Dr Stephanie Minchin is a Clinical Psychologist in the NHS, a Trainee Yoga Therapist and a Yoga Teacher with weekly yoga classes in Hackney (@theyogapsychologist)
It’s May. We welcome the longer days, a hint of al fresco dining-evenings and a vibrant energy as London-folk wear bigger smiles and smaller garments. With brighter skies and lighter air, less is key. Considering a de-clutter? If Spring signifies being out with the old and in with the new, grant yourself that little more space to breathe… on the inside.
There are some suggestions that the history of spring cleaning dates back to Iranian traditions shared at the time of the Persian New Year, with “khooneh tekouni” meaning to “shake the house”. Similarly, in Chinese traditions around the time of the new year homes are cleaned of bad luck and misfortunes in order to welcome in the new year with prosperity.
So what about when we ourselves need a little ‘shake up’ to rid the negatives and create a more welcoming, cleansed and thriving environment for positive beginnings? Are our emotional selves the last thing that we seek to ‘clean’? Perhaps only when our physical environment is prepped we are ready to nest and turn our attention inwards to the bits that require a little spruce.
Spring cleaning is to clean all of a place, very well, including parts you do not often clean. Looking introspectively, there are areas not dusted off as often and little nooks where the dirt builds, yet we turn a blind-eye to avoid the unpleasant emotional residue; this is exactly where we need the deepest clean. Why is it that some areas are overlooked, ignored and hidden, (un)consciously not spruced for a particular reason? Perhaps it is too time-consuming, too much effort, or may be a little bit painful; making meaningful changes in life can take effort, time and energy.
An advocate of cleansing of the inessential was Bruce Lee, one of his main philosophies was “Simplify”. Our lives can be full of unnecessary things and emotional baggage, yet Bruce Lee suggests that “daily decrease” to “hack away the unessential” is the key to personal growth and self-development. “The process to simplify is like a sculptor who continuously chisels away all the inessentials until he creates a masterpiece” (Bruce Lee). The philosophy of simplifying draws us back to the core essentials of maintaining what serves our happiness and life purpose, and letting go of what/who no longer has a value or position in our life. Living more mindfully with increased self-awareness can support a re-discovery of energy and passion.
Karolyn A. Gazella suggests a psychological detox consists of allowing yourself to capitulate (surrender to the activities of each day, letting go or celebrating them exactly as they are), remediate (make right and remedy), exuberate (express great joy) and affirm (make positive statements about yourself).
A de-cluttering of ‘things’ is about cleansing the cobwebs of negative thoughts, unhealthy habit patterns, destructive behaviours and toxic relationships. It is easy to become and remain attached to the meaningless for a sense of safety and security despite no longer supporting personal growth, for it can be daunting to venture into the unfamiliar and unknown. Embrace the process of change for it leads to the path of true development.
Consider the metaphorical skeletons hidden at the back of the wardrobe; what types of ‘things’ do you store and how are they emotionally resonant? For what we hold, we can perpetuate and attract more of the same in repetitive cycles. In firstly trying to identify what it is you need to simplify and declutter, think of a hot air balloon. It uses gas to lift as the pilot empties the sandbags overboard. Emptying the sandbags makes the balloon lighter, allowing it to fly. If the sandbags are represented as the heaviness of tensions and emotional blockages, what are your sandbags?
Inner cleanse – Questions to consider:
What emotional blockages are you experiencing and how do they prevent you from growing?
What are you hoarding and holding, and for what purpose?
What are you holding onto, with what intention and why?
In what way(s) is it still serving you? How are you attached?
What space (physical and/or emotional) may be created by the removal/cutting/letting go; and how might you do this?
What are you desiring, in line with which values?
Sweep & scrub the mind:
Is your spring clean this year all about a light surface dust, or are you ready to delve deeper into the dirt? What sprucing would be helpful to you for the year head? As all long journeys start with one step, most spring cleans start with do-able actions:
Prep the environment – a clear desk is a clear mind
Be honest with yourself
Acknowledge how painful things are – begin with what you are avoiding most and have given the least attention to
Purge old attitudes and open perspectives to make space for freedom
Power of imagery – visualize what it looks like, how the space feels, how you can move, be and exist after the spring clean, and notice what is different?
Re-energise – restore what is stale and stuck
Create lists – with actions, priorities, and positive affirmations
Allow yourself to experience the journey of cleansing – the highs of fitting into your ‘skinny’ jeans and the challenges of discovering romantic notes from ex-lovers which no longer bear sentiment.
Unplug – digital detox, live in the moment, not online
Brighter days symbolise a time of re-awakening; as we arise from the wintery hibernation we experience a shift in energy and are ready for something new. Honour yourself with a little spring clean on the inside, a process of healing to make mental clarity and emotional cleansing. Perhaps it’s time to tidy up more than your wardrobe…