Do you have a favorite season? Without a doubt, mine is spring, closely followed by summer.
When I was kid, around 1st or 2nd grade, I celebrated May Day. “What in the world is May Day?” you ask. It’s a celebration of the start of spring, although I think it’s more popular in other parts of the world.
For me, May Day meant that my next door neighbor and I would walk around our neighborhood picking wild flowers (or maybe weeds) and leaving them on our neighbors' doorsteps.
As early as I can remember, I have always loved spring. The days start growing longer, the weather warms up. As a kid, it was finally warm enough to spend hours outside after school.
Spring is potential.
Even now, spring is my favorite time of year. It’s as if I’m waking up right along with the blooming trees and flowers.
Spring also inspires me to do spring cleaning. I’m not talking about digging through closets and packing boxes for donations. In the spring, I take a mental and emotional inventory to see what I’m holding onto and where I can make space.
Spring revitalizes me. I start hunting for places to direct my energy. It’s the time to trim away anything that is holding me back and weighing me down.
Are there commitments that I’m remaining attached to simply out of obligation? If I can’t identify how I’m still adding value to these commitments or how they’re adding value to my life, they gotta’ go. Am I remaining in energy sucking situations that don’t align with my beliefs or values? I address those situations too.
Spring sparks me into clearing the mental and emotional cobwebs so that space can be opened up for those people, places, and things that keep me on my path to purpose filled life.
I want you to free up the valuable real estate in your mental and emotional life. That means that you’re going to have to roll your sleeves up and get ready to do some mental sorting.
Don’t worry, I’ve got some tips to help you get started. If you want to really get into the dark corners but are anxious about doing it alone, maybe 1:1 coaching with me can help. Reach out and we can talk about your next steps. For now, try these tips.
5 things you can do to get started with your mental spring cleaning today:
#1 Identify your core values
It’ll be pretty tough to know what to let go of in your life if you don’t have clarity on what’s important to you. What do you value? What would you focus on if you had only one day left to live?
Most of us live by a set of core values, but few of us take the time to identify what those are. Is it important that you’re contributing to a more peaceful world? Does spirituality play a central role in your life? Is the health and well-being of your family of primary importance?
What are the non-negotiables in your life? Once you understand what these values are, you can start identifying those part of your life that are out of alignment with your values. This is a good place to start when considering those things that might not make the spring cleaning cut.
Maintaining my health and well-being is one of my core values. This means healthy practices like sleep and exercise are important parts of my daily life. When I saw that time on my laptop was creeping into my sleep time, I cut my tech time down. I shut off my laptop each night by 9:00 PM so I can get into bed on time.
Once you understand what these values are, you can start identifying those part of your life that are out of alignment with your values.
#2 Take inventory of your high energy burners
What are the areas of your life that unnecessarily consume large amounts of time and energy? If you’re like me, you can probably identify parts of your daily routine that are hogging the space.
Once you identify these areas, explore how you can either reduce their energy cost or get rid of them altogether.
One of the best decisions that we ever made as a family was to hire house cleaners. The first barrier I had to get over was the cost. Were we really going to pay someone to do something that I was raised to see as a family chore? Did I even believe that someone else could meet my high expectations of a clean house?
Eventually, I realized that the time spent cleaning our house could be invested in more meaningful pursuits, like going for a walk with a friend or hanging out with my kids. My time and energy are worth something, so I want to spend them wisely.
#3 Make space for joy
What’s bringing you joy right now? If you can’t come up with anything, then what has brought you joy in the past?
Make space for those things that bring you joy. Once you’ve cleared out some of those unnecessary time and energy burners, invest some of that time over to the people and things that bring you joy.
We’re not talking about momentary happiness based on external things or events. Happiness is a temporary emotion based on external circumstances.
True joy comes from an internal sense of meaning and pleasure. It grows from a feeling of satisfaction and peace with who you are, regardless of external circumstances.
I rediscovered joy when I finally set boundaries around my work time. Being present with my family and allowing myself to shut my professional self down for the night opened up space.
#4 Allow empty time in your schedule
At what point did you become convinced that you had to fill in every minute of your day? Maybe you’re like me and some time during college or medical school you received the hidden message that free time was idle time.
Free up some space in your schedule right now!
Just because there is something that you could be doing doesn’t mean that you should be doing it. Letting your brain have free, unstructured time makes space for creative thinking. A meandering, creative brain has greater access to new ideas and problem solving.
Let’s face it, sometimes our minds and bodies need a break. We just need to do nothing.
I’m old school and keep a written planner in addition to my Google calendar. I purposely leave a few 30-minute gaps in my day as I’m filling in my schedule. Sometimes I just sit, after completing an appointment or task, to give my brain a chance to decompress. Other times, I’ll spend a few moments doing something creative or even trivial.
I like to think of downtime as recess for the brain. We could all use more playtime in our lives.
#5 Find your people
If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll notice a theme here. Almost all of my recommendations for well-being include connecting with supportive family and friends. It’s like getting enough sleep. I can’t emphasize enough how important healthy relationships are.
A growing body of research points out how important social connection is. A lack of social connection has been linked to mental health issues such as depression and physical health issues such as cardiovascular disease.
Whether you have strong family bonds or have built a family out of friends, these relationships can be life sustaining.
If you look back over the past week and realize that your meaningful conversations and interactions with people have been limited, identify what’s getting in the way. If your spending more time scrolling through your friends’ lives on social media than hearing about them from their actual mouths, then dial a number, hit the call button and have a real life conversation.
I have a standing video call with a friend every Friday. Now that I’m fully vaccinated and the weather is warming up, I’m looking forward to taking our video calls to an in-person breakfast at a lovely outdoor café.
You’re ready to start clearing your mind and reclaiming your time and energy. These are precious resources, so spend them wisely and you will live with greater purpose and satisfaction.