How to Untangle Your Mind with a Brain Dump
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When your mind starts taking you in stress circles, pull out a pen and create a bullet journal brain dump list to help you release some of the mental pressure!
The Plague of a Messy Mind
Sometimes, your brain is a mess. You might be anxious, worried, stressed, or so full of ideas and random thoughts that you can’t focus. It’s a frustrating condition that can lead to even more stress. I find that when my brain is especially restless and haggard, I begin to fall out of my healthy routines and habits. How do you fix this overwhelming sensation? Well, I like to use a method called the brain dump.
What is a Brain Dump?
A brain dump is simply the act of dumping all the contents of your mind onto a blank page as one might dump the contents of a purse onto a table. You are spilling out stressors, your nagging thoughts, your mental clutter, your pesky annoyances. Simply open up a valve in your mind and let all those thoughts flow out of your hand and onto your piece of paper. Write until you feel like the pressure inside of you is lessened and you can take a big breath. Then you will have achieved a brain dump.
Why Brain Dumps Work
You might think this sounds silly. Listing out your problems and anxieties on paper isn’t that big of a deal, right? How can that solve anything?
The reason a brain dump is effective is that it allows you to capture abstract thoughts and make them corporeal. When you’re stressed or overthinking, you have a tornado of thoughts swirling in your head. The winds are whipping, the cows are flying, and nothing is able to be captured. A nagging worry might swing into your conscious for a moment, then a different thought, then a different thought. Eventually, the first nagging worry will swing by again, and it will continue to do so unless you pin it down. Trying to capture these thoughts with no tool is like trying to catch smoke with your hands. It’s impossible.
But if you turn to your brain dump notebook, you can nail things down in absolutes. Once you write something down, it can’t leave. It can’t take another cycle in the brain tornado to haunt you again – it’s right there on the paper, right where you left it. So you can work through all your thoughts and pin them down one by one. You can stop chasing after distractions and half-formed ideas and put them in the inescapable form of the written word, achieving self-awareness and mental clarity. You’ll be able to reclaim that brainpower for more positive feelings and activities, like gratitude journaling or creating a mind map.
What to Write in Your Brain Dump
Okay, so the brain dump is a powerful tool that works. But how do you know what to write when you sit down with your pen in hand? You can write a specific to-do list that you have been meaning to deal with, like:
- List of errands for the weekend
- Your grocery list
- Replant the wilting succulent
- Practice my hand lettering
- Gather addresses for Christmas cards
- Work on that looming paper
- Take the leftovers for work tomorrow
- Bullet journal spreads
However, your brain dump doesn’t have to be about a particular topic. You can just as easily write down a lot of things on your mind with no particular action plan or specific category, such as:
- Upcoming Las Vegas trip
- Camping and hiking
- Special occasions
- My coworker Cindy
If it’s something that bugs you on a regular basis, then it can go on the brain dump.
The Next Step
When you have written a brain dump and you feel satisfied with your work, you have a few options for your next step. You can look at your list, identify what is stressing you out, and make actionable steps to tackle those problems. That’s always a good option! In fact, if you want to explore a particular problem deeper, you can always use a List of 100 to further analyze a subject. Where brain dump notes are a shotgun blast, the List of 100 is a sniper. It allows you to work with one particular theme and delve into your subconscious in a truly unique way.
While making a plan of action is a solid next step, it isn’t the only one. You can always set down your pen and walk away. Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything in particular. You may feel like you should take action, that you need to go go go! However, there are moments where you simply need to acknowledge your problems and then take care of yourself. A brain dump is a way to take care of your own mental health by letting it serve as a sort of pressure valve. It’s a great self-care exercise to reduce stress and clear your mind so you can take a bath in peace.
Untangle Your Brain
The next time you start to feel your emotions becoming overwhelmed with too much brain activity, pull out your favorite pen and settle in for a brain dump. It doesn’t take long, but it is an effective way in helping you tackle your problems, relax your mind, and take care of yourself. This regular maintenance is as important as cleaning – once you’ve emptied your brain of these pesky problems, you give yourself mental space for new ideas and thoughts to take root. So go ahead – take out your brain and give it a good shake with a brain dump!
