Mental Hygiene: Declutter Your Mind For A Happier Life

When I was younger (especially during college), journaling was something that I instinctively did during stressful situations. I would grab my notebook, write until I couldn’t write anymore, and put it away. Journaling was always apart of my life, and even when I stopped doing it for some time, I eventually picked it back up again.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to become more intentional in the way I live my life and in doing so, I came across various morning routines– one of which I discovered in Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning. While reading this book, I learned that journaling is a common practice by high-level performers and achievers. I also watched Tim Ferris’ YouTube video on how to use the “5-minute journal” that focuses on gratitude, affirmations, and being analytical of your day. This journaling method forces you to evaluate your accomplishments of the day, as well as identify ways you could have improved your day. Along with this, you are given inspirational quotes to uplift you on a daily basis. For a year, I kept up with “gratitude journaling” and I can truly say that it was amazingly worth-while. As the saying goes, “you get more of what you focus on” in life. Gratitude journaling helped me to focus on positivity, which moved me closer to living the life that I desire.

Along the way I decided to become a coach so I enrolled in coaching school and joined a self-coaching scholars program with Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School. Through this program, I learned a whole new level of journaling which I continue to practice till this day. Brooke Castillo teaches an effective self coaching model that I have found to be fantastic (and you can read more about this model in my blog post titled “How to Coach Yourself Through Any Circumstance”). I’ll share a quick review of this model below.

The coaching model uses the acronym “CTFAR”:

Circumstances [are neutral] Thoughts [about circumstance create our feelings] Feelings [lead to action] Action [leads to a certain result] Result

Everything begins with a circumstance. However it is the thoughts you have about that circumstance that eventually leads to certain results in your life. If your thoughts are not yielding desired results, you can replace them with thoughts that will help move you forward. Brooke teaches how to apply this CTFAR model in everyday journaling, along with “thought downloads.” The act of thought downloading is journaling anything that comes to mind and freely releasing your thoughts without judgement or guilt. I do a thought download every night, but you can do so any time of the day that works best for you. I simply unload the thoughts that are on my brain and honestly they don’t even have to make sense. What matters is that they are released from my brain and downloaded on paper.

Before applying the CTFAR model and thought downloading, I take note of the issues in my life that I want to work on for the day, whether it concerns an area that can be improved or a problem I want to solve. I use the CTFAR model to look at the situation using the default thought that pops into my head, and then I do another model coming up with an alternative thought that can help me get the results that I want. When the day is over, I release all my thoughts onto paper. I do this everyday and the outcome has been mind-blowing. It has decluttered my mind and helped me move forward in achieving the results I want in my life. Just like our physical environment needs to be decluttered when it is cluttered, the brain also needs that release and reorganization in order to make room for new thoughts. If you have been overwhelmed, frustrated, and feel like you need to take your life to the next level, thought downloading is a great way to declutter your mind on a daily basis so that you can focus on the things you want. Like I always say, self-experimentation is the key to the new life that you want so try it out for yourself!

CTFAR model case study:

An unintentional thought might be: “as a busy physician mom, I will never have time for my kids.” This thought then causes you to feel mommy guilt, which also gives way to the feeling of frustration, and results in you not being fully present and being emotionally unavailable to have quality time with your kids. Now let’s change the direction of this circumstance: choose a different yet intentional thought that will help move you forward such as “I got my kids back and I will support them no matter what.” How will that make you feel? It will make you feel like a great, supportive parent. That will cause you to seek creative ways to be present for your kids and spend time with them, which will result in spending quality time with your kids. As you can see, the thoughts that fill your mind determine the results you receive in life; so as they say, “think happy thoughts!”

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