Spring is my favourite time of year. The blossoming trees, birds chirping, feeling the sun on your face… Doesn’t that instantly put you in a better mood?
With nature reawakening from being dormant all winter, there’s a sense of hopefulness in the air, this lighthearted energy of change and new beginnings. That makes spring the perfect season not just for cleaning out your closets, but for clearing up your mind, re-energizing your body and freshening up your routines.
So have a look at these 11 ideas to spring clean your life!
Wake up your body with a cold shower!
I know, that doesn’t sound like a ‘wellness’ ritual at all. But cold conditioning actually has all kinds of health benefits – if you can stand it. Research suggests that regularly exposing yourself to cold can improve your blood circulation, boost your immunity and release mood-boosting endorphins.
You don’t have to jump into a freezing lake to enjoy these health perks – standing under a cold stream for 2 minutes or gradually lowering the water temperature of your daily shower will also give you that invigorated feeling.
Be sure to check with your doctor whether drastic temperature changes are safe for you if you suffer from a chronic (heart) condition.
Stock up on spring produce
When the days are getting longer and warmer, an abundance of colourful fruit and veggies hits the shelves: artichokes, peas, spring onions, rhubarb, strawberries… Spring greens like watercress, arugula and baby spinach are nature’s way to revitalize your body with fresh nutrients and vibrant energy after winter. Enjoy the best produce of the season with an Awesome Green spring soup, a Berry Beet Breakfast Bowl or by topping your sandwich with alfalfa and bean sprouts.
Have fun with fitness
There’ll be plenty of magazines telling you now’s the moment to shape up and lose a few pounds in time for swimsuit season. Well, not me.
Although having a healthy weight can be a positive goal when you’re obese, too often exercising revolves around physical appearances instead of how we want to feel. Why not aim to get fit enough so you can do tons of fun things in summer – and enjoy yourself in the process?
Do an activity you love. As Mark Sisson puts it, the most effective exercise is the one you actually stick with. So try a fun new fitness class, sign up for a mud race with your mates or go for a leisurely bike ride. Learn to dance like Beyonce. Take an introduction lesson in karate or try horseback riding. If you’re already in decent shape, it’ll be good for your body and mind to switch things up. And if you’re just starting to work out, having fun with fitness is key to building a lasting exercise routine, especially when you have chronic health problems.
Brush up your beauty routines
Want a healthy spring glow? Shed your dead skin cells by brushing your body before you jump into the shower, starting at your feet and gently working your way upwards toward your chest. Dry brushing isn’t just a beauty routine though. This ancient practice also stimulates your lymph and blood flow, which supports your body’s natural detoxification process and gives you a boost of energy.
And while you’re busy giving your grooming rituals a makeover, why don’t you clean out your makeup bag too? If you’re anything like me, you probably tend to forget that all beauty products have a shelf life, just like food. What’s worse, there likely is an alarming amount of bacteria lurking in your mascara, powder brushes and under eye creams. So throw out any cosmetics that are way passed its sell by date – and use this opportunity to experiment with organic skin care products or a fresh look!
Did you know that walking around barefoot outdoors could be a simple yet effective way to boost your health? There’s some emerging evidence that grounding – making direct contact with natural surfaces like sand and grass – may promote a better sleep, less stress and subjective feelings of wellbeing, by tapping into the earth’s energy. It may sound somewhat implausible, but even you’re skeptical about the theory behind physical grounding, connecting to the earth can surely have an emotionally grounding effect.
So why not give it a try? Kick off your shoes, get your feet on the ground and feel the grass or sand between your toes. You could also lay down in the park on a sunny afternoon, dig your bare hands into the soil when gardening or take your yoga practice outside.
Do a digital detox
Just like a cluttered home, having an overload of unread messages, online accounts and electronic distractions can make you feel stressed and anxious. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your overflowing inbox or pinging demands, why not spring clean your virtual life?
Unplugging helps you break the cycle of instant gratification you get from constantly checking your phone for new notifications. It can be as simple as turning off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime, no phones during dinner or having “screen-free Sundays”. You could also consider taking a social media sabbatical to reduce the ‘noise’ in your life.
If staying on top of your email is sucking up your time and energy, you can find tons of productivity advice online on how to tame your inbox. Services like Unroll.me can help you manage your newsletter subscriptions with just one click.
Let go of people, obligations and beliefs that weigh you down
We all have to do things we don’t necessarily enjoy (laundry, anyone?) and deal with people we wouldn’t want to be friends with. But when you find yourself dreading yet another day of tedious chores and boring social gatherings all too often, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.
Ask yourself: Who and what’s draining me? Is that worth it, considering the bigger picture?
You see, you don’t have to say yes to every favour asked of you. You can’t please everyone. You shouldn’t waste your time around energy vampires; those people who suck the joy out of you with their (unfounded) negativity. You don’t have to ‘suck it up’ and tolerate everything – safeguard your own energy.
