If you had approached me in college and said I need to “dump my brain,” I probably would have thought you misspoke. I’d think, “What kind of psycho believes it’s okay to let things leak out of their brain during finals? The goal of this place is to literally stuff your brain with as much as it can handle, and then some. Do they not understand how college works?”
Yeah, I was a hot mess during finals week. I’m usually a lot nicer than that, but having your thoughts, worries and to-dos swimming around in a constant swirl during two weeks can do a lot to a person. However, Brain Dumping really can change that. It is an activity that will help you keep everything intact, while also giving your brain a breather and making things more organized. Lucky for me I was open to this weird idea and it is largely credited for keeping me sane during college.
I’m not going to pretend to know the science behind why it works, but let’s just say that “brain dumping” often can help you store more information over time- just in a more efficient way. The object of the activity is to clear your mind of all the to-dos and random information you have floating around and to jot them on paper. It renews your focus, gives your brain a break and allows you to start fresh.
This is a great exercise to do when feeling anxious, stressed or scatter-brained (a feeling that may be vaguely familiar to college students). Honestly, I think it’s a good practice to set in place once a week regardless. Even if you are not going through a stressful time in your life, it’s interesting to see what your brain throws on the paper.
How does it work?
Brain Dumping is as easy and as hard as jotting down every single thought that comes to mind for a span of ten minutes.
Every. Little. Thing.
Think this won’t take ten minutes? You will be surprised to find your hand cramping up when you really get going. Some find it challenging to get started in the beginning, especially if you are not used to journaling or throwing your thoughts on paper. But like anything else, practice makes perfect.
Keep in mind that you are not aiming for full sentences or even a logical order of ideas. I don’t recommend doing this in a neat, journal-y way at all. I typically go for bullet points because I’m trying to jot as many things down as possible within ten minutes. Nothing has to make sense or flow together, it just has to make it’s way onto the sheet. No one else is going to see this paper so it doesn’t need to be pretty by any means, just neat enough for you to read it.
Once your ten minutes are up and you’ve jotted down all you can, you do not have to go any further with this exercise if you choose. Especially if you are pressed for time, the Brain Dump in of itself will provide you with the benefits mentioned above. However, I have found adding a few extra steps makes me feel more at ease and in control.
What comes next?
It helps if after you jot everything down you can forget about the paper for a little while. Let your brain enjoy the heavy load being lifted and go for a quick walk around the block. if you want to give meditating a go this would be the perfect time. The difficult task of clearing you mind has already been done for you!
When I come back to my paper I like to re-read everything I wrote down, looking for any themes in my thoughts. Perhaps you have an exam coming up so a lot of your thoughts are surrounding your fears and to-dos regarding it. Maybe there is a theme or two on the list that surprised you. I know I’ve been caught off guard by things I’ve written down- almost as if I’m unaware of what my brain has been chewing on lately.
For example, maybe I wrote a lot about my prayer life and how I don’t feel I’ve been measuring up lately. What can I do today, however small, to get myself back on track with this? Since I am a journal-er by nature, maybe I need to set aside some time to flesh out these thoughts in a journal entry, or talk about it with a friend.
It’s likely you will find a lot of little tasks that need to be done that found their way onto the paper. Now is a great time to get a formal to-do list started on another sheet of paper. There’s no need for your brain to have to remember it all! This whole process is just about making things simpler for you. We’ve just taken this huge burden off of our brain, let’s not just dump it all back in!
The last step, however optional, is by far my favorite. Once I have gleaned all the information and insights I can out of my Brain Dump, I take the paper and crumble it up (or tear it apart, whichever is more satisfying at the time) and I throw it away. There is nothing more freeing than disposing of all your worries and moving on. Now you have a clear mind, an action plan for any concerns that came up and a single sheet with all of your to-dos. Hear that? it’s your brain breathing a sigh of relief.