Maybe it’s the fresh breeze. Maybe it’s the return of the birds, the budding of trees and the sense of renewal these seasonal gifts always bring with them. Whatever the reason spring always feels like a time of clean starts to me — a great time to do an inventory of our lives’ little cobwebs and dusty zones.
I take a broad perspective on the tradition of spring-cleaning, and see it as an ideal opportunity to reflect not just on the state of one’s home, but on all aspects of one’s life and on what the whole notion of “clean living” means to you.
Think for a moment: If you were living the cleanest, most honest, least cluttered version of your own life, what would that look and feel like? What messes would you be free of, and what kind of energy and focus would be freed up as a result?
In my mind, clean living starts with being clean and unencumbered in one’s thinking. By this, I mean being open and authentic in your intentions, clear-headed in the way you perceive challenges and opportunities, and selective in the thought patterns you entertain on a daily basis.
Psychologists estimate that the majority of our thinking is habitually occupied by recycled thoughts, and that on any given day, only a small percentage of our neurological activity involves new ideas or information. Consider the amount of mental pollution you could be hosting if even a small percentage of your recycled thoughts are troubling worries, memories or anxiety-producing obsessions.
And just imagine the purifying potential of introducing fresh, positive thoughts and perspectives into your mental mix — whether by challenging old ideas and patterns, by actively pursuing a new vision, or by simply meditating on an uplifting idea, sensation or sound.
Another element of clean living concerns our relationships and interactions with others. If you’re carrying around bad feelings and resentments, dark grudges, fears, and negative perceptions about other people (or about yourself), that will weigh you down and make everything else you do seem painfully hard and heavy. It will also tend to attract other messes of all kinds, from anxiety-management strategies that don’t serve you, to self-soothing and self-armoring habits that undermine your physical and mental health.
Clearing up old misunderstandings, honestly owning up to past mistakes, thoughtfully forgiving old trespasses, and expressing unspoken feelings can all be powerful ways of bringing fresh energy and possibilities into our relationships.
A third important area of clean living involves being respectful of your body and thoughtful about what you put into it. Once you’ve decided that you’re no longer going to feed your body junk (processed sugars and flours, trans fats, artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, and other chemicals), other healthy eating choices become a great deal easier.
When you’re eating clean, whole foods, your body’s natural healing capacity is also free to focus on creating and safeguarding optimal vitality, rather than just taking out the burgeoning piles of daily trash.
You may be astonished at how cleaning up your eating affects not just your physical well-being, but your thoughts and feelings, too.
Of course, no discussion of spring cleaning would be complete without some attention to our surroundings. Being surrounded by clutter, dirt, garbage, noise or disorganization is incredibly stressful, and it drags down all of your other efforts at clean living. Think about how a messy car can darken your mood during your daily commute, how a chaotic living space can lead to arguments, how a dirty kitchen or stale smells can dissuade you from wanting to prepare healthy food.
Our outer surroundings are both a reflection of our inner states and a profound influence on them. That’s why cleaning up messes in one area of our lives almost always benefits us in several others.
It’s essential to remember, though, that our environment does not stop at the boundaries of our body, home or property line. It extends to the far reaches of our communities, our planet, and its atmosphere, too. That’s why we can’t afford to be careless about the stuff we consume or about the waste and byproducts we create, and it’s why all of us benefit by becoming more respectful citizen-inhabitants of the Earth we call home.
Just as the way we eat and think can create vitality or illness in the body, the way we relate to our planet can support sustainability and abundance or diminish it. So live clean, live well, and enjoy all the fresh-start opportunities this delightful season inspires.