Try to let go of obligations that weigh you down, to make room for invigorating activities. Make a Stop Doing List. If you feel overwhelmed and tend to over-commit, take up Derek Sivers’ advice next time a new project or invitation comes your way: if you feel anything but a “Hell yeah! That would be amazing”, your answer should be “no”.
Of course you can’t pull out of every negative situation in your life. Loved ones in trouble need our support, bills have to be payed and a healthy lifestyle requires effort. But when you can’t change the world around you, you can still change your attitude and the way in which you tackle your problems to save yourself a lot of stress. ‘Cause like Sam Cawthorn famously said: “Happy people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, but they make the most of everything.”
Mind your mental diet
We consume more information than ever before. From traditional media to Twitter, blogs and podcasts, we’re bombarded with messages all day long. But how much of what you’re watching, reading and hearing is actually helpful to your life and happiness levels?
Re-examine your daily mental input: your social media feed, your favourite radio station and TV shows, the blogs, papers and books you read, the people you talk to. Does it inspire and motivate you? Does it move you emotionally? Does it provide you with useful information in an objective, non-inflammatory way? Maybe you find that reading heated debates on Facebook drains your energy and concentration. Or maybe you notice how much time you unintentionally waste on surfing the Internet and TV channels when you’d like to read more books.
But what’s more: if your brain is constantly processing information, when will you find the time to switch off and recharge, to think deeply, to come up with original ideas and creative solutions?
Try to carve out a few moments every day for daydreaming, reflection or stillness. Be purposeful about your media consumption. Make conscious choices whether you want to enjoy music on your run or listen to the birds and your own thoughts; whether you want to check your mail on the train or just stare out the window. Both options are perfectly fine, as long as it’s what you want and need most in that moment.
Get into nature
Being outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty is one of life’s simplest pleasures. And yet, spending time in green surroundings is one of the best things you can do for your health, thanks to the healing combination of fresh air, vitamin D – producing sunshine and the de-stressing effect of natural environments.
So now that the weather’s improving, try to squeeze a little more ‘outdoor time’ into your days. Doctor’s orders!
Explore your neighbourhood for green patches, especially if you live in the city. Think of the park, an arboretum or botanical garden, a pond surrounded by flowers and benches… Hey, you may even find a secret hideaway in your ‘backyard’!
On the weekend, when you have more time, you could take a short drive to a nearby national park and hit the trail. A leisurely walk on the beach or a bike ride in the woods are also lovely ways to stretch your legs, clear your mind and spend time with you friends and family.
If your desk job or chronic illness are keeping you indoors a lot, go green at home. Treat yourself to a beautiful bouquet of flowers, buy an air-purifying plant or grow a herb garden in your window box. Research shows that even just looking at a natural scene activates parts of your brain associated with happiness.
Shake up your routines!
In everyday life, it’s easy to fall into predictable patterns. That can be a great thing: having a daily routine has proven to be key to creating healthy habits and achieving success. But it’s also wise to stop and ask yourself once in a while whether those automatic behaviours are still serving you well.
If you’ve been living on autopilot lately, it’ll be refreshing to shake things up a bit. Visit a local farmer’s market and try some unfamiliar ingredients you haven’t cooked with before. Sign up for a new fitness class. Get up early and watch the sunrise. Take the scenic route to work – bonus points if you manage to walk, bike or roller blade to the office. Turn off your TV and revamp your relationships.
You could even start building some new healthy habits, like going for a walk after dinner each night or taking more mindful micro-breaks during the day.
Whatever excites you and makes you feel alive!
Bring playfulness back into your life
As an adult, life can sometimes get a little too serious. With mortgages to pay, sick family members to care for or a demanding job, doing something just for fun often gets put on the back burner.
But according to some experts, enjoying yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a biological necessity.
Throughout human history, playing has been our natural way to learn new skills and build better social connections. But even in modern society and as grown ups, play continues to shape our brains throughout our lifetime. Having fun keeps our neural pathways running smoothly and triggers the release of happy chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. What’s more, playing helps us combat stress and really keeps body and mind young.
So how can you bring back pleasure and playfulness into your daily life?
Don’t just think of play as the activities that kids do – although revisiting hobbies from your childhood can be great fun – but more as a state of mind.
Look for the humour in everyday situations. Laugh more; don’t take yourself too seriously. Make up silly dance routines. Sing proudly off key when you’re doing the dishes. Give in to spontaneous pillow fights or tickle sessions. Add a little fun to your workout routine: pretend you’re being chased by zombies as you run and do body weight exercises on a playground.
Whatever life throws at you, try to cultivate a spirit of play, to help you find a glimpse of joy on even the hardest days.
So tell me, how will you spring clean your body, mind and life?
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