Spring cleaning is a ritual some people enjoy and others skip, but whatever your attitude might be, spring is a time of renewal and freshness. Your body is programmed by evolution to sense the awakening of spring, but what about your mind? Mind and body are intimately connected, so spring is already affecting your whole system. In short, you are set by default to feel renewed and at the same time to bring renewal to your body.
Let's bring the qualities of spring into your life during this season.
After winter hibernation, nature starts to move again in spring, and you should join in. Taking a walk outdoors, if only for a few moments, allows the warmth of the sun to warm you, while at a deeper level the stimulus of sunlight activates rhythms via the pineal gland and hypothalamus in the brain. At a simple level, getting your body used to moving again rebalances its energy.
Your metabolism shifts in springtime and is managed by the hypothalamus, which is the brain region that chooses where energy should go and how much. In spring, energy supplies are sent to the more active areas of the body like the muscles, so this is a good time to devote yourself to exercise directed at cardio and muscle strength.
Spring moves you out of a dark season, and in the state of Nature, plants and animals find it much easier to find food and pursue a wide range of activity, such as mating and giving birth. Humans experience this as spring fever, but going inward, there's a lightness of mind that translates into lightness in the body, too. So make "lightness" a theme for daily activity. Whatever is heavy and dull in your life should be addressed. Find ways to play, laugh, and smile. Meditate to revive your lightness of being.
The clutter, debris, and dead remnants of winter are swept away in spring. The natural world becomes fresh again. Spring cleaning is one response to this natural phase, but look at other ways to bring freshness to your life. This can include ways as simple as buying fresh flowers to eating light, fresh, natural foods. At the same time, making way for fresh new things involves cleaning out the accumulation of toxins.
At the Chopra Center, the procedures of Ayurveda, especially panchakarma, are the major ways to perform whole-system detoxification. Yet there are natural things you can do to aid your body's own detox mechanisms. The first is getting good sleep, because it is now known that the brain actually cleans out physical debris at night, probably the most important kind of detox. Second comes reducing inflammation, which exists at a low chronic level in most people in modern society.
Physically, inflammation is connected to everyday things you may often take for granted. You need to start paying attention, however, because research is connecting low-level inflammation to a host of lifestyle disorders from heart disease and hypertension to obesity and diabetes.
Generally, when we think of inflammation, we visualize red, puffy skin or the swelling that takes place around a wound, or the red eyes and fever of a cold. That is acute inflammation, which is totally necessary as part of our body's immune defense. Low-level chronic inflammation is generally invisible—it can be microscopic, like the inflammation of the lining of blood vessels, which is associated with heart disease and diabetes, for example.
Low-level chronic inflammation is prevalent in a stressed-out society addicted to sugar, junk food, and demanding schedules that induce tension and stress. The good news is that you have the power to construct your own anti-inflammation lifestyle, and once you do, you can expect huge benefits in how you age, whether you get sick or not, and almost every other aspect of your well-being.
Reducing inflammation is incredibly important, and you can go a long way by following some simple lifestyle choices:
- Reduce fat and sugar in your diet.
- Eat organic natural foods.
- Avoid toxins present in stale cooking oil and leftovers.
- Don't use tobacco or alcohol.
- Avoid or cut out entirely packaged food, junk food, and fast food.
- Take active steps to reduce everyday stress.
- Practice yoga and begin to meditate.
- Stay out of situations that trigger toxic emotions like anger and anxiety.
Naturally, you can't adopt all of these things at once, but they give you the outline of an anti-inflammation lifestyle. Whatever you choose, make sure it makes you more relaxed and less tense.
For the long term, detoxing your mind is just as important—and probably more so. Mental toxins consist of old memories, traumas, and conditioning that have thrown you into undesirable attitudes and habits. The net result is constricted awareness. The mind contracts to try and find a safe zone, however small, that isn't toxified. Healing happens when you can expand your awareness—only then can your life be truly renewed. In constricted awareness, too much time and energy is wasted in fear, resentment, depression, victimization, and self-defense.
A healing path opens by realizing one thing: You cannot change what you aren't aware of. The best therapy is anything that allows you to let go, relax, find your true center, and let awareness escape its boundaries to experience expansion. Meditation accomplishes all of these things, so it comes first and foremost. But yoga, therapy, playfulness, loving relationships, and a sense of personal security also can play important roles.
Spring, it turns out, can be a time of total renewal, beginning with spring cleaning on the inside.