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Listen to the quiet (part 2): On reducing mental noise

Yesterday we covered the concept of using boundaries to remove ourselves from the physical noises of our hopes of focusing better. Today...let's talk about mental noise.

According to the super cool and fascinating Visual Thesaurus, other words for noise include interference, disturbance, dissonance, racket, haphazardness, randomness.  These words often describe my mental state (!), which happens for various reasons, such as when I've... a) taken in too much new information, b) haven't had any time to myself for processing or writing, c) have had very little downtime with too many commitments, and sometimes d) when I'm tired/a little foggy and really just need a very strong cup of coffee.

Sometimes, too much mental noise = total overwhelm.

This topic is quite timely for me this week.  We are in full fall mode down here with Sweet Boy's birthday last week, our elementary school's annual fall festival today, continuing to post each day during this month, volunteering for this past week and the coming weeks, thinking ahead to November and the holidays.  I have been in survival mode a bit this week - I can always tell this because of the stacks of papers and books that accumulate.  And - much of my to-do list comes at me here and there - and sometimes I write it down, while other times I don't because I think I'll remember (which I don't recommend).

Sitting down for a brain dump on paper helps.  Cleaning up paper clutter and giving the old desk a good scrubbing definitely helps!  So, if you need help reducing your mental noise, start with restoring order somewhere in your life.

You know what else helps?  Not taking in so much random information.  I have several friends who (lovingly) tease me about not "being on Facebook."  (For the record, I'm on Facebook, but I'm just not active.)  Every now and then I use it for getting some information - but it's not my favorite.

Let me repeat that, because it feels good to say it aloud:

Facebook is not my favorite.

(Facebook = total overwhelm.) 

I think much of my discomfort with Facebook has to do with my INFJ-ness.  (Not that all INFJ's dislike Facebook.  But, many of my personality traits conflict with the social nature of Facebook.)  Once I read a handful of status updates,quite a bit of mental space gets occupied.  At that point, I have so much mental noise in my head, where I'm thinking and re-thinking about what people are doing, how they are doing, what I'm not doing enough of, guilt for not posting more photos of my children (which I don't do because I'm super private), who I'm not keeping up with regularly, who I should be messaging more, how I can't believe that person is traveling there...the list goes on and on.  The rabbit trails continue on the screen, and then later, in my head.

Also, if I'm consuming too much digital information, I sometimes forget what my own thoughts are.  Sometimes I can't remember which thoughts are mine - and which ones came from someone else.  (Did I have that idea about nutrition?  Or did someone else tweet that earlier this week?)  We have to be in touch with our own thoughts - which inevitably means unplugging from everyone else's.  (And by the way, if you have an amazing thought, write it down! But just because you have an amazing thought, don't feel pressured to share it on Facebook.)
This summer, when I took a break from being online all the time, I was reminded to look within.  To find my own thoughts and experiences.  And to let these guide me more than others' words.  And that was uncomfortable in the beginning, but now it's normal.

If we maintain a connection with ourselves, despite the very social and information-laden world we live in, we can maintain some boundaries for our minds.  And it should result in a more peaceful, productive, more relaxed and happier version of ourselves.

How do you reduce your mental noise?

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