Why To Start Your Year With A Mental Detox — And How To Do It

You detox your body through a cleansing, wholesome diet — so why not give your mind that same gift, too? There’s a lot you deal with on a day-to-day basis. The stress of a job, the negative energy that comes from all those hours spent mindlessly scrolling on your phone, anxiety from keeping up with your overly-packed schedule — you name it. And it’s not too often that you actually give yourself some time to truly unwind. (Nope, watching Netflix doesn’t count.) Well, there’s no better time to finally do it than at the start of a fresh, new year.

“With all the messages and stimulation you take in every day, it can be hard to slow down and create the space to just be,” says psychologist and author of “The Book of Sacred Baths,” Dr. Paulette Sherman. “Taking a break from negative thinking allows you to feel more peaceful and optimistic, as well as enjoy the present moment. A mental detox gives you the opportunity to temporarily stop unhealthy patterns of thought. You’ll begin to notice how you feel when your mind is quiet and allow yourself to accept and appreciate life in the moment.”

According to Dr. Sherman, when you don’t give your mind a chance to detox on the regular, it’s not uncommon to eventually enter a state of stress, putting you in fight-or-flight mode. “This takes up a lot of energy and can negatively impact your immune system and mental health,” she says. “In contrast, being in a relaxed state allows your breathing to deepen and for your body to go into a healing, reparative mode.”

To make sure you take on 2019 as your best, healthiest self, try these simple ways to give yourself a mental detox.

1. Go on a news fast

Checking up on the headlines every day might keep you informed, but it can also seriously affect your mental health. You don’t have to give it up forever, but taking a break will do you more good than you even realize.

“The media is notoriously negative — that’s what draws in the ratings. Because of that, keeping up with the news can put you in a bad mood, leading to negative thinking and worry. It also isn’t a balanced perspective as to what’s really going on in the world, as it’s not usually showing equal amounts of the feel-good events happening every day,” Dr. Sherman says. “This makes it harder to consciously create your thoughts and mood, especially for someone who’s already predisposed to negative thinking. It can be helpful to stop checking up on the headlines for a while to see how it affects your mental wellbeing.”

2. Unplug from all technology

Yep, all of it — that means your computer, TV, and phone. Basically everything that eats up the time you could be spending doing other, more beneficial things.

“Most people spend more time on social media and on their devices daily than they do on self-care,” Dr. Sherman says. “It’s often said how much more productive we could all be if we gave up two to three hours a day of television. That time away from technology gives you time to be creative and to program your own thinking and perspective on the world.”

3. Have a day — or entire weekend — of quietness

It might be hard to imagine going silent for more than even an hour, but the benefits that come from this form of meditation are unbeatable.

“There are vipassanā meditation weekends — or even weeks — where people don’t talk and are quiet with their thoughts,” Dr. Sherman says. “This causes big breakthroughs for some people, as they notice their habitual patterns, triggers, and thoughts, and they learn to accept and be with them.”

Don’t worry about going a full weekend, though — just start with a few hours. If it feels good, then move up to an entire day.

4. Do some daily deep-breathing practices

Even if you don’t want to go silent for extended periods of time, you can still give yourself a mental detox through shorter forms of meditation that focus on your breathing.

“Meditation and deep-breathing quiet the mind and body and create space between thought and response,” Dr. Sherman says. “They allow us to empty from the day and fill up on new guidance, as well as shift into our restorative nervous system and fully rejuvenate from the inside out.”

5. Spend time in nature

Time and time again, research has shown spending time in nature can soothe your mind and soul, help boost your mood, fight off anxiety, and even battle depression and those negative thoughts that can completely take over your mind. And the best part? Even something as quick as a 15-minute walk every day can improve your overall wellbeing.

“Nature can bring us back to our innocence and vitality,” Dr. Sherman says. “It oxygenates us and can be a beautiful place to just be present and appreciate the silence. The simple act, even when done in shorter amounts of time, has been found to benefit you both mentally and physically.”

6. Take a calming bath

Sure, showers get the job done, but when it comes to giving yourself a true mental detox, there’s nothing more nourishing than taking a little extra time for a relaxing and mentally-calming bath.

“Making space for quietness and self-care to destress and shift out of fear into love is so important,” Dr. Sherman says. “In 20 minutes after this ritual, people often feel more empowered, centered, relaxed, and in a place of self-love. We’re often rushing around and focusing all our attention on others throughout the day, so make sure you’re also giving a gift to yourself — even if that’s just in the form of a bath.”

With these tactics, you’ll feel more alive than you have in months. Your body can do amazing things when you give it the time it needs to refresh, and a mental detox is just the way to get your mojo back.


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