Spring is the time of year many of us start to come out of our winter slump. The longer daylight hours, warmer weather, and signs of rebirth blossoming in nature fill us with optimism and more energy. We have a renewed sense of purpose so we start spring cleaning our homes to give our houses a clean, fresh start to match the spring buds appearing in our gardens. This year, why not broaden that focus and spring clean your life too?
Like our houses, our life starts to accumulate clutter and metaphorical dirt that we don’t notice until it’s become overburdening or unsightly. Over the winter (or perhaps over several seasons), we have probably let things settle into our lives that in the long-run (if they aren’t already) are going to interfere with our health and happiness.
I’m not talking about going on a diet. I’m talking about evaluating and improving our diet. The extra layers we wear in the winter, also help us ignore and hide the fact that we sampled a lot of holiday treats. We might have tried to get back on track when we made our New Year’s resolutions, but two more months of cold, winter weather had us turning to comfort food for warmth.
Spring is the perfect time to reintroduce healthier eating habits if we’ve let them slip. Salads and smoothies look much more appetizing when the weather is warm. Over the next several months, more and more fruits and vegetables will be available (and affordable) so it will be easier to work more of them into your diet. You can fire up the grill and ditch heavy casseroles.
In the winter, it can be hard to stay physically active since you’re limited to indoor activities (or enduring cold weather AND physical exertion). Once Spring arrives, you have hundreds of options, many of them fun ways to connect with others. Some of my favorite “social” ways to get exercise outdoors with my friends and family are:
- Going on walks or hikes
- Frisbee throwing
- Bike riding
With the longer daylight hours, it’s easier to go outside after dinner as a family to take a walk or play a game of soccer or basketball. It’s a nice ritual to develop that not only strengthens your bodies, but also your family bond.
Although cold, dark winter months lend themselves well to curling up with a good book, we likely didn’t do much to actively engage our minds. So, whether you spent the winter reading or Netflix-bingeing, your brain could probably use a good stretch.
Use all the brain benefits you’ll be getting from physical exercise, to springboard your mental training. And while I do enjoy the many brain training games I’ve downloaded to my phone, unfortunately, THAT type of brain training hasn’t been supported by scientific evidence to have any benefit for your cognitive abilities. Instead, the best way to become “smarter” is to learn new things. So, instead of the game or app that will improve your memory, play the game that helps you learn a new language, discover more about geography, or quizzes you on history.
Trying to reduce your screen time? Expand your reading library to include more non-fiction. Or work a crossword puzzle and look up the answers you don’t know.
One of my core beliefs (that also happens to be backed up by science) is that your personality and behavior is shaped by the people you surround yourself with. If you aren’t absolutely thrilled with who you are, use the nice weather as an opportunity to get out and connect with new people.
Chat up someone new at Zumba, sign up for the book club at the library, introduce yourself to a new neighbor. Better yet, ask that other mom at soccer practice or who you’ve seen at school activities that you admire if she’d like to join you for coffee. Yes, this sounds like dating and in a lot of ways, it is – minus the romance. It can be awkward at times and it might take a lot of tries before you find someone you connect with, but if you find the right person it can make a big difference in your life.
Also consider distancing yourself from the people who have a toxic effect on your life. That doesn’t mean they are bad people, but for some reason they might be bad for you. That friend you admire, but somehow makes you feel small and insignificant? She’s not helping you grow. Find someone who inspires you AND lifts you up. The relative who likes to remind you how awkward you were as a teen, or how many mistakes you made as a young adult – stop giving him or her the opportunity to drag you back to someone you aren’t anymore.
Aside from taking account of who we associate with, it’s also a good idea to evaluate ourselves. Are you making choices that you are happy with? Are you behaving in a way that makes you proud of who you are? If not, spend some time figuring out exactly what you aren’t pleased with and why you are doing things that ultimately, don’t make you happy with yourself. Then, do whatever it takes to change.
Place inspiring quotes or pictures in places you will see them when you know you are likely to make the wrong choice (e.g. a willpower quote on the fridge, a picture of your dream vacation inside your wallet, a smiling photo of you and your children in the spot where you usually lose your temper with them). Daily affirmations work for a lot of people (writing down or thinking about a positive thought or a goal each day). You don’t have to change everything about yourself to make a big difference in how you perceive yourself. It can be as simple as doing one kind thing each day, complimenting each person you interact with, or just smiling more. Check out 3 simple tricks to instantly improve your mood and 30 self-improvement tips for more ideas.
So, this year as you’re wiping cobwebs out of the corners of your house and emptying out unneeded items from the storage closet, remember that the rest of your life can benefit from a thorough cleaning too. “Dust” away bad habits and fill your life with beautiful “blooms” to show as much respect to yourself as you do your home.