Spring Cleaning

It’s been almost a year since I started writing this newsletter, and this is my first chance to talk about spring. In this issue, I’ll writing about the lifestyle changes that go hand–in–hand with the coming of spring, and next month I’ll write about spring diets: detoxes and fasts. An important part of spring is the time–honored tradition of “spring cleaning.” The change in the weather enables changes in many other ways: we can change our wardrobe, change our activities, and generally reorganize ourselves for the period to come. One thing I’ve noticed when working with clients is how they find it much easier to accomplish their goals when their surroundings encourage it. Having a healthy and supportive home environment is very important for spurring you to take on new challenges, or even just to keep doing what you’re doing in a peaceful setting. A good general rule to follow when spring cleaning is Thoreau’s message from Walden: “Simplify.” In other words, I recommend that you pack a bag and depart for a small cabin in the woods with a pond nearby. But if, by chance, that’s not feasible for you at the moment, I have some less rigorous recommendations.

Clean out your kitchen. It is so much easier to eat healthy if you have counter space and healthy food in your refrigerator. Put away almost every kitchen tool and box of food that you don’t use every day until you have a good amount of clear counter space where you can prepare food. Even if you don’t prepare food, having clear space is important because it gives you more possibilities and peace of mind. Unless you are a Zen Buddhist, leave a few often–used tools out. Too much clear space can also signify an under–used kitchen. I also recommend looking through your refrigerator and cupboards for processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or any ingredients that you have trouble pronouncing, and tossing those in the wastebasket. These foods can cause health problems like weight gain and arterial blockage, and many others. The same with any food you know you’re not going to eat. Throw it away! Don’t eat it to use it up, if you know it’s not good for you. That’s treating your body like a wastebasket.

Include more fresh air and green things. We are all healthier with more oxygen. As the air starts to warm up, open the windows more often and let some fresh air in. You may feel surprisingly more clear–headed and positive than usual. Plants also provide oxygen through photosynthesis, and they look nice.

Cancel some projects. Spring is a good time to grow and thrive, not to become overburdened with responsibilities. As a way of simplifying, let go of some things that you don’t enjoy any more or that you feel like are just obligations. You want to focus your energy on a few things that are really important to you, and enjoy them to the fullest.

Plan out what you want to do. Some people find it helpful to have a written record of what their goals are, especially those of us who tend to think too much. As I said before, spring is a time for growth and cleansing. Plants are always trying to grow towards the sunlight (which accounts for the odd shapes of some trees). Figure out what direction you want to grow in; whether you want to improve your career situation, increase your family, improve your health and eating habits, start exercising, learn something new, or grow spiritually. Once you’ve figured it out, do a few things towards this goal every day and enjoy yourself the rest of the time.

Follow the principle of fasting. Spring is a time when many people follow detoxifying diets, or fasts, of just vegetables, fruit and vegetable juice, or just water. As I said, I’ll write about these diets next time—right now, in my part of the country, it’s too soon to start doing a fast. However, you can fast in more ways than just “food fasting.” If you can, take some time, at least a few days, to abstain or withdraw from all the demands of life, and clear your head. Detoxify yourself of thoughts and emotions that may be leading you in an unproductive direction. Just as important as releasing stored toxins from unhealthy foods is to release stored stress and emotional tension.

One final note about spring cleaning: make sure you wait until spring is really here to follow a detoxifying diet. Sometimes we can be too eager and eat a very light diet while it is still winter time. Keep eating filling and satisfying meals up until you’re really sure it’s spring; that way, when you do fast, your fast will probably be much healthier and last longer.