woman in nature with her arms spread wide open

Spring-Clean Your Mind

By Marisa Cohen
March 30, 2023

The first flower buds and warm days of spring always bring a sense of optimism and renewal. Although the season of fresh beginnings is traditionally the time to spring-clean your house—out, out, old VCR tapes and stonewashed jeans of yesteryear—we can also use this time as an opportunity to spring-clean our minds as well.

“Nature is the perfect model for starting afresh and blossoming in beautiful ways,” says Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a psychologist in Santa Rosa, California, and author of Joy from Fear. “By letting nature inspire us to embrace a positive, growth-oriented mindset, spring can be a wonderful time to reassess wellness and mental health habits.”

Here are five ways to spring-clean your mind and step into the season with a new outlook.

1. Lean into Mindfulness

Just as clearing out the clothing, shoes, and knicknacks you don’t need anymore can make you feel lighter and freer, so can clearing out old worries and negative thoughts. “One of my favorite methods for making room for hope and positivity is a simple three-step ‘internal housecleaning’ method,” Manly says.

The first step, she says, is to close your eyes and breathe deeply to create inner calm. Next, imagine that you’re taking a feather duster to the inside of your body and soul. “From head to toe, gently dust away unhelpful thoughts, negative beliefs, worries, and stress.” Finally, replace those unhelpful thoughts with more comforting ones, such as “All will be well” and “Life is good.”

2. Ease Up on News and Social Media

Of course it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the world—but saturating your brain with bad news and screeching opinions 24/7 can lead to anxiety, stress, and depression, Manly says. She suggests that you set aside a journal specifically for exploring disturbing issues. This allows the mind to unload stressful thoughts and feelings so they don’t continue to bounce around your brain without a constructive outlet.

She also suggests refraining from scrolling social media or watching the news within an hour of bedtime or first thing in the morning. “If you begin your morning in a nonstressful way, you'll feel more positive and resilient throughout the day,” she says.

3. Call That Friend You Haven’t Seen Since the Before Times

One positive way to move on from the emotional toll of the last few years is to rediscover some of the things we’ve let fall away—like those friendships that were too hard to keep up as our lives got more hectic. “For those who feel guilty about having neglected friendships, it’s important to remember that we’ve all been stressed with the peculiar, challenging demands of the pandemic,” Manly says.

Think about one person you’d really like to invite back into your life, says Manly. Then, text or call them and say, “I’ve missed our friendship…I’d really like to reconnect. Would you like to meet for coffee or a walk soon?”

4. Go Smell Some Flowers

A breath of fresh air, nature, and sunshine can work wonders for clearing out the cobwebs in your mind and bringing in healing and optimism.

“When we connect with nature in mindful ways, we let go of the stress and worries that work against physical and mental health,” Manly says. “If you like to be in nature solo, set a date with yourself to go for a hike, have a picnic for one in a park, or simply sit in the sunshine,” she suggests.

If you’re more of a social creature, you can join a hiking or biking group, take an outdoor yoga class, or invite a friend for a stroll through a botanical garden or farmers’ market.

5. Change What You Can, Release What You Can’t

If there are still lingering worries and anxieties that you can’t quite move back from the front of your mind, face them head-on, Manly says. “If regrets, worries, and fears pop up, simply ask yourself one question: Can I do anything about this?” If the answer is yes, she says, then go ahead and make a plan of action for making a positive change.

“But if the answer is no,” she continues, “let it go. Your mind may fight you at first, but the more you get used to slowing down to ‘talk back’ to your mind, the more you’ll be in control of using your energy in positive ways.”

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