Spring Cleaning for Your Mind
It’s that time of year! The days are longer, the birds are chirping, the temperature is rising. As you open your windows to let in the fresh Spring air, take a moment to pause and consider a new take on Spring Cleaning…..not for your home but instead for your mind, your spirit, and your overall emotional wellness.
If you are anything like me, you are going through your closets to store away your heavy winter gear and make donation piles of things that no longer fit or you are just now realizing are WAY out of style. Here are a few questions to consider to translate your closet clean out into a mental purge:
-Are there any defense mechanisms you are ready to store away for a bit? Similar to a winter parka, we may layer on different defense mechanisms such as denial, rationalization, and humor to protect us from the chill of shame or fear of rejection. At one time, these defense mechanisms may have served a purpose and were actually effective at keeping us emotionally safe. However, it’s important to reassess when our defense mechanisms are no longer serving us and are starting to have negative impacts on our wellness. Have any of your defense mechanisms started to feel like wearing a winter parka in Spring or Summer? If so, it’s time to store them away.
-What ways of thinking have gone out of style? We are all conditioned by our surroundings and our upbringings to believe certain things and act a certain way. Take time for some critical thinking about your values, your opinions, your behaviors. How did I learn what I have come to believe? Why do I do what I do? Go to an event, pick out a book, or practice a new hobby that is out of your comfort zone to see what you can learn about new perspectives and ultimately, about yourself.
-Any unhelpful thoughts that you can purge? Is your inner critic overactive with all the things that you are doing wrong? What cognitive distortions might be wearing you down (ex. All or nothing thinking, “Should-ing” yourself, Overgeneralizing)? Take time to notice any unhelpful thoughts and practice purging them to make space for more adaptive ones.
Now that you’ve taken some time to store away or purge what is no longer serving you, let’s practice a little mental cleaning through these helpful strategies:
-Reframe Your Thoughts. You might benefit from a little mental clean-up. Developing a Growth Mindset is a great way to practice reframes. An example of this would be adjusting a thought like “I failed” to “I’m still learning and will do better next time.”
-Practice Self-Compassion. Check out Dr. Kristen Neff’s research and exercises on Self-Compassion at https://self-compassion.org/. Here you will find strategies to treat yourself more kindly by speaking to yourself the way you would to a friend, recognizing suffering as part of the human condition, and using supportive touch for mind-body connection.
Stop and Smell the Roses
As we come out of the hibernation of winter it’s good for our mental health to soak up connection and slow down our pace. Take the time to stop and say “hello” to that neighbor you haven’t seen since the fall. Take a walk and move your body. As the flowers start to bloom and the ice begins to melt, allow yourself to get out in nature and notice the beauty around you. Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way to help us be in the moment. Some mindfulness practices for this Spring can include:
-Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. What do you hear? Cars driving by, birds chirping, the melting sounds of Spring.
-What colors are you noticing? Choose a color and notice all the different shades in nature around you.
-Notice how the Spring air feels on your skin and how it smells.
-Look at the clouds. Watch how they slowly pass by. Let your inner child shine by naming shapes and animals that you see in them. When was the last time you stopped and looked up at the sky to let yourself feel the expansion of the world around you?
Remember those New Year's Resolutions you made? Or maybe it was more of an intention, a routine, or a word you wanted to inspire your year. Is this still working for you? What have you learned in the first few months of the year and might it be worth adjusting what you originally set out to do? If you are crushing your 2022 goals, take a pause to notice that and give yourself a high-five! If not, I invite you to return to the “mental cleaning” section of this blog and seize this as an opportunity to utilize a growth mindset, practice self-compassion, and allow yourself the grace to adapt.
In the wise words of NikkiChe, “Seasons change, and so do we.” As we transition into this new season, my hope is that the energy, warmth, and new beginnings of Spring can inspire the growth and cleansing that your mind desires.
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Written by: Jenna Butzow, MSW, LICSW