Today I’m going to share a simple exercise that I use to achieve mental clarity quickly. This is a great way to
- Clear your head (especially if you are feeling cluttered)
- Calm yourself down (if you are feeling restless, troubled, or stressed up)
- Free up mental energy (if you are feeling tired)
I often recommend this exercise to my clients to clear mental blocks too.
How It Works – By Increasing Mental RAM
Now, I assume all of us reading this have a computer (or at the very least, has access to one).
Every computer has RAM — random-access memory, a form of data storage — which determines its processing capacity. The more applications you run, the more RAM it uses, the slower your computer gets. If you have used resource-intensive programs or played games like Halo or Diablo below, you have probably closed unwanted applications to free up some RAM.
Like the computer, our brain has its RAM too. Our RAM is used for all kinds of brain work, from thinking to recalling past events to analyzing data. The more free RAM you have, the more RAM you can use for your tasks at hand.
However, not all our RAM is available for use all the time. Half of it is usually occupied with mental clutter — thoughts running in the background.
What are these thoughts about? Anything really, like a task we need to do next, a problem we are currently facing, or some music we just heard in the mall.
It’s never obvious what’s going on in our head until we stop to observe our mental activity, say through introspection or meditation. Think of this clutter as the unimportant programs running on your computer. You don’t need them for your computer to function. When you let them run in the background, they use up precious resources.
Likewise, when you don’t process your mental clutter, you’ll have less RAM for active use. The more your mental clutter, the lower your mental clarity. Eventually, your mind becomes so full of clutter that you have no more mental RAM left. This is when you get very irritable and you find it hard to focus.
Luckily, we have a natural process to clear our mental clutter — REM sleep. However, this is not an effective process as we only undergo REM during 25% of our sleep time. Meditation helps us clear our mental clutter too. Many people feel calmer and experience greater clarity after meditating because of this reason. However, you may not be able to meditate whenever you want — say when you are at work, when you feel too restless, or when you’re sleepy and may fall asleep during meditation.
That’s where today’s exercise comes in. :)
Increase Mental Clarity via Brain Dumping
This exercise is called brain dumping since you dump out the contents of your mind through writing. Here’s what to do:
- Pick a medium. You can use the pen/paper or word processor. I prefer the word processor as I type faster than I write. Plus you save paper too!
- Type whatever comes to mind. When I say whatever, I mean whatever! For example, if you are looking at the paper and thinking, Wow, this looks so white, then write that. If you don’t know what to write, then just write, “I don’t know what to write.” Basically, dump out whatever is on your mind. There’s no need to overthink this. It’s about pouring out what’s in your head.
- Just keep doing this for the next 15 minutes, or however long it takes for your thoughts to clear up. 10 minutes is usually enough for me. I can take an hour when I feel really weighed down.
With brain dumping, your writing speed determines how fast your mind gets cleared. If you type fast, you can process lots of clutter really quickly.
I use this exercise when I feel bogged down, when I need to achieve 100% focus, or when I feel stressed up. In just 15 minutes, I can clear a lot of clutter. If I was sleepy before, the exercise makes me more awake. I can concentrate more easily. :)
It’s interesting to review what you write after the exercise. Usually, you will notice your thoughts jumping all over the place. One moment you may be thinking about your breakfast; the next you may be thinking about your work meeting; and the next you may be thinking about your next vacation. As weird and random as they may be, these thoughts have always been on your mind. The exercise merely brought them out. The longer you brain dump, the more clutter you can clear, the higher your mental clarity.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that you stop thinking about X after you clear a thought on it. Maybe you have 50 thoughts about X and the exercise only removed two of these thoughts. Maybe you come across X later or see something that reminds you of X, thus creating new thoughts about it.
Since you will always be exposed to external stimuli, you need to brain dump regularly to maintain a high level of mental clarity. Just like showering, eating, and sleeping, you should brain dump frequently as part of personal cleansing. Do this often and you will feel a greater calmness in your life.
You can also take this exercise to the next level — beyond just dumping out what’s on your mind, dig into the root causes of those thoughts. Why am I thinking this? What’s making me feel this way? Keep asking why and dig into the interesting thoughts. You may arrive at some deep realizations in the process.
- Create Real Change In Life: Address Root Cause vs. Effects
- Be a Better Me in 30 Days, my 30-day character transformation program which includes many brain dumping exercises to dig into the root causes of our emotions and issues
Once you are done, you can delete the answers. There’s no need to keep them unless you want to do so for reference.
Have fun doing the exercise! It works very well for me and I’m sure it will be useful for you too. :)