Spring Cleaning

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By Fatima Cook

There’s a freshness in the air! The earlier rising and later setting sun clearly marks the time for a refreshing reset. Time to clean out with what’s no longer “sparking joy” (in the words of Marie Kondo) and make space to fill with joie de vivre.

Aside from closet purging, might it also be time to reevaluate our relationships to ideas, habits, people who at one time seemed to be constructive?  Slipping into that which no longer serves us – that which in fact feeds into our grapples with internal demons — can happen when we are not looking.  Taking the time to examine our reflections can help define what may need reshaping.

Internal cleansing.

What’s going on inside your brain (mindset), what have you been nourishing your body with (food + drink), how are you mobilizing your energy (movement), have you been giving yourself time for self-care (sleep + time for pure enjoyment)?

Let’s begin by talking about the mind. Indeed, spirit, mind and body are inseparable.

What’s your inner narrative? Did you know that those with a positive view on life and aging on average live over seven years longer than those with a negative perspective? As world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. wrote in the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “Small shifts in mindset can trigger a cascade of changes so profound that they test the limits of what seems possible.”

The problem with thoughts — the dark, draining and diminishing ones — is that they become so familiar, they can masquerade themselves as normal. It takes deliberate contemplation to acknowledge them, and purposeful shifting to reset your narrative. With a mind cluttered by negativity, it’s nearly impossible to physically feel good and be able to move forward. This same type of fuzziness can directly get in the way of moving towards your goals. This doesn’t mean you should fake positivity (and pretend that those extra 20 pounds you put on this winter is good thing). What you can do, however, is to see it for what it is, make necessary changes and know it will pass. By making small changes, you can edit the negative junk out of your story.
















Step 1:

Simply notice. Are your thoughts eliciting a spacious feeling in your chest (calm)? Is your brow relaxed? Or are they causing your shoulders to creep up around your ears (anxiety)? Take note. Then it’s up to you to make an executive decision. Do you want to keep this story rolling or pick a new path?

Step 2:

Decide to have a good day and take action. What do the first few minutes — the first hour — of your day look like? A strong morning routine can set the stage for a happier, more productive day. You may be thinking that the last thing you want is to make your morning busier when perhaps you’re already feeling depressed/tired/anxious/hypersensitive/impatient/fill-in-the-blank.  It may even seem counter-intuitive to spend extra time in the morning for conventionally “non-productive” rituals. The contrary is true. That extra time to “set” your mind (we’ll talk about other aspects in separate posts) first thing in the morning has the ability to create internal space and transform the course of the day. The cost of a few minutes is relatively small for the disproportionally big win — your happiness in life.

Step 3:

Essential to a strong morning routine is the directing of the mind. Carve out a few minutes to focus on gratitude, meditation, visualization, breath work and journaling. Be okay with what you’re able to do. It’s easy to fall back to an all or nothing mentality, or worse, an “I am not good enough” one. Either would have the opposite effect. Award yourself a smile for whatever it is you’re able to do. HERE you’ll find more details on mindset exercises.

Step 4:

When you find yourself stuck in traffic, frustrated with your relationship with your friends, family and co-workers, late for an important meeting or up and struggling in the middle of the night, recognize where your mind wanders.  Urge yourself to detach from self-created (negative), premature outcomes. In all reality, we don’t know what will materialize out of any situation. Maintaining a mindset of clear and calm will positively affect your health – and potentially the outcome as well.  Try practicing calming breathing exercises.  A simple one is taking 4-8 count slow and deep belly breaths in, and exhaling for twice the count (8-16).  Continue until your mind begins to ease.

Step 5:

And…the same can be true in HOW you express yourself. According to research, less complaining = better mood + increased happiness and mindfulness.  When asked how you’re doing, do you slip into talking about the maladies of life. Take a moment before opening your mouth to transform your gripe into a neutral or positive articulation. This can take time – culturally we’re wired to complain – but with practice a more positive response can be accomplished. Being of South American decent and a native New Yorker have ingrained in me the art of bellyaching, so I work on this often. I’ve set aside this month as a non-complaining month. When I feel the urge to kvetch, I internally change my tune before blurting out the negative.

If I can do it, so can you..

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