Contributor: Kaia Roman
Photographer: Saffron & Sage
It’s time for a deep, Spring clean in your life. Here are four powerful steps you can use to freshen up and clear either physical or mental clutter.
Spring is upon us in full force. During this time of year, perhaps inspired by the renewal happening all around us, we’re often compelled to throw open the cupboards and do a deep, Spring clean. As a Mindfulness teacher who follows the rhythms of nature as my guide, I recommend taking time to cleanse more than your house during this powerful time of rejuvenation.
Spring cleaning is all about clearing the clutter, whether it’s in your closet or in your mind. The process for clearing either physical or mental clutter is the same—simply ask yourself if it brings you joy, and if the answer is no, then it’s time for it to go.
Here are three powerful steps you can begin today to freshen up your life this Spring.
1. Replace negative thoughts.
Scientists at Stanford University estimate that we have, on average, 60,000 thoughts per day during waking hours. And 90% of them are repetitive. What recurring thoughts are buzzing around in your brain? If you find your mind frequently churning with thoughts of fear, worry, anger, sadness, or otherwise unpleasant content, challenge yourself to change the story playing out in your head. The first step is to notice your thoughts, especially the repetitive ones.
Sit silently in meditation and notice your thoughts, without judgement, just taking stock. Next, make a list of positive thoughts you can replace the negative thoughts with. Then, make this an intentional practice. For example, if you have a recurring worry that you won’t have enough money, can you switch the thought to gratitude for the things in your life that you appreciate? Repeated thoughts form neural pathways in your brain, which can be changed by intentionally changing the content of your thoughts.
2. Renovate your relationships.
It’s commonly said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This isn’t rocket science—obviously, your peers and family have a profound effect on your mood. But science has proven that the happiness of those in our immediate surroundings increases our own happiness by 15% and improves our health in measurable ways. So you may want to ask yourself, how positive are your relationships? Could you benefit from adjusting how you spend your time, or who you spend your time with?
Spring cleaning for you this year might be about making intentional shifts in the way you communicate with others. For example, if you regularly engage in gossip with your colleagues at work, why not suggest you all do a no-gossip challenge, and focus your conversations instead on a charity drive or a group cleanse you undertake together? They may be as relieved as you are to have a new, positive focus for your chats.
3. Remember to breathe.
Mindfulness is the practice of awareness of the present moment, without judgement. We often use breath as a focal point for the present moment in Mindfulness—our breath is always present, after all. Deep breaths are both soothing and cleansing for your body and mind.
When oxygen reaches the amygdala, the alarm center in your brain, it calms the stress response, lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and helps your prefrontal cortex engage in clear thought. As little as three deep breaths can help completely shift your perspective. Consider setting several reminders throughout your day to pause and breathe deeply.
4. Forgive, yourself and others.
Old grudges or guilt—whether directed at another person or yourself, weigh you down and run like a feedback loop in your brain, preventing happier thoughts and creative pursuits from taking priority. It may be uncomfortable to go through the process, but the freedom that comes from forgiveness is worth it.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to gloss over or condone wrongdoings, but is a way to free yourself from the negative effects of resentment, which can wreak havoc on your health. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that those who forgive more easily live longer. Embrace forgiveness and move on to new and better times.
By making the time to practice these simple spring cleaning exercises, you’ll be well on your way to clearing the clutter in both your life and your mind, and creating a fresh start for yourself.