As the weather shifts in the Northern Hemisphere, the birds are chirping, the trees are beginning to bud, and we throw open our windows for fresh air and sunshine. Spring is a great time to clean your home as winter wanes.
For many of us, winter is also a time of solitude, introspection, and lowered physical activity. Whether it’s “winter blues" or a diagnosable condition like Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter can be emotionally, socially, and psychologically difficult.
Spring isn't only a chance to air out the house and clean behind the stove--it's also an opportunity to Spring Clean your wellness.
Be sure to check out the other Wellness articles on the NASM Blog.
Spring Cleaning Your Mind
When it comes to behavior, your mind has two broad modes. The first is all the daily automatic actions you take without thinking. Think of how intentional a small child is at brushing their teeth or getting dressed. Over time each of us becomes more automatic with actions we repeatedly take, making brain resources more available for other things.
In contrast to our automatic behaviors are intentional actions. The things we do with focus and direction require more attention. These behaviors are costly to the brain. This contrast between automatic and intentional is one of the reasons habits can be difficult to change. New habits require that you be intentional about what was previously automatic.
Spring cleaning for your mind is the opportunity to step back and review what you've been up to this winter. What habits, thoughts, or behaviors became automatic that isn't aligned with your wellness? Further, how can you update your Wellness Plan to support what you discover while you spring clean your mind?
Journal prompt: What habits have you developed this winter that are supporting your wellness? Which habits are detracting from your wellness goals?
Meaningful, positive change starts with an awareness of your behavior, the awareness that your current actions aren't helping you reach your goals, and the concentration and control to make positive change. Building those skills can start or be enhanced through meditation.
You've likely heard a lot about meditation as it's become more common and accessible but may also struggle with a clear definition. Meditation is a self-directed, intentional practice where you focus on an object, idea, or action and lets go of the intention to analyze, judge, or even have expectations of the practice itself.
Want to see how you can bring wellness to life? Learn more through our Certified Wellness Coach course.
Meditation has a variety of benefits including boosting your mood, building feelings of connection to others, an improved immune response likely due to lower overall stress, improved ability to focus and concentrate, shifting your relationship to pain, and boosting your sense of overall vitality and optimism.
What you may not realize is different types of meditation can cause different outcomes. Just like you need different cleaning products for different areas in your house and different types of filth or fabric, different meditations give us different benefits:
Type of Meditation:
• Unique Outcomes
• Intentional observation of a specific aspect of your experience, like your breathing
• Benefits to mental health, immune function, self-awareness, self-control, lower self-judgment
• Loving-Kindness (also called Metta)
• Extending positive feelings of love and kindness first to others and then to oneself
• Increased feelings of connection, improved mental health, decreased pain sensitivity, increased well-being, improved HRV, decreased rumination
• Focused Attention
• Repeated words or phrases (such as a mantra), focused attention on a visual (watching a candle), or repeated movement patterns
• Increases ability to focus decreases frequency and intensity of interrupting thoughts, improved ability to be "at the moment"
• Body Scan
• Bringing your awareness to different parts of the body and observing the sensations or lack of sensations throughout the body
• Increased awareness of the body and interpretation of its signals, increased enjoyment of meditation, easy to learn
As you consider the last year and how you fared this winter, which benefits in the table above will be most helpful in resetting your mindset? As with all effective habit change, consider when and where you'll meditate, for how long each day, and what else will you need to support successful change.
Spring Clean Your Self-Care
We often talk about the mind and body as separate. You are a holistic human being, and your mind is one part of your body and your experience. Spring cleaning your mind doesn't end at your head. What happens in your gut, muscles, and even your skin can have an impact on your mind, thoughts, and mindset. That's why airing out your overall self-care can have a big boost to your wellness and mindset.
Spring cleaning your self-care starts with your foundational physical needs. Consistently meeting your needs for nourishing food, movement, adequate sleep and rest, hydration, connection, safety, and time in nature creates the foundation for mental health and well-being.
To Spring Clean your self-care, take a step back and consider the following questions:
• What does your body need to thrive? What creates the physical foundation for your well-being?
• Which foundational physical needs are currently being met? Which are not?
• How can I use my strengths to ensure my physical needs are met?
• Where in my life do I need guidance or support?
Your wellness journey is the pursuit of "mental, physical, and emotional betterment of life.” In my experience as a Certified Wellness Coach, that journey is most effective when the tools and lessons of wellness are woven together in a lifestyle that supports lasting well-being. To do so requires occasionally stepping back, finding what's working or what is not, and making tweaks along the way.
Successful spring cleaning of your mind, and weaving those lessons sustainably, happens when we have reflection, structure, and feedback. As you spring clean your mind finds time to journal, share with a trusted friend, or seek out a coach you like and trust to support your efforts toward wellness, wholeness, and well-being.
Want more info on how to incorporate wellness into your day-to-day? Head to NASM’s Certified Wellness Coach course.
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