Spring Cleaning for Mind and Body

Wow, spring is finally here, and whether or not the weather has gotten the memo that winter is over, I am so ready for this new season. With the extended sunlight, do you feel a little energy building? With this renewed energy do you spend time spring cleaning your house, closets and clearing out old clutter? If you have a yard, do you spend time clearing away old leaves and brush and begin to prepare the soil for new bulbs, flowers and greenery? Most people gain momentum during the spring season to clean and clear their physical environments, which is great, but have you considered spending time to spring clean in mind, body and spirit?

 
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Whether it’s your physical environment or your physical body, residue builds and clutter stacks up higher and higher. Emotional clutter needs time to cleanse and clear just like the clutter and dust bunnies in your physical space. When you spend time cleansing and clearing in mind, body and spirit, you create the needed space to grow, to expand, to evolve—to plant new seeds within your heart and mind.

Here are some useful tools you can integrate to help clear away the clutter of physical and emotional residue that may be lingering on from the cold, grey winter.

  1. Journaling

Let’s start with mental clearing. I find one of the most useful and accessible tools for mental and emotional release is journaling. You might prefer to read on and then come back to these prompts, but if you know you may put it off and never do it, take a moment right now to get out your journal, a notebook or something else to write on and a writing utensil and complete these prompts right now!

Spend time pondering the following self-reflection prompts to help clear your mind of any residual clutter from the seemingly never-ending winter. Letting go and clearing any lingering emotional discomfort will allow you to create room for mental and emotional space for what will serve you moving forward. Without the space to create what you want you will remain stuck in what you already know. Self-reflection is one of the most powerful ways to motivate yourself and create a new, healthy mindset towards the change you desire.

·      What stands in the way of living my most healthy life?

·      What roadblocks are currently in the way of living my best life and being the version of myself—and how can I begin to address each roadblock?

·      What would my life look like if I were being guided by my desire to make my vision my reality?

·      What difficult circumstances did I have to manage this winter?

·      What residual emotions from the winter do I need to release, to let go of, once and for all and how can I do this in a healthy, productive manner?

·      What do I need to let go of in order to move forward with more peace of mind on a daily basis?

2. Breathing

The second tool you can you use to clear your body and the mind is your breath. (If you missed my recent blog about the power of your breath, you can catch it here!) A form of breathing that will cleanse and clear your mind and body is called the bellow’s breath. It is a stimulating breathing practice, so it’s ideal to practice it in the early to mid-part of the day, not in the evenings. It’s always best to practice with the support of an instructor if it is brand new for you. (This particular breath is not suited for anyone who’s had recent abdominal surgery or who has untreated high blood pressure, anxiety or if you are pregnant.) If you give it a whirl and dislike anything about it, there is no need to do it! Just doing a diaphragmatic breathing practice can help to rid your body of excess stress hormones and your mind of excess stressful thoughts. The second breathing practice described below is a calming, grounding breath that is balancing, clearing and suitable for all.

+Bellow’s breath: Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed and relaxed. Each inhale and exhale are equal in duration, but as short as possible. You are “pumping” your navel center and building energy with this breath, creating a cleansing of mind, body and energy. This is a noisy breathing exercise, almost like a dog panting on a warm day. Try for approximately three in-and-out breath cycles per second, and aim for about ten breaths at time to begin. This produces a quick movement of your diaphragm, just like a bellows. Return to your normal breathing rhythm after each cycle. Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try as it can cause some dizziness. Again, if it is at all uncomfortable, there is no need to continue. Each time you practice this exercise, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute. If done properly, you will feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a refreshing workout.

+So-Hum breath: as you inhale, feel your abdomen expand and say “so” in your mind, as you exhale, draw your navel in towards your spine and say “hum” in your mind. Continue for at least one minute, but feel free to go longer. This “so-hum” breath will help to focus your attention and quiet your mind.

3. Nutrition

This last portion is all about spring cleaning for your physical body. One of my favorite ways to do this is adding in more bitter flavors, which is always available with fresh leafy greens! Here’s my favorite green drink recipe that is cleansing, refreshing and I think super delicious!

When you try it, let me know what you think. If you tweak it to make it your own, let me know what changes you find to be delicious, I love trying new variations on old recipes!

Spring Cleaning Green Drink Recipe

Serves 2: because health is best when you share it!

2 peeled cucumbers

½ cup fresh chopped pineapple

2 cups of leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens chopped

1-2 stalks of celery diced

1 inch of fresh peeled ginger root chopped

1 tablespoon hemp hearts

juice of half of a lime

½ cup filtered water or coconut water, may need more to blend to desired consistency

Blend all ingredients together and add more or less of your favorites to taste

ENJOY!!

