In my mental clarity experiment, my goal was to reduce my mental and physical habits to increase my mental clarity.
By mental habits, I mean reducing my Internet usage. Letting go of habits such as checking Facebook, Instagram, news, and my MailChimp stats, listening to pop music and podcasts, and participating on Steemit. Reducing the frequency of checking email, Twitter, stock and bitcoin prices, and watching YouTube.
By physical habits, I mean reducing the daily calories and caffeine I consume. I also pay attention to increase the duration and quality of my sleep. All of these adjustments contributed to my mental clarity.
One Step at a Time
When I look back, I haven’t made these changes overnight. I made them over a period of more than a month. The first time I came up with the idea, I more or less knew what I had to let go of. I tried to let go most of it at once. This wasn’t a good idea.
It’s human nature that we want immediate results. Going for immediate results is more likely to result in failure than success. A better idea is to put one step in front of another, trying to make these changes one by one. I have already explained this concept in a previous blog post.
By making 1% improvements every day, we make 3800% improvement in a year. All of those daily 1% improvements compound to 38X yearly improvement. That is not 38%. That is a whopping 38 times improvement. And we all have those 1% improvements in our lives.
You can take that 1% improvement idea and apply it to any area of your life you want to improve. Do you want to improve your self-discipline? Improve it just by doing something that requires 1% more self-discipline every day.
Do you want to improve your courage? Improve it just by getting out of your comfort zone 1% every day. The same is true with mental clarity.
As I put one step in front of the other towards more mental clarity, the next step appears in front of the other. I don’t need to know the whole journey in advance. All I have to know is the final destination and the step in front of me.
As I determine the external factors clouding my mental clarity and let them go, I start to figure out the internal factors that are interfering with my mental clarity. One of those internal factors is habitual thoughts. Those habitual thoughts don’t add any value to my life.
You probably have habitual thoughts too. We humans like to play the same records over and over in our minds, day after day, year after year.
Sometimes, they seem to be harmless, but sometimes, they trigger heavy emotions that interfere with our mental clarity, our wellbeing, and our performance. Even if they are harmless, they just waste our mental bandwidth, which we can use more productively.
We not only need space in time and in using our attention, we also need space in using our mental bandwidth, to use it productively, to come up with good ideas, and to see opportunities in our lives.
The Next Step
Letting go of habitual thoughts is harder than letting go of physical habits or external habits such as checking social media. If you are just starting your mental clarity journey, you might want to start with physical habits, like reducing your caffeine consumption, or other external habits.
Once you reduce your physical and external habits, it becomes easier to take control of your mind. The first step is to determine what your habitual thoughts are.
We all have them. Most of us play the same records over and over in our minds almost every day. Just determine one of those thoughts and commit to letting it go.
Whenever it comes up acknowledge the thought, take a deep breath, and let it go when exhaling. Just don’t pay any more attention to it. Don’t invest any more mental energy in it. You can do this. It requires some willpower at the beginning. But with time, you get used to it.
There is a mindfulness analogy that I’d like to mention here. Think about those thoughts as bubbles rising up and you’re popping those bubbles just by touching them.
The sooner you become aware of those bubbles and pop them, the better. Soon, you’ll pop those bubbles as soon as they form and eventually they’ll stop forming.
The Emotional Charge behind the Thoughts
David Hawkins explains this concept very well in his book Letting Go: the Pathway of Surrender. We are addicted to those thoughts, because they have an emotional charge. We are not addicted to those thoughts, but to the emotions they bring with them.
Our goal is to let go of our addictions to those emotions. The effect of those emotions is similar to the effects of substances that we can consume, such as caffeine. Those emotions aren’t some abstract concepts. They have the same effects as physical objects such as coffee.
David Hawkins suggests letting the thought go and staying with the emotion behind it, without trying to change it or investing more energy in it. That way, the emotion will run its course and subside. As you keep repeating this practice, the frequency and intensity of those thoughts and emotions will diminish.
When you are aiming for mental clarity, don’t try to achieve it overnight by letting go of all of your habits and thoughts. Adopt a 1% improvement approach. Just pick one habit that you want to let go of and focus on that for a week.
As you let go of one habit, the next habit to let go becomes obvious. Then you can let that habit go, the next week.
As you let go of your external habits, you become aware of your thinking habits. It is possible to let them go as well, even though it might be more difficult. The trick in letting go of the thought habits is to let go of the emotions that come with those thoughts.
As we let go of our external habits and habitual thoughts, we free up more and more mental bandwidth that we can use more productively and creatively. That in turn increases our performance, wellbeing, and the quality of our lives.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.