How to Do a 'Brain Dump'
Leigh Weingus •
If you've ever caught yourself overthinking or running through the same problems over and over again, you may benefit from a brain dump. A brain dump is a technique and coping mechanism that many people find extremely helpful, especially those who suffer from anxiety.
If a brain dump sounds appealing to you — we promise that despite the funny name, it really is beneficial! — here's everything you need to know about it.
What Is a Brain Dump, Anyway?
A brain dump is a complete transfer of accessible knowledge from the mind to another medium, like a journal, computer software, or anything else. At Silk + Sonder, we tend to brain dump in a journal, but your brain dump can be conducted in any medium you'd like. Brain dumping can help us organize our thoughts, decrease stress, and simply get certain unnecessary thoughts out of our minds.
We've already address this a bit, but you can think of a brain dump as the act of exporting everything that's in your brain onto a piece of paper, in a bullet journal, on your computer, on your notes app, or wherever you feel compelled to write. Brain dumping is an excellent decluttering tool, as we often don't realize just how many thoughts are swirling around in our heads until they're presented in a more succinct, organized way.
You can think of a brain dump a bit like spring cleaning for your brain — with all the clutter cleared, you can see things a lot more clearly. In addition to offloading a lot of anxiety and stress, brain dumping can help you get more organized and tackle little to-dos that you've been putting off.
How to Do a Brain Dump
There aren't a lot of rules around a brain dump, except that you should work to find a method that works best for you. For example, if you know you don't like hand-writing in your journal, don't feel pressure to hand-write a brain dump — do it digitally instead. If you like putting pen to paper, there are tons of brain dump bullet journal spread options (you can find a few ideas here), or if you simply want to make a list on your phone, that's fine too.
It doesn't matter how you brain dump; the most important thing is that you brain dump at all. So find the method that works best for you.
How Long Should You Spend Brain Dumping?
This is entirely up to you, but it's worth mentioning that it's unlikely that you'll be able to unload the entire contents of your brain in five minutes. If you have a regular journaling practice, you probably know that sometimes it takes a few minutes to really get "into" it. So try giving yourself half an hour, and see what you're able to unload.
How Often Should You Brain Dump?
Again, this is your choice. If you want to do it once a week, that's great. If you find that you sleep better after a good brain dump — and this makes sense, since anyone who has ever had trouble sleeping will tell you that racings thoughts keep them up at night — try doing it every night. If you want to hold yourself accountable for daily or weekly brain dumps, try using a habit tracker.
How to Find a Brain Dump Medium That Works for You
Like all journaling practices, there's no one-size-fits all approach to brain dumping. But if you're not sure exactly which medium is right for you, try a few approaches. Try using a bullet journal, try making a list, try writing it in a Google or word document, or you can even try texting or emailing your brain dump to a friend. After a little trial and error, you should be able to figure out the right fit for you.
A Few Brain Dump Prompts to Get You Started
Ready to get started? If you're having a hard time brain dumping on the fly, journaling prompts can be your best friend. Here are a few to get started with:
- What do I need to do that I've been putting off?
- What am I worried about right now?
- What's making me angry right now?
- What tasks in my life never seem to get done?
- What was hard about today (or this week)?
- What makes me feel frustrated?
- When did I feel overwhelmed today (or this week)?
Once you get the hang of brain dumping, you'll realize just how beneficial it is to your overall mental wellness.