Clear your mind for a successful year to follow

If you have big plans for the year ahead, de-clutter your mind before trying to tackle them, one UAB psychologist says.

If you’re already slipping away from those New Year’s resolutions, don’t fret, you’re not alone. People often make big plans for the 12 months ahead at the beginning of a new year but most never come to fruition. One University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist suggests one task that can make you the exception and your year successful.

declutter_story“Our desire to do right by others often ends in a life that is overloaded with obligations, responsibilities, duties and ‘stuff,’” says Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Public Health. “Make 2012 the year you clean up your life by de-cluttering your mind — and reveal a happier you.”

Good mental health improves your well-being, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is associated with decreased risk of disease, illness and injury and increased longevity. And people with high levels of well-being are more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities.

Sound great, but where do you start? With two lists, says Klapow.

The first is everything that you feel you need to do for others.

“These are your life responsibilities — raising your children, caring for a spouse, contributing to your community, job responsibilities and more,” says Klapow.

The second list should contain only priorities that pertain to you and your personal goals.

“Anything you want to achieve for your personal, physical, mental and spiritual health, your financial status, personal growth in your education or your job — this is where those should go, and there should be no restrictions here,” adds Klapow.

Klapow says those goals should be specific and reachable.

Next, pick two items from each list and create a plan to achieve them. Keep the lists in a safe place and only refer to them when you have completed your goals and are ready for the next.

“Organizing the jumble of things to do in your mind by writing them down is a powerful way to clear the mental clutter and actually get your missions accomplished,” says Klapow.

And don’t shy from asking for help from others. Concentrate on the victories along the way as you bring ambitions to a successful conclusion, and if you hit a roadblock, do not despair.

“You are not expected to be perfect. Life is a series of successes and set-backs; when you are set-back, simply start over. If you realize you set a target too high, lower it a few notches to a more achievable level,” says Klapow.

“In the end, give yourself permission to focus on the things you want in life — not those others want from you or those you think you should do for others. Focus on answering to you first, and this will help clear the way to a mess-free mindset.”