The brain wash that refreshes

February 23, 2011

Judi Light Hopson, Emma H Hopson, RN, and Ted Hagen, PhD

February 22, 2011 – 12:30PM

Do you need to clear out mental baggage from the past? Maybe old hurts, fears and plain bad memories leave you feeling depressed and exhausted.

Like a computer that needs a good scanning and cleaning, your brain may need a tune-up as well.

Troubling thoughts affect anyone’s emotional state. It’s much like a computer moving way too slow, because there are too many programs running in the background.

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Getting rid of clutter from your past will clean up space on your brain’s “hard drive,” so to speak. You’ll feel lighter and ready to move forward.

“I’ve been exhausted for 10 years,” says a woman we’ll refer to as Kate. “I have too much emotional baggage. I regularly think about old arguments with my ex-husband.”

We advised Kate to deal with her anxieties and past wounds. She needs to lighten her mental load. She needs to make room in her brain for goals she can feel excited about.

Most of us automatically spend a lot of time looking back, especially if bad things really have happened to us. But, we owe it to ourselves to purge junk out of our thinking.

These tips can help you deal and move forward:

  • Stop reacting and start responding. When you spend too much time reacting to stress, this keeps you in a victim’s role. Respond intelligently by saying, ‘I can take control of every situation without wasting too much of my own time.’
  • Stop living in the past. Force yourself to get at least three new goals that require dedication. Use your time more wisely by living fully in the present.
  • Dwell on positive memories. When you look back on your past, think about the good times only. Select only great memories and let the rest go.

“I used to have a tough time even looking at the house I grew up in,” says a doctor we’ll call Ron. “My dad drank a lot, and he verbally abused us. I was blocking out my family memories, but I was literally throwing that segment of my life away.”

Ron goes on to say that his cousin, Angie, is a psychologist. She advised him to go back and think only of the good times with his father.

“I spent about two weeks trying to recapture the great times we had,” says Ron. “I drove by the old house several times. I thought about the volleyball games and the cookouts my dad planned for us. That part of my childhood was wonderful.”

Ron says he began researching some of his dad’s military experiences. He realises his dad had post-traumatic stress from his combat service in Korea. Ron’s working on forgiving his dad and thinking about him as a hero.

“This approach has taken a lot of weight off my mind,” says Ron. “I don’t understand the bad stuff, and I don’t have to. I can let it go. I really do have the power to take this kind of approach.”

Ron says he feels less tired and more focused in his work, too.

“I don’t feel like overeating as much, either,” says Ron. “I used to have somewhat of a craving for food that’s kept me overweight. As a medical doctor, it was awkward to tell my patients to lose weight when I couldn’t. Those food cravings are under control now, and I really do feel very much at peace these days.”

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