This was incredibly helpful. I’ve had a huge project that I’ve been unable to effectively get rolling for over a week and this brain dump helped take the swarm of bees out of my brain and onto paper. Feels much much better.
I’m thrilled to hear that you found this helpful! It’s a technique I find myself coming back to again and again over the years, and it never fails.
This post inspired me a lot, thanks for sharing something so useful.
I’m so glad you found this helpful, Pamela!
Thanks for this information. I plan to teach my students this technique! What a great way to de-stress! It also seems like it could work for studying, too. They could “dump” out all of the information that know about a subject onto paper and then check their notes to see what they still need to review. 🙂
That’s a great idea, Tracey! I wish I had tried this while I was still in school!
LOVE THIS IDEA!!!
It’s such a great exercise Hannah! I hope you love it as much as we all do.
This is fantastic! Thank-you for sharing!
Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed this Mary. I hope it becomes a useful tool for you!
Here’s another idea for “brain-dumping” for your readers: if you can’t decipher your own darn handwriting, open up a text or Office word processing page and pound away at the keys. This is definitely my preferred method, especially as the words flow so quickly that my writing hand can’t keep up and my handwriting looks like I’m being taken over by a disembodied entity. 😛
The next best part about using a Word/LibreOffice* document is you can use whichever fonts and text colors you want without feeling like you have to be an “artiste.” Granted, this sort of nixes the point of bullet-journaling one’s “brain dump,” but if you don’t have the money to spend on an “official” bullet journal with the dot-grid system, AND you know you can’t read your own writing anyway, you can at least get the brain dump done and over with…THEN look over your list and bullet-journal the things you know you can take action on within the day/week/month, etc. But that’s just me and my “creative/there’s-always-a-workaround” brain. 😉
As a musician, Druidic practitioner, and overall audiophile, I also like listening to whatever might relax me and put me into that meditative state of mind that allows solutions to come forth even as I’m “brain dumping.” What I listen to can range from favorite ASMR videos to Tibetan singing bowls, ambient tracks (Steven Halpern, Steve Roach, Jonn Serrie and Robert Rich are some faves from this category), or maybe I might jump around between all three, depending on where my mood goes.
*A bit of FYI for those who are curious: LibreOffice, by the way, is the open-source version of MS Office, which can be downloaded and installed without paying a red cent, and it can read .DOC and .RTF files from Windows and Mac users.
If you find that typing out your brain dump works better for you, that’s fantastic Kat! Isn’t it great that there is more than one way to get to the same destination?!
To take tge brain bump a bit further I’d like to know more about the list of 100 please
Hey Lyn! If you click on the “List of 100” it will take you right to that post where you can read all about it!
Then, what do you do with the list / Brain Dump?
Tear it up so you can really put your mind to rest?
Or try to start dealing with every item on the list?
Hi Jeanette! If you look about half-way down the post under the heading “The Next Step” there are some options for how to handle your list!
So when you complete your Brain Dump, do you add to it next time you need to Brain Dump or do you use another page and do another brain dump?
The next time I do one I move to another page and map it out again Laura!
What a great idea! Brain Dump takes post-it notes one step further by allowing you to take the time to write it all down and perhaps be a little creative at the same time, which is a big stress releaser.
My brain dumps would take way too many post-it notes! It really is a great way to get the thoughts out and begin doing something productive with them all. I’m glad you enjoyed reading ?
Love your brain dump article. I will try it myself!! 🙂
I hope you get as much benefit from it as I do, Mei!
Great idea! Never too old to learn. I didn’t know I needed this. Thanks Shelby.
Glad to hear it was helpful for you April!
your email came just in time. Needed this little push and my friend receives your emails also and she was in a funk and needed this brain dump and off she went and it helped. I better get to mine or else I’ll be up again another long night. You seem to know when people are in need of just the right topic. Continue with your great insights.
Hope you find someone to help you. Good Luck
I started bullet journaling a few months ago. I’ve started to realize I need a bit more from my journal than what I started with. I just found your blog and I’ve already experimented with a few collections you’ve posted about. Loving it so far! A brain dump is next, I think, just in time for the new year!
Sounds great, Lisa! I hope you enjoy it as much at the others ?