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What Does Psychology Tell Us About the Benefits of Spring Cleaning?

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Albert Einstein

March is the month when spring arrives with blossoming trees, birds chirping and the sun on your face. For many people it is a time associated with spring cleaning whether it is cleaning out and organising cupboards and wardrobes or decluttering. At the end of these endeavours, we might look at the extra space that has been created, the sparkling windows and the benefits of organised wardrobes and cupboards. More importantly, the results of spring cleaning have been associated with improved mood, feeling ‘lighter’, decreased stress and increased creativity. Why is this? Clutter can increase stress as it distracts us and overwhelms us by giving us the idea that there is so much going on. For example, piles of papers can indicate that work is endless and that even when we finish what we are working on, there is more to be done. Some research shows that the stress hormone, cortisol, increases when people perceive their homes as cluttered.

A disorganized space is also associated with less physical activity whereas organization and order have been associated with choosing to eat more healthily, being more generous, and predictability.

So, while organizing and discarding items is time consuming and difficult decisions sometimes have to be made as to what to keep and what to remove and this might not be enjoyable for you – the longer term psychological effects are a good reason for spring cleaning.

With nature reawakening from being dormant all winter, there’s a sense of hopefulness in the air, a light hearted energy of change and new beginnings. That makes spring a good season for letting your mind experience space and fun and you may want to try the following suggestions: Be out in nature. Nature gives you space to breathe, let go of work and reconnect with the present moment. It can be as simple as spending time on your deck, in your garden or going to a park, sea front or our glorious South Downs National Park. Just commit to being outside for at least 15-30 minutes a day.

Get creative. Add some fun back into your routine and try starting up an activity again that you used to enjoy or start a brand new activity. Being creative is an important human need. Maybe start singing, painting, writing, playing a musical instrument or learn a new language.

Move away from the negative. If you watch too much negative news, or spend too much time with people who are negative thinkers, it can bring you down. Choose to surround yourself with uplifting people, read some positive stories, watch something funny and share positive aspects of your life. It is not about hiding away from reality or pretending, but it is about having some mental space that feels as good as a spring clean, the sun on your face, a gentle breeze with a sense of your favourite aroma and as though you are riding on a current of pleasure.

Posted in Wellbeing Practice on Mar 01, 2016