Spring Cleaning Your Mind
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When spring starts sending its warm breezes my way, I love nothing more than to throw open all my windows, get some cross-breezes going, and blow the winter stuffiness out of my home. Spring is a time for renewal and fresh beginnings, and like so many others before me, I think of spring as a time for cleaning, recalibrating, and hitting the metaphorical reset button.
In fact, the tradition of spring cleaning dates back to the ancient Persians and Israelites. Spring cleaning can be traced back over 3,000 years to a tradition in Persian culture called “khaneh tekani,” which means “shaking the house.” The idea was that sweeping up dust, shaking out the rugs, and clearing out the clutter would help to prevent ill fortune in the year ahead (Gotshall, 2023; Paykamian, 2020). The Jewish tradition emerged from regular cleaning of the house before the springtime Passover holiday, with the day before Passover turning into a spring-cleaning event in preparation (Bolen, 2021). Many cultures include a cleaning ritual or tradition with their spring religious or community events, and it’s a tradition that continues to be strong today.
We can take this rich tradition a step further by not only cleaning out our homes, offices, or cars but also by taking some time to spring-clean our minds. Here are 5 great strategies you can use to throw open the windows of your mind, clear out the clutter, and sweep the dust off your mental health.
First, try making a list of everything you are grateful for right now. Think about the current season and life around you. What brings you a feeling of gratitude? Research finds a direct association between practicing gratitude and mental health, including greater life satisfaction and happiness and fewer depressive symptoms (Gotshall, 2023). Start a gratitude list today, or try creating a gratitude journal to come back to regularly and grow your gratitude practice.
Another strategy for mental spring cleaning is to volunteer. Helping others is associated with improved mental health (Gotshall, 2023). It can help you build relationships, develop empathy, and increase a feeling of belonging and self-worth. Reach out to a local food bank or other community organization, or simply set aside some time to visit with the elders at your local nursing home.
Third, set a new goal. When we connect a new goal or resolution to a specific time of year, like spring or our birthdays, we increase our chances of success (Parker-Pope, 2023). This phenomenon is known as the “fresh start effect,” and a study by the Wharton School found that this fresh start effect is strongest in the spring (Dai et al., 2014). Temporal landmarks, or points in time like a new season, help to create psychological distance between the current self and past imperfections, and it can help us to propel ourselves forward to behave in a way that reflects our new, positive self-image (Dai et al., 2014). “That was winter me!” we can shout into the wind as we embrace our new spring habits.
Next, try taking a personal inventory. When we clear out a packed closet, we might find it helpful to lay everything out on the bed and take inventory of what we have. We ask what is still serving us well, what we need to donate, and what needs to be repaired. Do the same thing for your mind! What mental habits are serving you well? What thoughts are weighing you down and taking a toll on your positivity and optimism? Consider questions like how you want people to describe you, what are your deepest values, how you define success in your life, and what makes life worth living. Our priorities and values can shift based on our circumstances, so asking questions like these can help us to recalibrate and guide our decision-making effectively (Parker-Pope, 2023).
Finally, spend some time sitting in the sun. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you’ve probably been missing the sun over the last several months, and you’ve also been missing out on the sun’s mental health benefits. Sitting in the sun makes us feel better because our bodies release endorphins when our skin cells are exposed to its UV rays (Gotshall, 2023). In addition, our skin cells start producing Vitamin D, which plays a key role in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood, memory, and even learning (Gotshall, 2023). Take this strategy to the next level by practicing mindfulness while you sit in the sun. Focus on your breath and the way your body moves while you enjoy the sun’s mental benefits.
The month of May offers an excellent opportunity to focus on our mental health and well-being through Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Learning for Success Center is excited to help students improve their mental health awareness and mental well-being with resources and events throughout the month. Students are enjoying 15-minute meditation sessions on Mondays, and they have also had opportunities to learn about mental health issues, meet members of the university’s Psychology Club, and take advantage of resources to assist with resilience, healthy habits, relationships, reducing anxiety, and more! We’ll end our series with a presentation from Dr. Shirley Terrell on “Maintaining Balance to Manage Stress.” We hope our Mental Health Awareness Month programming helps to meet the needs of our students, and we look forward to discovering more ways to improve the student experience at our university.
Until next time, this is Dr. Linscott with another Learning for Success podcast. Happy learning!
Bolen, H. (2021, April 15). The story behind our spring cleaning rituals. Medium. https://heatherbolen.medium.com/the-story-behind-our-spring-cleaning-rituals-33cd5a091153
Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., and Riis, J. (2014). The fresh start effect: temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Management Science, 60(10), 2563-2582. https://doi-org.libauth.purdueglobal.edu/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901
Gotshall, C. M. (2023). Spring-clean your mind: 8 ways to declutter mentally & emotionally. Vibrant Life, 18-21.
Parker-Pope, T. (2023, April 17). How to spring clean your mind. Daily Herald, F2.
Paykamian, B. (2020, March 14). ‘Shaking the house’ on Persian New Year. Johnson City Press. https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/opinion/blogs/shaking-the-house-on-persian-new-year/article_f302fd2a-3c08-5fa1-baf3-0e84cb4aebe9.html