Last week I took my daughter to New York City for spring break to look at colleges. But it didn't feel one bit like spring.
In fact, it was so cold we were wearing winter coats and boots, wondering if nature was playing a cruel trick on us.
Even when we returned to Atlanta on Thursday, it was still cold and windy in spite of blossoms popping out on the trees and azalea bushes — a colorful shout of defiance against the abnormal springtime temps.
But this weekend — ah, it was absolutely perfect. It finally felt like spring had arrived with temperatures in the 70's and a pale coating of yellow pine pollen on everything.
The arrival of spring always lightens my heart and soul. It feels like a new beginning, a fresh start that begs us to open our internal windows to release the stale and tired emotions we've carried all winter and allow a light breeze of peace and positivity to wash over us.
I know some of this lightness is just part of the seasonal change. The short days of winter, the lack of sunlight, the cold weather, and the time spent indoors makes us feel cranky at best and sometimes downright depressed. We tend to exercise less, eat heavier foods, and sleep more.
It's amazing how the regenerative powers of sunshine, warm weather, and time outside can almost immediately restore your body and mind. You find yourself eager to clean out clutter, freshen up your home, and get a little exercise.
With a lighter heart and open mind, we also have the opportunity to spring clean our internal lives. We have the chance to hit the re-set button and start over with a shift in attitude and a reawakening to our values, dreams, and sense of purpose for our lives.
The concept of rebirth during the spring isn't simply a religious or seasonal metaphor. Spring is the perfect time to recreate ourselves and blossom into the beautiful potential we envision for our lives.
Everything that happens in your outer life begins with your internal choices or lack thereof. When you are clear about who you want to be and how you wish to live your life, then your choices and actions become as easy and natural as a spring breeze.
Gaining that internal clarity first requires the awareness that it's necessary. It requires you to step back, breathe deeply, and make the conscious decision to evolve, to activate your own metamorphosis.
Here are 8 ways you can begin the internal spring cleaning process.
1. Re-define your core values.
I can't stress enough how important it is to know your core values.
These are the guiding principles of your life around which all decisions and actions should be measured. When you are clear on the values you hold most dear, then it is easy to discern where and how your life doesn't support or reflect those values.
You may have dozens of values, but you need to have a handful (maybe 5-10) that are the most important, non-negotiable driving principles of your life. Here's a good list of values you can use as a thought-starter.
Your values can change over time. At one point in your life, adventure might be a core value and at another point it might be security or flexibility. This is a good time to clear out the old values and reinforce those that are important for your life now.
2. Restore your integrity.
Are there areas of your life that don't reflect your core values or where you are living out-of-alignment with your personal integrity?
Perhaps it's a relationship that is inappropriate or doesn't serve you. Maybe you are accepting something in your job that rubs you the wrong way. Maybe there are parts of your lifestyle that feel inauthentic or meaningless.
Where do you feel your life and your sense of integrity don't match up? What can you do to correct that?
3. Harmonize your close relationships.
There are people in your life whom you love or care for deeply, but perhaps the relationship isn't as strong as it could or should be.
Maybe you've been distracted or neglectful. Or perhaps you've allowed someone to treat you poorly. Sometimes we allow our relationships to slip into periods of inattention or malaise.
How can you bring more harmony, communication, attention, and love to your close relationships? What do you need to release in order to be a better partner, spouse, parent, or friend?
4. Shine up your attitude.
After a winter of discontent, it becomes a habit to allow negativity to dominate our thoughts and words.
We become so accustomed to complaining, worrying, and seeing the glass half empty that we are blinded to all of the beauty and joy we have access to right now, even in this very moment.
Use this time to shift your attention from all that is going wrong in your life to all that is going right. Allow gratitude and joy to move to the forefront of your thoughts, and actively seek to diminish the power and predominance of your worries and frustrations.
Seek out goodness, beauty, love, humor, and positivity. Spend time with people who support this way of being and thinking.
5. Simplify your thinking.
Sweep out extraneous distractions, projects, and tasks that drain your brain energy.
Prioritize just a few main goals for each day, and allow yourself the time to focus on them deeply and thoroughly without being mentally or physically pulled in different directions.
Visualize white space around each goal so you create plenty of room for imagination and critical thinking without anxiety or interruptions.
6. Change up your routines.
Wipe away the old daily routines you've been following all winter long. Shake up your life a bit and create new routines and new ways of doing things.
Our lives become boring and stale when we do the same things day in and day out. Even small changes, like going a different route to work or having your breakfast before your shower rather than after, can make you feel motivated and different.
But consider larger changes too — like meeting a new group of people, taking up a new hobby, or going on an adventure. Change challenges us and stretches us to become more interesting and self-aware.
7. Reclaim inner peace.
There are so many circumstances and interactions that we allow to steal our sense of equanimity and inner peace.
We become so attached to things and outcomes that we become deeply disturbed if don't achieve or acquire what we think we must have.
We allow the moods and words of other people to hurt or worry us. We grow defensive over perceived slights. We allow ourselves to remain in environments that are too loud, disruptive, or draining.
What is disrupting your inner peace? How can you clear away those things so you can enjoy more calm and contentment in your life?
8. Buff up your emotional intelligence.
Part of on-going personal evolution requires that we demand increasing emotional maturity from ourselves.
Emotional maturity simply means having control over your emotions rather than your emotions controlling you. It means being able to accept people and situations as they are without needing to change them.
Ultimately, this allows you to experience the inner peace described above and to enjoy deeply satisfying relationships.
Emotionally intelligent and mature people . .
- know what they want and make it happen;
- think before they act;
- exhibit self-reliance and the ability to take personal responsibility;
- have patience;
- are able to connect with others in a cooperative and positive way;
- are able to genuinely care about others and can demonstrate that;
- exhibit honesty and can live by their principles;
- have moderation and balance in all things;
- have the ability to follow through, even when it is difficult;
- can show humility and say “I'm sorry.”
Just as spring is a time of renewal and rebirth year after year, we have the opportunity to renew ourselves — to become the best version of who we wish to be as we define it year after year.
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As the weather gets warmer, the sun is shining, and the leaves and flowers are budding, open the windows and doors of your internal house and give your mind and spirit a thorough spring cleaning.
As you clear out the old and unnecessary parts of your life, you will awaken to possibilities and joy you hadn't noticed hiding under the dust bunnies of those cold winter months.