Kripalu Clutter
It seems harmless enough—that mail piled up on your desk, scraps of paper with scribbled notes scattered here and there, magazines gathering dust in the corner of your work space, gum wrappers and crumpled tissues tossed into the mix … Could any of this possibly affect your ability to write an e-mail, fill out a spreadsheet, or read that article your boss just sent?

Yes, it could. Research shows that a cluttered environment inhibits our ability to focus and process information. Apparently, our visual field becomes distracted when too many stimuli are competing for our attention. In an uncluttered, serene environment, we’re more productive and better able to understand and synthesize information.

But clutter is more than old newspapers strewn around your office. “Clutter is anything physical, mental, emotional, relational, or spiritual that has become ‘piled up’ and in its stuck condition no longer serves to move us towards greater health, well-being, or happiness,” Maria Sirois, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.

Given that definition, repetitive self-defeating thoughts, too many time commitments, and unhealthy relationships also qualify as clutter. “Clutter takes up room in our homes, our heads, and our hearts day after day,” explains Izzy Ienihan, a life, career, and wellness coach at Kripalu. “It feels heavy, like a weight on your shoulders or in your belly or mind.”

We might know that toxic relationships or closets stuffed to the gills are draining us, but that doesn’t mean clearing them out is a snap. “Resistance to change is a huge factor,” says Maria. “We don’t know who we will be if we let go of who we have been. If we actually clear up some of the clutter, we might have to face the inner concerns that caused the clutter in the first place. If we’re not wasting time cluttering our homes with piles of clothes, then we have time to feel our feelings, and that can be terrifying.”

But clearing out what’s draining us is worth the effort, as holding onto clutter can lead to a range of negative consequences—from increased anxiety, inner unrest, and low self-esteem to mental distress and even illness.

The principles of Positive Psychology can offer a pathway for clearing any type of clutter, Maria says. “Positive Psychology can enable people to identify what’s holding them back, and provide them with the optimism to begin making change, the positive self-regard to believe in themselves and a better future, and a sense of appreciation for the bravery that’s required.”

To identify what’s cluttering your life, Izzy suggests making a list of what’s draining you. “What’s cluttering your life is likely what’s draining your energy,” she says, “and what’s draining your energy is likely what’s cluttering your life. If you can make room in your environment, head, and heart, you can consciously make choices to invite new and amazing possibilities into your life.”

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