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We all carry around a fair amount of emotional baggage – things which have annoyed or worried us, whether they are to do with work, home or our social life. These things can create emotional clutter in the mind unless we develop healthy ways to clear them out so we can concentrate better on what is good for us.
One of the best things we can do to help clear the mind is to make time for relaxation and physical exercise. Physical exercise is known to promote greater emotional resilience and better moods, so even a walk for 20 minutes or so, at least three times a week, will stand you in good stead. Those 20 minutes can be in a single block or, say, two shorter walks of 10 minutes each. I read recently about a New York psychiatrist who does not immediately prescribe antidepressants for patients suffering from a depressive episode; instead he first takes them for a walk or run in Central Park. Massage, yoga and other forms of toning and relaxing muscles are equally beneficial in terms of relaxing and clearing the mind of stressful and negative thoughts. Being more relaxed emotionally allows us to think more clearly and perhaps to see things from a different and more supportive perspective.
Refocusing attention on what is positive around us and in our lives is a great skill to cultivate. This is a good counterbalance to things which may be causing stress for us. It is said that what we focus on is what we get. So if we allow the mind to dwell on the negative, then we amplify it and increase stress levels. You might think that telling yourself not to worry about something is a good strategy. However, not only is this self-critical (which just creates more stress), but it places your focus on the very thing you don’t want to be on your mind. The emotional or subconscious mind cannot process a negative; so, as an example, if you ask yourself not to think of a blue elephant, then the mind first has to conjure up the image of a blue elephant before it can try to dismiss those thoughts. Instead, we need to focus on what is positive for us: on what we do want to think about. A more balanced focus overall has the beneficial effect of decluttering the mind and cultivating greater clarity about the positive elements of our lives, which allows the mind to relax and decreases stress.
One way of refocusing on what is positive around us is to make a mental or written note each day of at least three things which we liked or appreciated or are grateful for. This could be something like an appreciative word from a client or colleague, some beautiful trees in blossom on the way to work, the sun shining, the satisfaction of helping someone else, completing a particular task well, enjoying a walk at lunchtime, seeing a friend or enjoying some music.
This article was originally posted on the The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs