Consistency and Change

changeDo you feel that a change is as good as a rest, or are you a creature of habit?

Many of us feel both, in confusingly equal measures. But then humans are wonderfully complicated creatures!

Autumn is the time of year when we can typically start to feel one extreme or the other. We are either in ‘harvest mode’, resting after a busy, successful summer, and feeling good about the festivities ahead. Or, we can feel bad about the shorter days, the colder weather, and the lack of daylight.

This year we are having a funny autumn too. We’ve just had a little weekend heatwave, and of course the fall out from recent hurricanes and storms have been disrupting lives all over the world.

So where are you right now? Is it harvest mode for you, or has this autumn felt more like a long, premature Halloween? And I mean in a ghoulish way – not in a free sweets and funny costumes kind of way…

If things are a bit dark and desolate for you, then let’s talk about finding your harvest. And I promise you, there is always something to harvest, or in other words, something to be grateful for. It’s often just a case of switching your focus.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that shifting your focus will solve all of your problems. But what it will do is improve your mental state. When your mental state gets a lift, this has a way of reflecting in the material world too. In other words, when you start seeing the good, you start creating more opportunity.

It can even feel a little bit magical, like your luck has changed. But honestly, it’s nothing of the sort. This is a simple little scientific fact. Neuroscientists call it ‘reticular activation’.

Basically, when you expect to see something, you will see more of it. Not because more of it is there. It’s just that your brain is primed to notice that thing you are thinking about over the hundreds of other things vying for your attention at any one time.

But we can absolutely use this to our advantage – so let’s do so right now…

Grab a notepad and write down a few things that you are really grateful for; things that make you happy and satisfied with life.

Important note – These should not be things that you think you ‘should’ be grateful for. An example that comes to mind is when you were a child and your mother told you to eat your greens because there were starving kids in the world, and you should be grateful etc…

This has to really resonate deeply with you. So think again; what do you have in your world that really makes your heart sing?

That, right there, is what you need to focus on! Think about these things every day. Write them in a journal, set a reminder on your phone – do whatever you need to get it done.

This will grow that feeling of ‘harvest mode’ and shift your attention from negative to positive. I know, it sounds so simplistic, but the best plans usually are. So give it a really good go for a few weeks – this is your homework!

When we are having a hard time, we can be so focused on a change as our solution. Sometimes we forget about the consistent things in our lives. Really, we need a bit of both. The surprising thing is, that when we shift our attention to the consistently good things that we are happy about, the changes start to emerge for us in a natural way. And the ones that we don’t try to force are usually the best ones.

So try it, see for yourself, and then come back and leave me a comment. I’d love to know how you get on!


P.S. Would you like to do some deeper work on your mindset? I’m running a competition (entries open until 31st Dec) to win 6 free coaching sessions with me.

Does that sound like something that would help you? If so, click here to see my competition post and to enter.

Does Physical Clutter Affect Your State of Mind?

declutterSo here’s an idea to ponder. Do you believe that there is a direct link between physical clutter at home (or your desk at work) and your mental state?

A lot of people do ascribe to this theory, and I can see why.

Of course there are the extreme cases of hoarding that are hard to deny. But how about that little, seemingly harmless, residual layer of mess that so many of us live with.

Could it actually be affecting us negatively?

Why we have clutter

Psychology Today shared some telling research from Yale School of Medicine. Their brain imaging study showed that we genuinely do experience pain when we declutter. The theory is that letting go of stuff we don’t need requires us to, on some level, admit that we didn’t need that stuff in the first place.

Essentially, we are required to admit that we made a bad decision in purchasing that item. And on some level, that brings us a little pain.

When we hang on to stuff we are hanging onto our affirmations that ‘we will use it’ and it ‘wasn’t a bad purchase’. And then of course there is sentimental attachment too. It’s easy to see why it’s so hard to get started on decluttering.

It’s about our focus

So understanding how it happens, let’s move on to how it affects us. This seems to be mainly about our focus – something that we all struggle with from time to time.

With so much vying for our attention; kids, work, notifications on our devices – we don’t need anything else competing for a piece of the action!

Your work desk is a classic example. Sticky notes, your mobile phone, and whatever else you have on there can distract you consciously. But there is also an unconscious effect – more of a feeling.

Being sat in a mess can be a negative sensory experience. The feeling of sticky notes on your otherwise smooth desk surface. The noise of text message notifications interrupting your thoughts.

And let’s not forget the feelings of annoyance and resentment that comes from living in somebody else’s clutter. When the mess that is distracting you is not yours, but is left by your kids, partner or housemates… it just really doesn’t feel good to be in!

Set some clutter boundaries

So what can you do to overcome this?

Let me start by saying that decluttering doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing, hell-for-leather experience. If the thought of tackling all the distractions in your home is far too much, then don’t take that route!

Try setting some small boundaries at first. Perhaps set a cap on how many new books you are going to buy, when you already have piles that need to be read, packed away, or donated first.

If your worst distractions are the ‘virtual clutter’ of social media notifications, then how about a little digital detox? I know that some clients of mine have previously enjoyed going ‘off line’ for a holiday, and then upon returning to normal life they decide to minimise their social media time, or turn their notifications off for a while.

Let’s not forget the elephant in any cluttered family room – when the clutter isn’t yours, but belongs to a family member. I’m afraid that avoiding having ‘the talk’ won’t help the situation. My best tip here is this…

When you do broach the subject with them, remember not to accuse or blame. If they feel it is ‘their fault’ they are likely to be defensive. Instead, ask for their help with your decluttering project, and remember to compromise.

Do keep in mind the emotional pain of decluttering I mentioned at the beginning of this post – just be sensitive to their side of things and you can’t go too far wrong.

Have you ever decluttered physically and felt the difference mentally? I’d love to hear your experience of this, so please do leave me a comment.