When you try these cleansing practices, let me know how they work for you! Know that you are clearing mental and emotional space to move forward, building energy to feel well, live well and be well.

BREATHE

 
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Whether or not you are breathing is a deciding factor as to whether or not you are alive. Breath is life. Your breath works as a part of an automatic response within your body, meaning, you will breathe whether or not you are thinking about it. The cool thing is, if you bring your breath into your conscious awareness and under your conscious control, you create the opportunity to control your nervous system.

The pace, rhythm and direction of your breath all directly point to your mood state, mental state and can trigger your nervous system towards causing stress or a state of relaxation within your nervous system. There are two major elements of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, or the mode of fight or flight or freeze and the parasympathetic nervous system, the mode of rest and digest. Ideally, unless of course there is a true emergency, we all want to live in rest and digest mode.

The importance of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system response, or remaining in rest and digest mode most of the time is well documented. You see, stress is the cause of upwards of 90% of illness. The stress response as you experience it in your mind and body can be caused by something stressful that is actually happening, or it can be caused by just by thinking about something happening that is distressing. The good news is we can do something about the latter—when the stress response is triggered by our thoughts. This something is super simple and is absolutely free of charge. This something is using your breath.

When you take ahold of your breath, you can take ahold of your whole nervous system. You can calm your mind and body and reconnect to what is true right now, rather than what is occurring in your mind that is creating a fearful, stressful response within your mind and body. Your body does not know the difference between the real or perceived stressors and will respond accordingly to either. When you find that you are catastrophizing and creating the stress response within your body, you can bring the process of breathing into your focus by slowing down each inhale and each exhale and calm your mind in the process.

Breathing diaphragmatically engages the parasympathetic nervous system response. Try this, place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand is moving. You are not judging your breathing process. You are simply noticing your breath in order to improve your ability to calm your mind/body. If your hand on your chest is moving but your hand on your abdomen is not moving (meaning your chest is expanding as you inhale), you are paradoxically breathing. This type of breathing can come about by feeling as though you have to suck in your stomach all the time, and it can actually cause you to go into fight or flight mode. Yikes!

If this is how you generally breathe, don’t fret! You can change how you breathe right now! You can practice diaphragmatic breathing in order for it to become your new method of breathing. To diaphragmatically breathe, allow your abdomen to expand into your hand as you inhale and allow the hand on your chest to remain relatively still. As you exhale, draw your navel in towards your spine. Allow this to become your new pattern of breathing—abdomen expanding as you inhale, navel drawing in towards your spine as you exhale.

When you breathe in this manner you are creating an opportunity to calm your nervous system in the here and the now. By allowing your attention to rest on your breath, not in your stressful, repetitive thoughts, you ease your body of the excess cortisol and adrenaline produced by your stressful thoughts. In the moment you recognize that you are feeling stressed within your body due to a thought or perception, rather than an actual stressful occurrence, try this process of connecting with your breath. Breathe diaphragmatically, slowly and deeply. Begin to slow down each inhale and each exhale. Focus on your exhale and allow just a slight pause at the end of your exhale and at the top of your inhale. Follow your breath with your mind. Notice the sensation of your breath against your nostrils. Notice the cooling, calming impact of your breath as you inhale and the warm, soothing impact of your breath as you exhale. 

When you focus on your breath you create an opportunity to become fully engaged in the present moment, the only moment. When you are fully engaged in the present moment you create the opportunity to live your life right as it is unfolding, rather than in the anxiety of the future or wishing for a different past. Your breath is your link, it is your powerful anchor to the present moment. Use it. Be aware of it. Allow it to create the transformation of your nervous system that is possible. Be here now, be aware of your breath and allow stress to no longer rule your life, your body and your mood state.

If you’d like some guidance on how to breathe, you can listen to my 5-minute guided diaphragmatic breathing practice here in the resources section of my website. Has changing your breath changed your life? I’d love to hear how using your breath to manage stress has impacted your life for the better!

3 Tools to Aid in Emotional Detox

 
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When you think about cleansing and detoxing, you might only think about what to eat, drink or supplement to clear out unwanted toxic build up in your body. It turns out some of the most dangerous residual toxic materials are related to excessive stress hormones that can accumulate in your body. Excessive stress hormones negatively impact sleep, mood, energy and overall wellness by disrupting all the systems of your body.

While detoxing through wellness practices, nutritional additions or even supplements can help get the process started, there are other practices you can incorporate that will help aid in restoring balance from excessive toxic emotional residue due to stress, anxiety, grief, anger, resentment, overwhelm, fear, contempt and other emotional build up that can settle into your being and cause significant tension and discomfort internally.

