I turn my head in all directions and all I can see is paperwork. How and when did I decide to tackle the huge stack of my entire collection (or should that be hoard?) of psychotherapy course notes, handouts, essays and presentations? And at what moment of madness did I give up a beautiful spring day to bury myself in paper, folders, labels and little clear plastic wallets? Oh, that reminds me, I need more of them!
So what is it about spring that can send us off into a mad cleaning and sorting frenzy? Is this even a useful ritual?
Historically, the act of spring cleaning can be traced back to a number of sources. Iranians welcome spring in with sparkling clean houses, a new set of clothes, and dressed tables, as they celebrate their New Year (Nowruz) on 21st March, they call it a celebration of life and it’s a big family affair, oh and they have been doing it for quite some time now – around 3000 years. In April Jewish still thoroughly clean their homes in anticipation of the spring-time memorial feast of Passover, where they rid their homes of even the smallest crumb of leavened foodstuffs. In China they also prepare for their New Year, which they refer to as a spring festival by sweeping their floors and cleaning their homes to get rid of any bad luck and misfortune that they may have accumulated during the previous year. This ‘Spring Festival’ lasts for days and has a long history.
Biologically by the end of Winter we have dryer skin, this is a result of lower humidity levels in the (colder) air, and of course all of those hot baths and showers stripping away our natural oils. Our bodies generally have worked much harder during the winter, including our hearts which may have raised our blood pressure. Melatonin levels would have increased during the darker and shorter days, resulting in us becoming tired and feeling like we have less energy. So when Spring arrives we really feel the changes in our body, Serotonin levels rise, resulting in more energy and improving our mood. Vitamin D levels also rise (and it only takes about 20 minutes in the sun for your body to start producing it), giving ourselves a well needed boost to our immune system.
Our senses are also stimulated with all the new growth and colours gradually emerging from the ground, warmer temperatures, sounds (think lawn mowers and strimmers!) etc.
Psychologically, physically, and spiritually we are waking up.
Spring can represent endings and beginnings, fresh starts, and renewal, all of these relating to change in some way. Now is a good time to evaluate the past twelve months, and anticipate the year ahead. To throw away or put into storage what is no longer useful, dust off what was once still and now needs movement and action, and introduce the new into our lives that will enrich us and encourage new growth and learning.
The physical act of spring cleaning can help us shrug off the winter and welcome the warmer weather and longer days, and we can really enhance this process
by bringing to mind the symbolic nature of this physical act, allowing our beliefs and values to come to mind, evaluating their usefulness to us in our now and future.
Think metaphorically while you sort out your shoe cupboard, with each pair of shoes representing various aspects of your life. Those sensible smart shoes that could represent confidence, work ethics, career choices, stability, security, purpose, finances etc. Those running shoes/trainers that could represent health, moving forward, standing still, flexibility, movement towards or away, distance, endurance etc. Choices and decisions you make here can be reflected across many areas of your life.
Of course on a lovely spring day like today, often the first bit of spring cleaning is done out in the garden. I can not think of any metaphor more suited to health than the clearing away, cleaning, planting and starting the process of making our garden look beautiful and pleasurable to be in. A bit of time, energy and effort can bring about transformation, and the same can be said of our physical and mental well being.
There are many ways that we can not only sort the clutter of our lives, but also of our mind, body, and spirit. Each time you clean, clear, or tidy, ‘become’ this in the moment and feel the effect right throughout you, physically, emotionally, psychologically.
As I do my own spring clean of my past training and learnings, I give myself the permission to enjoy knowing what I know in the here and now, and to feel the excitement of what is not known yet, those magical moments that have yet to be experienced.
How will you challenge yourself for healthy change?