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Unclutter Your Life

Canyon Ranch topic March 21st 2022

"Where there is love there is life." –Mahatma Gandhi

This comes from a fantastic article from the New York Times by Christina Caron

Five ways to soothe a mind overstimulated by anxiety, stress and streams of information.

Coronavirus cases are receding across the United States, and face masks are coming off. Little green shoots are finally poking through the earth, signaling the arrival of warmer weather. The pandemic has not been declared over, but after living in survival mode for the last two years, some would say we are emerging into a “new normal.” Though that doesn’t mean our minds are at ease. Many have endured illness, economic upheaval, the climate crisis, grief and racial inequities. Add to that inflation, supply chain issues and the ripple effects of Russia’s war with Ukraine — Perhaps, experts say, the arrival of spring can serve as a natural point to take stock of our mental well-being And reconnect with the things that bring us purpose and joy, offering our brains a respite when possible.

“It really is — for a number of reasons — a perfect time for folks to turn their attention to taking an inventory. Where do I find myself? What have I been through?”

Creating a clear, more focused mind starts by making decisions about how we spend our time every day. When those choices are in line with our values, interests and passions, this is referred to as personal agency.

“You do always have a choice,” Dr. Napper said.

“It may not be a great choice,” he added, but examining your options helps you to adapt to your circumstances. Here are five ways to declutter your mind as we enter a new season. Practice mindfulness

“Being a human, particularly right now, is stressful,”

-said Nkechi Njaka, a meditation guide in San Francisco with a background in neuroscience.

“And when we think of how degenerative stress is, and how harmful to the body, we need something that can help mitigate it.”

Mindfulness meditation, a practice that helps you remember to return to the present when you become distracted, has shown to reduce the stress of daily life. When people notice that their mind is racing or they start to become anxious, they are typically thinking about something in the past or in the future. To refocus on the here and now, you can start by noticing the sensations in the body, Ms. Njaka said.

“Can we feel the ground below us? The heat of the sun?”

It is normal for the mind to wander. If this happens, gently return your awareness to your breathing and come back to the present. If you are compassionate with yourself and approach the practice with curiosity, openness and forgiveness, you will be more likely to try it again, she added. Take advantage of the transitional moments of the day to practice mindfulness —when you wake up, right before or after a meal or when you change your physical location, for example — so that you can start to form a routine.


Try the Bullet Journal method

Studies have found that jotting down thoughts in a journal can improve well-being. One method that has gained popularity in recent years is a practice created by the digital designer Ryder Carroll and outlined in his best-selling book,

“The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future.”

The Bullet Journal is an organizational system but also an exercise in mindfulness — one that requires you to continually re-evaluate how you are investing your time and energy and then decide whether those things are worth it.

Otherwise, Mr. Carroll said,

“you can be very productive working on the wrong things.”

Mr. Carroll, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, initially started journaling to help him stay focused and succeed in his career, but then he began exploring how he felt about the tasks he was accomplishing.

“Did it give me energy? Did it take it away?” he asked himself.

Through journaling, he discovered a pattern: The experiences that gave him a sense of purpose or pride all involved helping others and performing acts of service.

“If you don’t know what you want, you will never be satisfied with anything you have,” he added.


Reduce information overload

We have all been inundated by a relentless news cycle, a fire hose of information coming at us in the form of breaking news notifications, social media posts and email newsletters that can leave us feeling anxious, angry or even helpless.

“Now is the time to completely overhaul your news consumption,”

-Said Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University

Choose just one or two reliable sources and read them at a specific time each day, he advised. For example, you can listen to a news roundup podcast while commuting to work or read a newspaper at breakfast, Dr. Newport said. Dr. Newport, who is 39 and has managed to avoid social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for his entire adult life, also recommends taking a 30-day break from the technologies in your life that are optional. In his book, he described what happened when 1,600 people gave it a try. Those who lasted the full 30 days were “cheerily gung-ho and positively aggressive about trying to fill in the time,” he said. So instead of reflexively watching TikTok or scrolling through Instagram during your free time, think about what you would be doing if you weren’t on either of those platforms:

Reading a novel?

Taking a restorative walk in nature?

Relaxing and listening to music?

...Set aside time for those activities.


Declutter your physical space

During the pandemic, and especially during lockdown, many people finally began to clear the junk out of their homes, a phenomenon The Washington Post referred to as the “great decluttering.” If you haven’t tackled your pile of clutter, now might be a good time to do it.