Have you ever felt as though you have been emotionally “slimed?” Where you feel like you just can’t shake or rid yourself a particular emotion and the triggering thoughts associated with those emotions? If so, you are not alone! Emotions can be difficult to cope with, feel and release. These three tools below can help to detox the “slimy” internal residue of uncomfortable emotions and stress. A big part of releasing toxic emotional build-up in the body is acknowledging it and having a method to release. These three tools are helpful as they can offer an opportunity to create a space to explore the emotions and let them go.

1.    Journaling

Writing in a journal can act as a container for your thoughts, feelings and emotions. When you hold on to stressful thoughts and feelings, you keep your mind and body in a state of fight or flight—this is not healthy or helpful. Journaling has been proven to help reduce stress hormones, to improve the quality of your life and create a healthier perspective on emotions and life in general.

The next time you just can’t seem to “let-go” of an uncomfortable emotion or stressor, dust off an old journal or notebook—or even open up a document on your computer—and just start writing. If you are not sure where to begin, start with the emotion, the stressor and write-write-write. See how it feels to get it out, to purge these thoughts and feelings, close the journal and move forward. Think of journaling as a detoxing process for your mind, which will consequently help to clear your body of built up tension and stress.

2.    Art Making

Creativity is a major component to living a full life. Art making by its nature is healing and life enhancing. Creating a mandala is similar to journaling. To create a mandala, draw a circle on a piece of paper and then use any art materials such as colored pencils, markers, oil pastels or even crayons to release your feelings onto the page. The mandala (circle) acts as a guide, not a barrier. Begin by selecting a color that represents your internal emotions or stress and use line, shape color and form to let it out! You can change colors throughout, just begin with one that represents the emotions you are desiring to release.

Mandalas are one of my favorites because the circle acts as a balancing form on the page, however, even scribbling, doodling or doing soothing painting with water colors can have the same impact. Try not to focus on the product (what your picture looks like!. This is not relevant to the desired outcome: releasing uncomfortable stress and emotions! Art making acts as an emotional detox by letting it flow through you, out and away from you. Art making can be more freeing as you are not limited by words. The next time you are feeling stuck in pattern of holding onto a negative feeling, try creating with art materials and notice how it impacts your mood state. 

3.    Breathe

Your breath offers a direct passageway to greater health in mind, body, and spirit. You will breathe whether you think about it or not, it is a marker of being alive. However, you can bring your breath into your conscious awareness and access the healing benefits through specific actions of your breath.

When you breathe diaphragmatically you engage the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that calms you down. Parasympathetic nervous system response is referred to as “rest and digest mode.” The other function of the nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system response which is referred to as “fight or flight mode.” When you are harboring stress, uncomfortable emotions, or thoughts that are triggering those emotions, even subconsciously, you expose yourself to the toxic residue of these emotions. Emotions themselves are not good or bad, they are valuable information about our experience of our lives. However, if you hold onto emotions they can become a negative experience inside and out, causing significant discomfort that gets shoved into your physical body and creates toxicity.

Breathing helps to calm the nervous system and offers more clarity of thought. This can open you to deeper awareness of why the emotion is there, and how it came to be stuck or stagnant as you may originally not have been open or comfortable with receiving the message it was there to offer you. To begin, place one hand on your abdomen and the other hand on your chest. Then, direct your breath in through your nose and expand your abdomen as you inhale slowly. Then, breathe out through your nose drawing your navel in towards your spine slowly.

Continue with this pattern, breathing slowly and deeply and notice the impact on how you feel. Try not force it, just assure that your abdomen is expanding with your inhale, not your chest. You can pair this diaphragmatic breathing with a phrase, such as “let go”—saying “let” in your mind as you inhale and “go” in your mind as you exhale. This helps to free stuck emotional residue and can significantly reduce your stress. This practice also gives your mind a point of focus making it less likely that it will wander off to any other stressful or distressing thoughts.

Emotions are a part of life. Learning to experience, manage and release them is a tremendously valuable part of life. The paradox is often that if you avoid the discomfort you perpetuate its existence. If you allow yourself to feel your emotions, be present with them and make a decision about how to respond in the moment, you offer yourself to feel it as it’s related to the triggering circumstances—versus feeling all of the toxic build up and residue from long-term avoidance and fear.

Try integrating one or more of these tools and notice the impact it has on your life, your body, and your self-awareness. When you free yourself of the discomfort of holding onto emotions that are not needed for your present moment experience, you open yourself to the possibility of offering a deeper space of peace and contentment within.