to take note of where your mind is heading and what is occupying your thoughts.
2. Decide whether or not these thoughts are productive.
Once you are aware of what you’re focusing on, you need to determine if these thoughts are positive and productive or whether they are holding you back. You may even want to journal about this, if writing usually helps you work through things. Are you focusing on things you can’t change? Are you dwelling on past hurts? Or are you weighing the merits of the final two girls on The Bachelor and wondering who said bachelor will choose? (I’m guilty as charged on all counts) Then chances are you’ve got some wasted mental space and it’s time for a good spring cleaning of the mind.
3. Banish unproductive thoughts and head in a positive direction.
Whenever an unproductive thought drifts into your head, banish it by changing the direction of your thoughts and immediately thinking of something positive. What worked for me was to switch gears and focus my mind on my to-do list, but what might work even better is to focus your mind on a dream or goal. Do this every time you find your mind drifting into negative territory. Soon you should find that your mind drifts less often, and your thoughts become increasingly productive and positive.
And there you have it. Seems simple enough, right? I’m no expert on this, but I thought I would share what worked for me in hope that it might be of some benefit to you as well. So here’s to creating mental space and a more beauty-full mind.