We all have those days. You’re behind on work, still have to make dinner, and have that daunting pile of clothes building up in the corner. It all feels like too much to handle and you don’t even know where to start.
Well, the answer might be right in front of you. Numerous studies have shown that cleaning for even just 10 minutes can drastically improve your mental health and increase your productivity.
Here are 6 ways that living in a clean space can help with a clear mind.
Improve focus and mental clarity
One of the clearest ways that cleaning can help your mental health is by improving your focus. A 2011 study by Princeton University shows that living in a cluttered environment can make it difficult to focus on tasks. The visual cortex becomes overwhelmed and distracted by random objects, making it difficult to concentrate and therefore prolonging the time it takes to complete your work.
A clean space, however, can help you locate your things more easily which will cause you less stress and help you think more clearly, according to Chris Stiff, a lecturer in psychology at Keele University. This was studied by researchers at the University of Navarra, who found that volunteers were more prone to making mistakes when inputting data in a messy environment.
Just the simple act of decluttering the space around you can help you stay much more productive. Taking 5 minutes to clear some things out may save you 30 minutes in work-time.
With the help of a decluttered space and mind, a person in a clean environment is much more productive than someone in a messy one. Because our minds work better when there is less clutter around, we can be much more productive.
Clutter overstimulates the senses and our mind can see it as unfinished business which can negatively affect our ability to concentrate.
Ease stress and anxiety
Cleaning can also help clear your mind by easing stress. A study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who live in a cluttered space show increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The stress and anxiety that comes from living in a messy environment may come from the visual reminder that you have unfinished tasks looming over your head. So, by cleaning, you are taking away those stressful reminders.
Not only a clean environment, but the actual act of cleaning can also help reduce stress. Surprisingly, becoming absorbed in the activity itself can actually be meditative and calming for the mind!
Gain a sense of satisfaction
One of the many ways cleaning can help with stress and improve our mood is by providing us with a sense of satisfaction for completing our tasks. Chris Stiff, a lecturer in psychology at Keele University, says that just the idea of being tidier can give a feeling of accomplishment and help us convince our minds that we are capable of achieving our goals. This, in turn, improves our self-esteem and encourages us that we will be able to complete our next goal as well.
This feeling of satisfaction is amplified when we physically check off tasks on a checklist. Each responsibility we check off acts as a mini success that gives our brain a cause for celebration.
The feel-good chemical of checking off tasks
The explanation behind this is that when we check off even the smallest tasks on our to-do list, our brains release the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure and motivation. Once we feel these effects, we are motivated to take the same actions to receive the same feeling of success.
When creating a to-do list, however, it is important to take things slow and in stages. Having a long to-do list with nothing checked off can add even more stress, so it’s best to break goals down into smaller tasks that are manageable, according to Sophie Scott, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London. So, what do you do if you get behind on your cleaning and your to-do list starts piling up? Break it down. Go room by room, even if it’s at different times.
Achieving these small goals will provide more motivation and stamina to keep working towards bigger goals and long term projects.
The satisfaction we feel from cleaning and checking off tasks can also directly contribute to fighting depression. A clean space equals a happy person.
The dopamine that gets released when we feel successful is known as the brain’s “pleasure chemical” and is known to fight depression, according to Scott.
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in 2010, found that people who described their homes as “cluttered” or full of “unfinished projects” were more likely to be depressed and fatigued than people who described theirs as “restful” and “restorative.”
This shows that there is a direct correlation between cleanliness and happiness, so it’s worth it to take those extra 10 minutes to tidy up.
Get better sleep
And lastly, a tidy space can improve your sleep. When you are surrounded by clutter, your brain cannot be at ease because clutter signifies incomplete work.
A 2011 survey conducted by National Sleep Foundation showed that people who tidy their bed each morning are 19% more likely to get better sleep. Additionally, 75% of those surveyed said their sleep is especially better when their bedding is fresh and clean.
This is likely due to the physical relaxation that results from laying in a bed that you know is clean.
So next time you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and cleaning is the last thing on your to-do list, give it another thought. Taking a few minutes to clean could drastically impact your mood and productivity, helping you have a much better day.