coping skill for mental health

Spring cleaning for the mind: How to declutter negative thoughts with Leah Santa Cruz

As the weather changes and we swap our sweaters and coats for spring clothes, a familiar urge arises—it's time for a clean-up. 

An instinct to purge the old and make way for the new. 

This urge extends to our internal world, too. Just like our surroundings, our mind-body system can become cluttered and chaotic, making us feel unwell, depressed, anxious, or even numb. While many focus on detoxifying their bodies for physical health, the detox of the mind is often overlooked, yet it's so crucial. That’s because the greatest battles we face are typically in our minds, and without addressing the negativity that resides there, we’ll feel a sense of turmoil even when our outer circumstances are great. 

So, what can you do to begin to declutter your negative thoughts? Here are some coping skills for mental health that can help: 

Understanding your mental clutter

Imagine the mind as having nine different types of thoughts. The vast majority of them are about the past, present, or future. And they can be categorized as either positive, negative, or neutral—depending on the corresponding feeling they trigger. This leaves you with nine broad categories: 

What can you do to reduce your negative thoughts?

One effective coping skill for mental health that I like to do is practice Labeling—a little-known but effective technique to begin identifying and overcoming negative thought patterns. 

Instead of getting completely wrapped up in your thoughts, identifying with them, and giving them full power over you, Labeling helps you gain self-awareness as you acknowledge thoughts as merely passing through the mind, like electrical impulses appearing and then dissolving. In other words, it’s a practice that isn't about fighting your thoughts—rather, recognizing them as perceptions you’re experiencing, not facts or something you have to react to. 

And when you recognize that the thought is not you, and that you’re the observer of the thought, that thought reduces its hold over you. You then have a choice whether to believe it, engage with it, or release it. 

Labeling creates a chance for you to question the validity of a thought—especially if it’s a future projection or a judgment about yourself or others. Over time, you’ll begin to identify patterns in your thoughts, which help to stop the cycle in its tracks. 

A key coping skill for mental health: mental decluttering

A simple coping skill for mental health involves labeling your mental activities. As thoughts and emotions arise, gently acknowledge them by noting "thinking" or "feeling." This recognition helps you detach from the thought or emotion, allowing it to dissipate naturally without resistance. Try this during meditation or as you go about your day to maintain a calm and focused mind.

For a deeper practice, you can label the type of thought more specifically. For example: "There goes my mind worrying." If you become frustrated with yourself for having had a negative thought, then label that judging thought. For example: “There goes my mind judging.” This practice not only helps in recognizing recurring patterns but also fosters a shift towards a more curious and compassionate approach toward your thoughts.

Over time, this practice helps you transform your relationship with your thoughts by adopting a stance of curiosity and compassion. Pay attention to how your thoughts show up. Are they an image, a mental movie, or a voice—yours or someone else's? Notice where they arise from and where they dissipate. 

Sometimes, a nagging thought will demand more attention, prompting you to ask yourself: "What do you need?" This question marks a shift toward self-care, allowing you to offer the reassurance or comfort that this part of you, hidden deep within your subconscious, might need. 

And as you bring compassion to yourself and tend to what’s needed, you break the negativity cycle. As the famous Psychologist Dr. Carl Jung stated, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life, and you will call it fate.”

Create a positive mind and learn coping skills for mental health with the Balance app

Just as cleaning out physical clutter makes room for the new, releasing negative thoughts opens you to positivity. With practice, you can catch thoughts as they occur, allowing you to observe and manage your thoughts effectively and fostering a transformation from a critical inner voice to one of confidence, hope, and gratitude.

And you can support yourself through this practice through two of my favorite meditations on the Balance app: Gratitude and Positivity. These tools are extremely helpful for directing your focus toward what you truly desire to feel and experience. 

So, as you embrace spring cleaning this year, try out giving your mind a bit of refreshing, too. By decluttering negative thoughts through Labeling and developing coping skills for mental health by downloading the Balance app, you’re paving the way for the biggest season of growth, happiness, and joy you’ve ever experienced.

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