Spring Cleaning for the Brain

As the winter fades into the spring and nature starts to come back to life, some of us might engage in spring cleaning.

Many of us might have heard of the term “spring cleaning,” which is where we organize and declutter our external space. But have we ever considered sprucing up our mental well-being? We often forget to care for this neglected and strained part of ourselves. So, as the weather becomes warmer, here are four strategies for metaphorically cleaning your brain.

1. Clean Out the “Dust” That Occupies Your Mind

Being a human is stressful! We get so caught up in our past worries, millions of everyday decisions, and the uncertainty of the future that we likely feel mentally strained, exhausted, and fatigued. So, take this time to practice mindfulness (I know, I know! It’s such a buzzword!).

Mindfulness does not have to be on top of a mountain meditating for hours; in fact, it can be as simple as paying attention to your breath and focusing on the body’s sensations (touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight) or fully engaging in the activity instead of multitasking. Taking the time to focus on the here and now with intention can reduce the stress that tends to be built from thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

2. Declutter Mentally, Emotionally, and Physically

Mentally: From what has been happening in the world, the everyday stressors of life, and personal struggles, it can be easy to be flooded with information overload. This can result in us feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless. Take this time to focus on offloading what information you take in.

For example, consider how much time you spend on social media posts, news, or email. This is not to say that you could not be a responsible consumer; just take a moment to notice how absorbing so much information can impact your mood. (If I go down a rabbit hole of looking at TikToks while reading the 10th news article about global crises, it will not help me feel better about myself for the rest of the day).

Emotionally: Additionally, we can declutter emotionally by challenging negative thought patterns and identifying and acknowledging the ongoing unpleasant emotions that no longer serve us. This does not mean we should repress or villainize our emotions or thoughts: feeling and thinking are normal human things to do and neither good nor bad.

An emotional cleanse may mean setting boundaries, reducing self-criticism, cultivating self-compassion, or increasing intimacy and vulnerability with the people who matter in your life. If you feel like you are struggling and/or need professional guidance with how to declutter emotionally, here at ChangeWell Psych, we offer all kinds of therapy and support individualized to your needs!

Physically: Spring cleaning for the brain can also include the classic definition: literal cleaning. This can mean tidying up your surroundings and cleaning up your living space. Research indicates that an organized and clean area helps improve mood, concentration, and creativity and reduces stress and distractions. I admit that I am a product of my own environment, so if you see a load of paper clutter on my desk, it usually means that I have a lot on my plate, and my mental bandwidth is stretched.

There is something that feels very accomplished about cleaning up my desk, and I encourage you to start one small and doable (for example, if cleaning up your entire bedroom is too much, start with a corner or the bed) as a way to build momentum.

3. “Touch Grass” – Go Outside

This lighthearted saying has gained popularity among those who spend too much inside on a screen. While funny, “go touch grass” actually provides benefits from taking a break and going outside occasionally. (This is something that I need to remind myself of as well since I’m a person who mainly works between being at a desk or a couch).

There is something simply powerful about changing your environment and connecting with nature. It can be as simple as getting outside to go on a walk and get some fresh air. Even going outside in natural sunlight has been known to help reduce fatigue as it can regulate our natural internal clock of being awake. So, even if it’s just five to 10 minutes, take a moment to step outside.

4. Reconnect with Personal Values

Finally, take a moment to consider your why this season for refreshing your brain! Identifying and reflecting on your values and what to prioritize in your life can be a compass for how to live in a fulfilling way. Our brains love to take the path of least resistance, so doing new and potentially challenging things makes us more inclined not to do them. If the strategies above feel too daunting for you, reconnect to your why. Identifying your actions with your values makes room for new habits or even old ones that need revamping to be more sustainable and worthwhile.

Embrace the Renewal That Spring Brings

As the flowers bloom and the world awakens from its winter slumber, let us embark on a journey of spring cleaning for our minds. By focusing on mindfulness, decluttering, spending time in nature, and reconnecting with our personal values, we can create spaciousness and clarity within ourselves. Embrace the renewal that spring brings and jumpstart on a refreshed, rejuvenated, and more meaningful life.