Do Your Thoughts Spark Joy?

step into the fire of self discoveryIt’s April! If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling the need to do a little spring cleaning. This is the time of year when I actually love to go through my home, my office, and even my car, and clean out all the dirt and debris that have somehow collected over the winter. Stacks of paper, junk the kids have collected, and the kids toy room – I love going through it and getting rid of things and am always astonished about how much trash and broken items that I find. Then there’s my closet. For some reason, most of the year I’m loath to throw anything out, even that sweater that’s missing three buttons and has two raggedy holes in the back. That sweater just seems too familiar, too much a part of me, to throw away. But once I put my clothes to a simple test – is it a) something I wear? And if not, b) does it make me feel good to have it? – I find that letting go of old clothes becomes much easier. Once I look long and hard at whether an item is actually still serving me it becomes much easier to know whether to keep it or get rid of it.

The same can be said for our thoughts. If spring is an opportunity for us to tidy up our living space, then it is also an opportunity for us to let go of thoughts that no longer serve us. In her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo recommends looking at every item in your home and asking yourself “does it spark joy?” If it doesn’t, then we are to thank it for its service and get rid of it. I would like us to do the same with our thoughts. Our thoughts are powerful, more powerful than anything we can buy or acquire for our home or our wardrobe. It’s vital that we look at them from time to time and decide to let go of the ones that no longer serve us.

So many of us have developed a habit of negative thinking. It is so ingrained in us most of us do not even notice it. Negative thoughts can form a loop, so that we can spend an entire day jumping from one negative thought to another without even noticing it. Because our brains are wired to look for problems and prepare for them, negative thinking feels natural to us. In fact, negative thinking begets more negative thinking. Like piles of clutter in our homes, it’s not something that will just go away on its own. We need to take an active role in examining our thoughts, seeing which ones are making our lives richer and more productive, and which ones are keeping us stuck.

One difference between the Marie Kondo method and what I’m asking you to do is this: for each negative thought that you identify, I would like you to replace it with one that actually serves you. The trick here is not to empty your life of thoughts, as you might extra clothes or shoes, but to replace the negative thoughts with ones that build you up, make you feel good, and inspire you to be your best self.

For each thought or story that you identify as negative, or, at the very least, unproductive, ask yourself the following:

  1. Does this thought make me feel good? Does it “spark joy”?
  2. Does having this thought help me? And if it does, how? Does it help me to stay stuck? Or does it help me to have a richer, fuller life?
  3. What does hanging on to this thought actually give me? Even negative thoughts give us something, oftentimes it’s some kind of protection.
  4. If this thought isn’t serving me, how can I let go of it and replace it with a thought that is positive? Enriching? And actually truer and more representative of reality?

As practice, try this exercise from another best-selling book, Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Write down ten negative thoughts (or “blurts.”). Carefully rewrite them into positive affirmations. So, “Nothing ever works out for me” becomes something like “My creative efforts come to good,” or “The Universe has a divine plan of goodness for me.” Do this for as many negative thoughts as you can find. After a while, you will begin to replenish your negative thoughts with ones that actually serve you.

Just as spring cleaning can finally show us the holes in our wardrobe or our home décor, examining our negative thoughts can lead us to creating new ones that will nurture us through the year. There is a quote from Mooji that I love: “Step into the fire of self-discovery. This fire will not burn you, it will burn what you are not.”

Here’s to making this the month of Self Discovery. De-cluttering begins now. See what I had to say on my Facebook live about decluttering your thoughts. And, if you want to jump start your internal spring cleaning, book a complimentary 30-minute spring cleaning session with me.

Love insights in your inbox? Get them direct from Gretchen’s desk.