5 Ways To Detox Your Frazzled Mind & Feel Totally Refreshed
Ellie Cobb, Ph.D., is a Holistic Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University, a B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University, and certifications in mind-body approaches.
We always hear messages about the importance of periodically detoxing our bodies, but when was the last time someone urged you to detox your thoughts and mind? Probably never. It's my goal to change that. As a holistic psychologist, I've seen how our mental well-being is completely connected to our physical well-being, and how mentally cleaning house can be incredibly rejuvenating and beneficial for overall health.
After periods of stress, grief, self-doubt, or just getting lost in the grind of daily life, our minds will often benefit from a "detox" of sorts to create a mindset shift, clear space, and help us feel reinvigorated to take on life. Fortunately, we actually have tremendous power over our own mind, provided we attend to it with care and intention.
Here are five simple steps to do your own "mental detox," which I've found to be effective for both myself and my patients:
1. Pause and practice awareness.
We are often too preoccupied to even notice that we are in need of an emotional or mental shift—so bringing awareness to this need is key. And you can often figure out what your mind needs by listening to your body.
Your body is giving you direct information on your mental state all the time. So when you pause and bring awareness to how the body feels, you learn what your mind needs. Take a moment to pause and notice tension in the shoulders, tightness in face, a racing heartbeat, a queasy stomach, or any other bodily sensation. These can empower you with the awareness of your emotional and mental need to calm, ground, refresh, and lighten.
Try this with a full-body scan: Sit in a chair with your palms resting on your lap and your eyes closed. Then "scan" your body with your attention, stopping for a few breaths on each part and notice how it feels.
2. Cultivate acceptance and compassion.
It's normal to have feelings, even difficult feelings. Part of the brain's natural human response is to get anxious and stressed. This is your brain's adaptive way of telling you there is something you need to pay attention to. When you accept that your feelings are simply part of the human experience, you create more space with which you can deal with them (instead of stifling them, inevitably causing them to pop up later in a more intense way).
One of the most effective ways to create some compassion for yourself is to treat your own feelings like you'd treat a friend's feelings, which is usually with support, understanding, and love. We all have a range of emotions and mental states, and you can free yourself of the extra burden of guilt or shame when you meet them with acceptance and compassion.
3. Create real emotional connections.
Connecting with others cultivates acceptance and compassion for your own feelings. Saying feelings out loud helps the brain process them in a new way. When you open up honestly to others about your feelings, you are vulnerable. While vulnerability may be uncomfortable, it actually connects us—and feeling connected amplifies your mental well-being. So consider this doctor's orders to schedule a hike, coffee, or yoga and brunch date with a friend, or any activity where you have time to really tune in to each other and yourself.
4. Clear the physical space.
Clearing your mind doesn't always have to be an inside job. You can clear your mind by changing your environment. Clear space by simply keeping the phone on silent for a few hours or organizing your desk—or, on a larger scale, by trading in city living for a weekend to spend some time in nature. Actual physical and external changes have an impact on your internal state of being, so be mindful of who and what surrounds you.
5. Move and groove.
Your body holds and knows your emotional difficulties and tension. Sure, you were probably taught that mental shifts happen, well, through the mind. But given the inherent interconnectedness of the mind and body, the body can be just as effective an access point for creating a balanced, refreshed state.
When you stretch before a meeting, you will have a more relaxed and open mindset. When you dance, your brain sends you messages of joy and safety. When you sip water consistently throughout the day, the body and the brain function better together and respectively, allowing an increased sense of calm and health. You can access your mental wellness through your physical wellness, so consider caring for the body as a way to care for the mind.
Detoxing the mind is a full-body affair.
Bottom line: Building awareness and acceptance, cultivating compassion and connection, considering external changes, and attending to the body are all key to cleansing and caring for your mind. Each of these strategies is rooted in science and can be used alone or in sequence. The key is that, just as detoxing one's diet takes intention and effort, so does detoxing one's mind. It also takes kindness. So be intentional about your mental detox, and be kind to yourself as you embark on this shift.
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