Most people are stuck in their house, except for an occasional trip to the grocery store and perhaps a walk or bike ride outside. Those who are still working generally drive directly to their office and then directly home. For the sake of all of our health, we are all working to socially distance ourselves and stop the spread of the CoVid-19 virus, or at least should be! Now is an excellent time to really consider what “spring cleaning” can mean to you!
1. Clean your home. Look through your closet, what have you not worn since last year? What is ruined, or no longer fits? Do the same for your children’s closets, your linen closets, and even your pantry. Being able to donate things feels very good, and it also gets rid of clutter. Right now it might be difficult to actually donate things, but do not fret, Goodwill and other agencies that serve the less fortunate will need donations, and will likely need more than they ever have before! If you have ever done a full deep clean, you might have found a sweater that you thought you lost, or toys that your children forgot about it. It’s not about getting rid of a certain amount of things, its about having things that we need and things that make our life better.
2. Clean out your thoughts. For the rest of the month, keep a journal about how you have been thinking. Are your thoughts positive overall? Or are they negative? Are they obsessive over certain topics, or do you jump back and forth between tasks? Consider how YOU can be more organized, and get to work on those things. People often behave as though their thoughts are out of their control, but this is simply not true. Our feelings are automatic (happy, sad, mad, etc), but thoughts are flexible. I can choose to tell myself nice things, or I can choose to tell myself mean things. I might not believe good things at first, but we believe what we hear. So, if you constantly tell yourself that you are not a good person, you will believe that you are not a good person. If you start to tell yourself that you are a good person, eventually you will start to believe that. Do you remember in the 1980’s when there was a movement to look in to the mirror, flex, and say nice things to yourself? It sounds silly, but it’s surprisingly legit. Don’t believe me? Find the happiest people you know, I can almost guarantee you that they spend time focusing on their thoughts and ensuring that they remain positive.
3. Clean up your words. How often do you tell someone else that they “always” or “never’s?” How often do you tell yourself that you are a stupid person because you made a mistake? Most people do whatever you are angry about at some point, for example, making statements like “you never wash the dishes” is difficult, because is it true that in their entire life they have never washed the dishes? Now, I know that someone is going to say “I never murdered anyone,” go with me on this one, you know what I mean. When we say things like “you always disagree with me,” you are negating every time the person actually did agree with you, which then triggers a defensive response on their part. If you can be “stupid” because you failed one test, then for every test you passed, I would hope that you think you are amazing. No one is all or nothing. If you talk that way, you will believe it, because (remember) we believe what we hear.
4. Clean up your body. What are you putting in to your body? And what does your body need? Being isolated in the home has increased relapse for those who use drugs or alcohol to a harmful extent. Even for those who are not actively addicts, people are drinking more throughout the day. What sort of food are you eating? Reducing the amount of unhealthy food that you put in your body will reduce the amount of time and energy your body has to spend converting that food in to energy, and you will have more energy. If you cannot recall when the last time you drank a tall glass of water, start now, it has been too long! I am not advocating for a diet, for depriving yourself, or for any particular eating pattern. Food is fuel and should be viewed as such. Do you intentionally put awful gasoline in to your car? Then why do we put the worst foods in to our body the most often? Feeding yourself right and still feeling sluggish? MOVE. Seriously. Moving will help you have more energy. You do not have to run a marathon, but taking a walk or a bike ride will not only get you some much needed fresh air and sun exposure, but it also gets your body moving. Most people are moving less than they ever have, especially if they are 100% quarantined and can’t go out for a walk. But the whole world is going through this, and so if you cannot leave your home for the walk, look on Youtube and find a yoga video that is intended for in the home. Find a dance video for your kids. Find something, anything you can do that will get your heart pumping.
5. Clean up your relationships. Being isolated from others gives us a rare opportunity to actually sit back and look at our relationships. Are the relationships that we have with others healthy? Or are they unhealthy? In this case, I am not just speaking of your intimate partner, although that is clearly one to consider. If you have people in your life who treat you poorly, or who have a negative impact on your life, now is a good time to decide what kind of a role do you want them to play in your life, if any at all? If you find that you need to cut people out of your life, consider how you can do that in a healthy way that honors you both. In ending relationships, we do not need to be mean.
6. Clean up your memories. Are you holding on to something that happened in the past and refusing to let it go? Why are you allowing something that happened however long ago to control the present? Forgiveness is certainly not the same as forgetting, but how much time we spend talking about it or dwelling on it is our decision. Are you the person you are refusing to forgive? How is it helping you, or anyone else, for you to remain focused on something negative that you did? Focusing on the present and future not only gets us “out” of the past, but can also reduce or anxiety, as we are not focused on negativity in both directions.
Except for the first tip, none of these things are easy to do, and quite frankly, that first one is not very easy either. People will adamantly tell me that they “cannot” do something that is asked of them, that they cannot change their thoughts, or that they have no control over their relationships. With that sort of thinking, they are 100% correct. True change happens in our life when we take control over it, and not one second sooner. I am not suggesting that people have the ability to control others, nor am I suggesting that things that happen around us will not affect us, that would be silly. What I am suggesting is that in all circumstances we have the opportunity to choose how we will react. Consider some of the horrific things that happened in concentration camps, and many people who survived maintained their own sense of self, even in the most awful moments any person could experience. They maintained their sense of self because they knew that they could not control what others did, they could only control how they reacted to it.
If the term “spring cleaning” has taken on a new meaning, then my message is out. Cleaning out our house, or a flower bed, or even a car may feel great. But long-lasting growth requires work. Happiness in life is not a destination, but a manner of traveling (Margaret Lee Runback), which means that if I want happiness, I need to find a way to maintain that, and that takes work. I also have to accept that some days I am not going to be happy, and that does not mean that I have fallen back in to any negative pattern, it just means that my life isn’t perfect. Honestly, there is a lot of freedom in accepting that we aren’t perfect. You might be surprised.