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Taking Out the Mental Trash

Updated: Jan 11

My 12 year old son's daily chore is taking out the garbage. We have 6 small waste bins around the house. He empties them all and puts the contents into a large trashcan that we keep outside. Every Wednesday a company comes and hauls our family garbage to the dump for us. You probably have a similar routine at your house too. If we don't stay extremely consistent with this program the trash will pile up ridiculously fast. Sometimes I am amazed at how much we are able to generate and how quickly actually, because I don't consider us particularly wasteful or excessive people. But somehow the garbage cycle keeps on week after week. What goes into the can? All kinds of things. Food scraps and empty cartons, old school papers, various stinky smelly things, broken items, random things I can't even identify...basically anything we don't want anymore. We recycle what we can and take loads to goodwill too, but I am adamant about sending as much junk OUT of the house as possible weekly. Why? Our health and safety depends on getting old decaying items out and keeping our home free of piles of "stuff" that would collect dust and insects. Plus clutter stresses me out. Have you ever seen those hoarder shows on TV and what happens when people don't take the trash out? No  thank you.

I'm also pretty good at keeping my electronic devices clear of unnecessary garbage. I use the little trash bin icon liberally and daily purge my email box and history. Drag, swipe, GONE. When I get behind on this my programs all run slow and are more prone to crashing. Everything just functions better when I keep only the necessary items and dump the rest.

For most of us dealing with our physical and virtual trash is obvious. We understand the benefits clearly, and if we forget we are rudely reminded by an unpleasant odor or a computer that won't load, so we deal with it then. But what about the garbage we all carry around in our heads? It isn't always as easy to recognize, but the consequences of letting it accumulate can be just as messy and unpleasant. Different studies I have read suggest that up to 40% of the US population suffers from some level of depression or anxiety disorder. The statistics vary from site to site, but they all agree that the numbers are huge. Insomnia, stress, addiction, relationship struggles...all evidences of mental garbage run amuck. I'm beginning to realize that I need to take this more seriously. I would never go wade through a landfill, because I would fear getting sick. Plus it just would be gross. The mental and physical health risks of mind trash are just as real though.

What constitutes mental garbage? All of the annoying and damaging thought processes that are no longer (or never have been) serving us well. Sometimes professional help and even medication is needed to sort through it all and find resolutions. In most cases though at least some benefit can be found by taking out the mental trash on a regular basis. Ideas like:

I can't.

I'm not _____ enough. (fill in: good, smart, pretty, wealthy, young etc)

My past has made me this way so I can't change.

It's somebody else's fault that I feel/act this way.

I have no willpower so I may as well give up now.

I'm too afraid to fail, so I shouldn't try.

I need to conform and be like _____. (parents, peers, church groups, celebrities, etc)

And so on.

We have many limiting beliefs that are holding us back from peace and progress. They can make us feel inferior, afraid and simply stuck. What if you could wake up in the morning free of these distractions and live your life with joy? Believing in infinite possibilities? Guess what? You can!!

Imagine from now on that you have a little garbage bin icon in your mind. When negative thoughts crop up simply mentally drag them over there and delete them. Poof!! Gone!! Just like that. It may sound like a silly exercise, but it's surprisingly effective. You can do this as you go along throughout the day to reset your thinking, but also it can be done on a daily or weekly basis. Review what thoughts you've had throughout that day or week and examine whether they were helpful or harmful. Drop the harmful ones in the bin. The more you do this, the more in charge of your thoughts you will feel, and therefore the more in charge of your future you will be. It's a habit that gets easier over time, so start today!!

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