It’s that time of year (even if it doesn’t always feel like it). The days are longer, the sun is peeking out more often, and there’s a sense of renewal in the air. Many people begin their annual practice of airing out their home and spring cleaning. Persian families call it “xane tekāni” or “shaking out the house,” which really captures the spirit of starting fresh.
In addition to these practical activities, it’s also a good time of year to do some mental health spring cleaning, to take stock of your mental health and consider what has and hasn’t been serving you in the last year. What’s been gathering in your head over the winter that you’re ready to shake out and declutter so you can make room for more joy as summer approaches?
Whether you wrestle with mental illness or just need a mental boost, we’ve got a few tips below to get this process started.
Say Goodbye to Negative Thoughts
I’m guilty of it, too. Months of gray skies and traipsing through slush has me holding tight to thoughts that don’t always serve me.
The first thing to do is acknowledge these thoughts. We have a tendency to avoid dealing with how we are feeling, but recognizing a negative feeling helps us address its root cause so we can move on.
Once we’ve reflected on how we are feeling, we can get ready to let the feeling go. As they say, worry is paying twice, so check out this article for some tips on how to replace negative thoughts with thoughts that will actually help.
Try this simple mindfulness exercise: Close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly and evenly. Imagine somewhere outside that makes you feel peaceful. Picture a cloud in the sky overhead. Imagine your negative feeling sitting on the cloud. As the cloud slowly drifts away, picture your negative feeling leaving along with it. Reflect on how you feel as this thought that doesn’t serve you floats farther away.
Sometimes all it takes is putting pen to paper so that we can get our negative feelings off our chest and make room for more positive feelings. Try blocking out a half hour in your schedule to write down exactly how you’re feeling and to reflect on what has been contributing to your current state of mind. Next, try some journaling prompts so you have some positive reflections to come back to when you’re feeling low again.
- What are the three things that scare you the most and why?
- Write about a difficult time in your life that you overcame
- Name five moments when you were ecstatically happy
- 10 things I feel thankful for are __________
- My greatest qualities are ________
- What are three things you can do to help your mental health?
- When times get tough I want to remember that _______
Bottling up your thoughts and feelings can contribute to feelings of anger, guilt, and anxiety. Clear out some unspoken words that may be weighing you down.
- Address grievances: Let your friends and families know about how their actions may be making you feel. It will clear the air and help you feel less isolated if you’ve been avoiding confronting them.
- Practice Gratitude: Send a kind word of thanks someone’s way and see how good it makes you feel.
- Share the Load: Reach out to a friend you trust, and confide any negative thoughts or feelings you’ve been having. Having someone listen can make the burden feel a lot lighter. If you’re looking for ways to talk about mental illness with a loved one, check out this article.
Bad weather often contributes to lowered rates of exercise, and because many experts agree exercise has big benefits for a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, it’s important to break out of our winter rut. Clear out your pent up energy by getting that body moving. The benefits of exercise take time to present, so it’s important to be consistent. Here are some tips for success.
- Pencil it in: Make movement a priority by proactively scheduling in a few hours a week to focus on exercise.
- Try something new: finding an activity you like will make you more likely to keep it up. Drop in at a kickboxing, rock climbing, or yoga studio.
- Lock it in: Sign up for a class or workshop, so you’ll feel compelled to attend.
- Stay accountable: make plans with a friend to meet up on a regular basis to exercise
- Stay positive: sometimes you’ll miss a day or two. It’s important to accept our lapses, and make an effort to be more consistent going forward instead of giving up.
Take a Breather
Like airing out your home, it’s important to give yourself some breathing room. Take stock of your schedule and find a time to fit in self-care.
- Take a bath. There’s some evidence that taking a warm bath can reduce feelings of loneliness.
- Make yourself a healthy meal (research shows what you eat affects how you feel). Make sitting down to dinner a mindful activity.
- Meditate. It can improve focus and decrease symptoms of poor mental health. Download some free guided meditations here.
Spring Clean for Real
Go with the tried and true and give your house a tidy. According to research, keeping a clean house can contribute positively toward decreased fatigue and depression, and increased focus. Make a plan to do a few small things a day to organize and declutter, and track your mood as you respond to a new sense of order and cleanliness. Check out this article for some handy tips!
Whatever you choose to do, be intentional. Taking the time to focus on your mood can have long-term benefits. Happy spring cleaning!