I live in a northern place, and we take our springs very seriously. Every clue that the harshness of winter is softening, that the world is waking up around us, we take notice. We mark every rising degree of warmth, every minute the light lingers in the evening, every new flower bulb emerging. We discuss these things with loved ones and strangers. We turn ourselves toward spring and hold fast, like a ship coming into safe harbor.
One of many rites of spring is the “spring cleaning” of our indoor and outdoor spaces. Indoors, we open the windows to let in fresh, clean air, vanquishing the darkness and dust accumulated over winter. Outside we take to the garden beds and get things ready for planting. It’s like the earth is celebrating, and we want in on the party.
These rituals feel good. Tending to the space around us strengthens our sense of efficacy. Taming the chaos and putting even a small corner of your things in order creates inner and outer calm.
In this post, I’d like you to consider another space that is worthy the same care and attention, and perhaps a spring cleaning of its own. That space is your mind. Your brain, the organ whose filters and functioning create your entire experience of your life….It is worthy of the same care and attention you give to your living spaces, your vehicle, your closet.
What do you do when you “spring clean” those external places? You set aside time and attention. You gather up things that aren’t serving you: clutter, dirt, the worn-out things – and let them go. You attend to the things you love and want to last – you give them some shine, some TLC.
You can apply a similar process to your mind.
Set aside some time, even just 5 or 10 minutes would be a great way to start. Have a pen and paper handy or open a document on your computer or phone. Just be still, take a deep breath, and write. Jot down all the sentences from your brain. Don’t censor, don’t worry about how it sounds. Just notice what comes up. How are you really feeling? What are the primary thoughts that are present for you on any given day?
After you have downloaded all of those thoughts onto the page – read over what you’ve written down. Just as you do when you’re cleaning out a drawer: Look over all the sentences you’ve lifted from the drawer of your mind. What’s useful and what isn’t? Ask: how is this serving me? Is this way of thinking just worn out?
Another great question to ask yourself: Is this thought even true? So much of what our brain offers us is pure prediction, speculation, crystal ball reading, mind reading of others. Yet it is broadcast to us by our brains as fact, like it’s just the weather report.
You get to decide. Just like you take care of the things around you that you love, you get to take care of this inner world, too. You get to decide what’s worth keeping. What is your brain holding onto that is that’s actually just an old, negative mix tape from the nineties? Can you clear some of the mental clutter to make space for what you cherish?
What are the things in your brain that, as Marie Kondo would say, “spark joy” — inspire hope, growth, compassion for yourself and others?
The disruption of the last few years may feel like the longest, hardest of winters. You may feel stuck in survival mode or burnout after all you’ve had to endure. All the more reason to take a look at what’s going on inside your mind. Can you turn inward and notice, with curiosity and compassion, where you need to make a mental shift?
What do you want to think – on purpose? This is where all your power is.
I hope this post inspires you to give your mind — and yourself — some loving attention, the way you tend to all the spaces, people, and things around you. How you feel matters. You matter.