Researchers estimate you have about 60,000 thoughts each day. And many of those thoughts involve thinking the same things over and over again.
I never have enough time. I have nothing to wear. I look stupid. My house isn’t clean enough. My life would be better if I had more money.
Rehashing the same things, focusing on the negative, and worrying about things you can’t control wastes your time and your mental energy. The key to building more mental muscle involves decluttering your mind of those mental habits that are keeping you stuck.
Here are three tips that will help you spring clean your brain and rid yourself of the thinking patterns that keep you from reaching your greatest potential.
1. Get rid of the pity parties.
Feeling sad or disappointed is healthy. But self-pity is different. It involves magnifying your misfortune and convincing yourself that your problems are worse than anyone else’s. And if you’re not careful, it will keep you stuck.
When you find yourself hosting a pity party, commit to taking some type of positive action. Even if you can’t solve the problem–like you can’t fix a loved one’s health issue–you can choose to do something to make your life or someone else’s life a little bit better.
Decluttering tip: Be on the lookout for language that implies you are a victim. Saying “No one understands,” or “Bad things always happen to me,” are red flags you’re filling your head with garbage. When you catch yourself thinking that way, take a deep breath and identify one action step you’re going to take right away to improve your life.
2. Challenge your self-doubt.
Self-doubt tends to be too deep-rooted to respond to superficial platitudes that you don’t actually believe. Repeatedly telling yourself that you’re awesome may not drown out the negativity.
The best way to deal with self-doubt is to challenge your negative thinking head-on. Each time you prove to your brain that you’re more capable and competent than you think, your brain will start to view you in a slightly different light. Consistently challenging your self-doubt will change the way you think.
Decluttering tip: You need courage, not confidence, to take action. So the next time your brain questions your ability to succeed, simply say, “Challenge accepted.” Be willing to prove yourself wrong and acknowledge that your brain isn’t always right.
3. Distinguish worrying and ruminating from problem-solving.
Whether you’re struggling to pay your bills or you’re having a hard time dealing with a co-worker, active problem-solving is helpful. Rehashing the same things over and over, imagining catastrophic outcomes, and second-guessing your decisions won’t get you anywhere.
If it’s a problem that can be solved, work on changing the environment. If there’s nothing you can do to fix the problem, work on changing your mindset.
Decluttering tip: Schedule 15 minutes every day to worry and ruminate. When you catch yourself thinking about something outside those 15 minutes, remind yourself it’s not time to worry yet. Then, when you reach the scheduled worry time, sit down and worry. Then, you’ll confine your worries to one small chunk of time rather than allowing them to take over your entire day.
Build Your Mental Muscle
As the author of books about what mentally strong people don’t do(link is external), I’m a big fan of getting rid of the things that weigh us down and hold us back. Your good habits become much more effective when you stop engaging in the habits that counteract your hard work.
When you declutter your mind, you’ll have more time and energy to devote to positive and productive things. That will help you build the mental strength you need to become the best version of yourself.