“Messy spaces tend to prevent clear cognitive thinking,”

-Said Catherine Roster, a professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico who has researched how cluttered homes affect people.

“It has a distorting effect that can bleed into other aspects of a person’s life — not only their emotions but their productivity.”

Hiring a professional organizer to help sort through the mess is not within everyone’s budget, so Dr. Roster suggested relying on a buddy — ideally someone who is also decluttering their home. Together the two of you can serve as a sounding board for each other to make decisions about what to keep and stay on schedule. Listening to music while you sort and organize can also help motivate you, she added.


Reconnect with the people you love

“What I’m seeing with my patients is that many seem to be emotionally cluttered,”

-Said Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in Fairfield County, Conn. Information overload coupled with either social isolation or not getting your needs met socially or emotionally

“is a really bad brew,”

she added.

If there are people you care about whom you have lost touch with during the pandemic, don’t be shy about getting back in touch, she urged.

“We need the support and levity of people who make us feel good,” Dr. Greenberg said.

If it has been a while, it might feel awkward at first to re-establish contact. But just be honest, Dr. Greenberg advised. For example, you might say:

“We lost touch during the pandemic, but now things are calming down and I would really love to see you. Not seeing you has been one of the things I’ve missed.”

It might even inspire a “chain of positivity” where the person you contacted feels inspired to do the same with others.

“Truly, everybody wants to get that call,”

she said.


Now with that, let's shift our thoughts from declutter to now briefly chat about brain power to help fuel us when we are going through our spring cleaning in our lives.

-From Canyon Ranch

11 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

Like other parts of the body that show signs of aging—a softer midsection, weaker muscles—your brain also declines as you get older. And while you can’t put your brain on a treadmill or give it a set of dumbbells to lift, there are some proven techniques that can help keep your brain fit. Even if you feel sharp and clear-headed, these tips can help you strengthen your mental acuity:

Move more.

Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, and the more blood flow and oxygen your brain gets, the more cells it can form and the more nourishment it can supply those cells. Studies show those who exercise regularly are more likely to have better cognitive skills and memory. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity every day, whether it’s a gentle yoga class, a hike, or a walk in your neighborhood.

Get good rest.

Quantity and quality of sleep are keys for better brain health. Sleep helps consolidate memories, improves attention, and soothes negative emotions.

Discover a new hobby.

By learning how to do something new, whether that’s a word puzzle, playing the piano, dancing, or photo editing, your brain generates new neurons and synapses.

One study found that learning a second language may increase the density of gray matter in the areas of your brain responsible for attention and memory.

Find your zen place.

Chronic stress can increase levels of the hormone cortisol in your brain, which can disrupt the activity of neurotransmitters, making it harder for you to access memories you already have or to make new memories. Mindful meditation, massage, and yoga are a few ways to reduce cortisol levels, which may improve your capacity to pay attention and boost your memory.

Keep a food journal.

Some people may experience “brain fog” after eating starchy or sugary foods because those foods can cause swings in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is too low, the brain doesn’t get enough energy and it’s harder to focus. By paying attention to how you feel one to three hours after you eat, you can identify any foods that may interfere with your brain function.

Stock up on brain foods.

Herbs, spices, and green tea contain potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may protect brain cells from the damage that can be caused by degenerative diseases like dementia. Turmeric, for example, contains a compound called curcumin, which has been linked to a lower Alzheimer’s risk. In addition, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines) and flaxseed, reduce inflammation and are important for cognitive skills.

Live with purpose.

Having goals and feeling a sense of purpose in life seems to help people stay mentally fit. One study showed that people who lived life with goals were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Be a social butterfly.

People with strong networks of friends and families have a lower risk of developing dementia. Just having a conversation with someone can help, so pick up the phone and call your cousin or make plans to meet a friend for lunch once per week.

Watch your weight.

Obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are all linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Care for chronic conditions. Stay on top of any health conditions you have, and review your medications regularly with your doctor.

Focus on vitamins.

All vitamins and minerals are important for brain health, but research has shown that vitamin B12 is especially beneficial in boosting thinking, reasoning, and memory skills.

With that, Hope you found some new knowledge and insight on decluttering your life and becoming brain strong to take it on. As always, we wish you a happy fulfilled week and...

Be Kind, Do Fearless

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