Behaviour, Depression, General | September 9, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Spring is in the air and soon people will be scrambling to take part in the yearly tradition of “spring cleaning”. Regrettably, what should be a time of renewal and refreshment can instead become a source of stress and unhappiness for those who focus solely on chores. After all, who really enjoys housework? Instead of becoming a slave to the physical tasks that often come with spring cleaning, we can look at the occasion as a time to clean-up and clear out the unhealthy influences in multiple aspects of our day-to-day lives. This change in attitude will allow you to approach the season with a new sense of purpose and direction, plus the confidence to know that that this year’s spring cleaning will lead to real long-term improvements in your quality of life (instead of just a temporarily tidy home).
Adopting a new attitude about the purpose of the seasonal activity, as described above, is a critical first step in the process of spring cleaning your mind. After this commitment has been made, you can continue by paying closer attention to your own thoughts.
A lot of people respond to their thoughts as if it were a reflex, with little contemplation in between having the original idea and taking the corresponding action. This is how toxic thinking patterns can form without our awareness. Taking a moment to reflect upon your thoughts as they happen can help you identify ways that your thinking patterns may be causing harm to yourself and/or those around you. A good method for achieving this level of awareness is the adoption of a mindful perspective. If that sounds daunting to you then hang in there. We’re not talking about full-on meditation (though it’s not a bad idea to look into it) but rather a basic guideline for examining your own thoughts.
Mindfulness can be a difficult concept to describe, but having a mindful perspective simply means that you place a focus on the present. For example, without mindfulness, you may associate a baby with fragility (from a past experience) and feel nervous, or perceive an unwanted responsibility and feel burdened (a potential future scenario). However, if you are mindful, you focus on the present moment and experience the joy of a tiny wiggling creature as it exists before you.
In the above situation we can see how an unkempt mind can influence our observations, mainly by keeping us distracted from the present with the remembered past and projected future (neither of which are very accurate). Spring cleaning in the form of mindful practice will teach you how to get better in touch with your own thought processes and help you get more out of the experience at hand.
Exercise! Yes, you’ve heard it a million times but that’s because it’s true; adding a moderate amount of exercise to your routine is a guaranteed way to improve your mental and physical health.
Of course, despite being well aware of this fact, plenty of us are still guilty of neglecting exercise all together.
The modern tendency to spend a large amount of time sitting behind screens isn’t doing us any favors in this department, but making a focused effort to exercise is worth any extra work it may take to temporarily break our technological addictions.
There are a number of ways that you can clean-up your diet during the spring season to the benefit of your mind and body. We all know that eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit will always have a positive effect on our health all year round but it is also very important to identify, reduce and/or eliminate harmful substances from your selection of foods.
Good initial targets for reduction include:
Gluten has been a hot topic for many years and remains an important consideration, though the concept is much less mysterious than some may suggest. The term simply refers to a group of plant proteins found in wheat, barley, oat and similar grains. Gluten is relatively harmless for most people, but problems arise for those who suffer from one of several conditions that cause adverse reactions to the proteins.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to be disrupted by gluten and similar proteins. Sufferers of celiac disease experience a host of gastrointestinal problems along with impairments in nutrient absorption. Less severe reactions in the form of gluten and similar allergies can be less obvious but remain an issue, so it may benefit you to try out a gluten-free diet during spring cleaning just to see if you feel any better than usual.
A lack of sleep (aka sleep deprivation) can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack/stroke and the development of mood disorders. Unfortunately, very few lifestyles allow a person to get the recommended amount of sleep for their age group. This spring, make it a goal to get more sleep if possible, assuming you don’t get enough already. Everyone (sleep deprived or not) can also benefit from practicing good sleep hygiene. These techniques will help you get the most out of the time you do get to sleep.
There are a variety of ways to practice good sleep hygiene. Some tips include:
Finally, let’s return to the inspiration for our spring cleaning attitude adjustment and discuss how we can improve our local environment with wellbeing in mind instead of just cleanliness. Focus on the project as an opportunity to remove harmful substances from your home and other areas where you may spend a lot of time (car, yard, shed, etc.). Dirt, dust, molds and grime all count as being potentially harmful, but also look for other unhealthy materials that may have collected under the cupboards or in the garage.
Basner, M., Rao, H., Goel, N., & Dinges, D. F. (2013) Sleep deprivation and neurobehavioral dynamics. Current opinion in neurobiology, 23(5), 854-863.
Chiesa, A. (2013). The difficulty of defining mindfulness: Current thought and critical issues. Mindfulness, 4(3), 255-268.
Gibson, P. R. (2015). Editorial: noncoeliac gluten sensitivity–the controversy rages on. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 42(10), 1234-1234.
Manolis, A. S. (2016). You are what you eat, hence curtail saturated and trans fats, free sugars and salt. Hospital Chronicles, 11(2), 65-76.