Published on March 16th, 2016 | from CAMH
Spring Cleaning for Your Mental Health
By Deanna Orlando, NYAC Project Team Member
Summer, fall and winter have their fans, but spring is clearly the best season. It’s the season of fresh starts and new beginnings, symbolized by growth and new life. It’s a time when we’re encouraged to clean our homes and organize our lives. It’s also a great time to give a little attention to renewing your mental health as well.
Attending to your needs and engaging in effective self-care is fundamental to having a clear and refreshed mind. This may seem obvious, but many of us forget its importance. We all experience difficulty in taming the busy-ness of life and forget to take care of ourselves in the process. We must actively listen to our mind and body and understand that taking time for oneself is not a luxury or an act of selfishness, but rather a critical element for self-growth and fulfillment.
There are many activities that you can do to clear and refresh your mind. Here are examples of activities that have been very enriching for me and have led me toward a more positive and mentally healthy life:
- Create a to-do list of short-term and long-term goals that you want to complete
This may vary from reconnecting with an old friend you have not seen in a while, to taking more time to do enjoy a nice cup of coffee. Think of dreams you have always wanted to achieve – it does not matter how big or small. Having a set of goals can give you a sense of purpose in life and guide you toward your desired path
- Try to improve your physical health
Engaging in physical activity has been scientifically proven to play an important role in sustaining mental health and wellbeing. With the advent of an active lifestyle, usually a healthy diet tends to follow. Now, I do not expect you to throw away all processed foods in your pantry and go shopping for expensive workout gear. Renewal of the mind, body and spirit is a journey, and is successful when practiced gradually. An idea would be to try walking 3-4 times a week, or eat dark chocolate instead of a donut or other sugary snack.
- Begin to renew your spirit
Practicing yoga and/or meditation can do wonders for the cleansing of the mind. You will begin to acknowledge the flow of thoughts circulating in your mind and skillfully dismiss them with acceptance and non-judgment. Research studies on the power of meditation have reported a significant reduction in negative energy and number thoughts consuming your day. Inwardly attending through the practice of yoga, meditation or another spiritual practice encourages self-awareness to help you attune to your physical and emotional needs.
- Work on improving your stress management skills
Try your best not to dwell on issues that are out of your control. Learning to accept the situation for all that it entails is an important skill in reducing stress. Also, pay attention to what triggers your stress responses to learn and prepare for the next instance. Knowing which situations make you uncomfortable can minimize distress and encourage better coping behaviours. Counsellors and other mental health professionals are great resources to help you develop the skills needed to better manage your stress and anxiety.
- Actively contribute to your community
This may include volunteering for a cause or issue that you truly care about. Helping out a neighbor, or tending a community garden can help you feel good about yourself and your place in the world. An effort to improve the lives of others is surely going to improve your life too.
And last but not least, live in the here and now. Take a moment to notice the sun and wind on your face, and notice the air you are breathing. Sometimes we are distracted with tasks and responsibilities we forget to appreciate life’s precious moments. Learn how to bring your attention into the moment using mindfulness meditation or any other mental exercises you see fit. Making a conscious effort to notice and understand your inner and outer world at this very moment can improve your mental health.
So as we move from winter to spring, let’s make sure to take the time to evaluate our mental health. What are some of the helpful habits or practices that help you in your mental health spring cleaning?