Spring is in the air, and with it comes a new sense of hope and renewal. It’s been a tough winter, and many of us have been feeling the effects of the year of the pandemic. As we shed the winter blues and head into what is hopefully the end stages of COVID-19, this time of transition is an opportunity to make positive changes to your physical and mental health.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home but also can be for your mind, body, and spirit. Decluttering some of our old habits and rejuvenating positive endeavors, such as creative projects, will help us start the new spring season refreshed. Here are some tips from Sarah Greenbaum, a clinician on our Jefferson Center Colorado Spirit team, to start healthy habits, let go of the past and regrets, cultivate creativity to have positive mental health, and improve your overall well-being!
HOW TO DECLUTTER
Straighten out your priorities. Ask yourself: “What’s most important for my physical health or my mental health? The health of my family? My relationships?” Taking time to answer these questions can help reduce decision fatigue and eliminate the mental clutter that comes with decision-making.
This may vary from reconnecting with an old friend you have not seen in a while to taking more time to enjoy a nice cup of coffee. Think of dreams or goals you’ve been working on – it does not matter how big or small. Putting them on paper and making a plan for one or two of them can give you a sense of purpose and guide you toward your desired path, all while decluttering a bit.
Create a to-do list of short-term and long-term goals. Get out the clutter in your mind. Write down all of those running to-do lists, hopes, goals, and things you think about frequently that have been on repeat in your head. Get them on paper, categorize them, and then start prioritizing.
Tackle projects you’ve been putting off. We all have a mental list of tasks or projects we need to tackle. Start your “mental health spring cleaning” by writing down all of the things that you’ve been putting off. Look at your calendar and write down the ones you could complete in a day or less. Find your next free day or time where you can complete these. Maybe you spend your next lunch break scheduling all of those appointments you and your family need and knock them out your next Saturday off.
Drop old habits. Take the time to pick an area in your life that has an impact on your mental health and is counterproductive to your well-being. Some of the more common ones are related to diet, exercise, or spending. Make an effort to take the habit and replace it with a healthier option.
Put it in writing. Write down your old habit. Think about the challenges you might encounter as you try to replace them with a better one. For every challenge, write down one strength you have that will help you overcome the challenge. Keep this somewhere where you can look at them when the challenge arises. Also, think of one way you will celebrate your hard work in replacing that old habit with a new one.
Spend time with your mental space. Spring is a good time to let go of or reframe any negative thoughts. Sometimes, we stand in our way. Our attitude, motivation, and potential may be due to a lack of confidence or negative self-talk. We don’t express confidence in our abilities and tell ourselves, “I can’t,” or “I’m not good enough,” This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Try journaling. Write down your thoughts, worries, fears, and feelings. This helps us become aware of these types of thoughts and release them from our minds, allowing us to declutter further. Putting things on paper can help you let go, put things into perspective, or even change your way of thinking about them. Journaling daily or regularly is a great way to practice this.
Spend time with your physical space. Your mental space is important, but so is your physical space. Things that take up physical space also take up mental space. When we have a closet full of junk, we waste energy on figuring out where to store things. Furthermore, more clutter means more things to take care of. The effort spent in repairing and cleaning takes up time and resources. Eventually, we find ourselves in a constant state of tidying and organizing, rather than having any free time to just relax or focus on other priorities.
Clean space by space. Envision the space you think about most. Is it that storage space loaded with things for charity? Is it that closet of coats you never wear or things your kids have outgrown? Is it that desk drawer where everything gets tossed? Start there.
Get the household involved. Get your partner, children, or roommates involved. This can help spread out the workload, and talking with someone as you declutter can help you reason with how to categorize your stuff. If you’re the only one in your household, try breaking your house into chunks or areas so that you can clean one area at a time and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Tackle the seasonal chores. Incorporate seasonal chores into your routine so they aren’t left on an ongoing to-do list in your mind. Clean the grill or patio off, store the winter clothes or décor – giving your space a refreshed look can bring new, refreshing, and motivating energy into your environment.
HOW TO REJUVENATE
Move your body. We’ve heard the importance of movement a thousand times by now. The key to better mental health resides in maintaining good physical health. If you’re suffering from a mental illness like depression, maintaining physical health can seem exhausting and impossible. However, despite how difficult it might feel, taking care of your physical health beneficiates your mental health. Small actions, such as taking a walk on a sunny day or doing some light stretches, all add up to being healthier overall.
Integrate movement into your everyday routine. Stretch between meetings or while you wait for your pot of coffee to brew, take a walk when the sun is out midafternoon, or set aside time to actively play with your kids or pets every day. Find big or small ways to make it a part of your routine.
Seek and maintain positive relationships and habits. As you declutter, consider what is working in your life. Nothing feels better than a good belly laugh or engaging in that activity that you feel is life-giving. Find those friends that keep you laughing and support you, and nurture those relationships. Maybe you’re thinking that some of your past good friendships have gone to the wayside? Try to take steps to revitalize those friendships.
Think about what IS working for you. What are some good habits you have? Who or what makes you feel good? Think about how to spend more time with those activities or people. Put this in writing as well, so you can remind yourself that you can work with what’s working.
Renew your spirit. A few minutes of meditation, gratitude, prayer, or deep breathing is great for mental cleansing. These relaxation strategies can help you unwind, stay in the present, ignite your inner spirit, and reduce the negative energy and thoughts that weigh you down.
Practice mindfulness. Spring is a great time to “take stock” of our mental state. Reflecting and being aware of our thoughts and feelings allows us to be better prepared to handle any life stressors and be more in tune with ourselves.
Practice gratitude out loud. While decluttering some of those negative thoughts, now is a great time to refocus on things that make us grateful. It could be living sober, friends or councilors, or maybe just the great weather. Speak these things into existence. If you think it’s a beautiful day, or you’re grateful for your health, your ability to pay bills, your family’s time together, share that with a loved one, or say it out loud to yourself.
Sweep away self-criticism. This can take some practice, but it is doable. Start by swapping negative self-talk with positive phrases like “I’m doing my best.” Try to remind yourself that life is about progress, not perfection.
Find a creative project. The word “creativity” often evokes visions of the ingenious inventor, the savvy entrepreneur, the imaginative writer, or an artist – splashing paint all over a canvas. These images do represent a certain kind of creativity, but anyone can cultivate creativity. There is no such thing as “becoming more creative”, you are already a creative being. Just like grass, creativity needs space to be planted where it can be routinely watered.
Find and make space to plant your creativity. Find a comfortable or feasible area in your space to dedicate your creative time.
Start with the outcome. Consider the outcome you’re hoping for. Try asking yourself, “What kind of message do I want to be received from this project?” or “What kind of feedback am I hoping for?” Sometimes, starting with the end in mind helps us to naturally get into our creative flow.
Tune into your inner child. As children, we begin to explore and understand the world around us through constant questioning of our surroundings. As we get older, our life experiences begin to shape the way we think about the world and we start to put barriers up in our minds around what we think is possible. Tap back into your childlike creativity.
Make it a routine. Intentionally making time and space for creativity is the key. The grass doesn’t get green from the occasional heavy watering. It gets green from regular tending. Creativity is the same, it needs intentional and routine watering.
As we let go of 2020 and shed the winter blues, we can use this time of seasonal transitions as an opportunity to make positive changes for our overall well-being.
Remember, Jefferson Center’s Colorado Spirit team is here for you. Offering free and confidential support, we can help you with counseling tips and strategies to cope successfully and referrals to additional mental health resources. Call us if you need to talk at 720-731-4689.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please call 1-844-493-8255 or visit our 24/7 crisis walk-in center at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.