“Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.” Mary Oliver
At last Spring has finally arrived! The snow has melted, the daffodils are smiling and the sun has even made a few appearances.
For me the arrival of Spring brings a sense of renewal emotionally. Just as nature has been in hibernation, we too can use this time to rub our eyes from winter’s sleep and awake to a new phase of our lives. It’s time for a fresh start.
One effective way to open ourselves to this new phase is to undergo a good old fashioned Spring clean.
Researchers from Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute have confirmed that being physically surrounded by our clutter or “multiple stimuli” lowers our ability to process information and makes us feel chaotic. Our domestic mess can cause a build up of cortisol in the brain, which is an indicator associated with depression and poor coping skills.
A Spring clean allows a new space to open up, physically and emotionally. After being cooped up at home during the long Winter months surrounded by our stuff, a clean allows an element of freedom to become available and for me allows the opportunity for creativity and growth. By having a clear out, we essentially loose the weight of our clutter, and this very physical process can make us feel less burdened psychologically.
Applying some of concepts of a physical Spring clean to our emotional health can be greatly beneficial. We all carry around a certain amount of emotional clutter. Just as with our physical junk, this baggage within ourselves will be made of a myriad of things; painful memories, guilt, negative thoughts, anxieties etc etc…
Without a decent review and clear out, this physic clutter can build up to the point of overwhelming us. It begins to control us and becomes all encompassing. The energy we spend carrying around this baggage soon starts to hinder our lives and block any possibility of personal growth. At this point we might start to act out (turning to alcohol or self-harm for example) or get ill physically as a way of unconsciously screaming out for support.
Attending therapy is an effective way of sorting out our emotional clutter and can form part of maintaining or improving our mental health. Your weekly sessions provide you with the much needed time and space to begin to lay out and expose your physic baggage. As therapist, I act as an independent declutterer of sorts, working with you through each piece of clutter, deciding what to keep and what to let go off. Some of the questions (keeping to my Spring clean metaphor) which might be useful in this process could include:
- “Does this still fit me?” – In other words, how useful is this clutter to me? Was it useful when I was younger but now only hinders me? An example could be that we learnt to shut down as a child when faced with difficult situations in order to keep ourselves safe. As adults, to continue to shut down would negatively impact our relationships with others, and not to mention ourselves. And so this old way of being no longer serves us (quite the opposite) and needs to be added to the junk pile.
- “Is this mine?”- this is a therapy classic. It’s the realisation that some elements of our emotional clutter weren’t even ours to begin with. Sometimes we carry around the shame, trauma, anxieties, despair etc of our parents or close others , or even past generations. A key element of healing is then to hand back whatever you are carrying to its rightful owner.
- “Can this be reused/recycled?” – It might be that once identified, not all baggage is wholly negative. After all there is a reason we continue to carry it around within us. By understanding the context and history of our clutter we might be able to reframe it (or recycle it) for future use. There could be past failures or regrets sitting as clutter which could be reframed as possible future passions.
This emotional Spring clean is not about getting rid of our feelings (repression only leads to much bigger issues down the line). It’s about developing our awareness and understanding that we have a choice about how we want to manage our feelings and our associated behavior. We come away feeling lighter and more in control and most importantly gain a far deeper understanding of ourselves.
So now Easter break has arrived, along with the first signs of Spring, this is a great time to have a clear out of not just our physical clutter but also our emotional baggage. So marigolds at the ready – happy cleaning!
Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash
Washing machine photo by Victoria Palacios on Unsplash