Cleansing the Mind

Spring is the season of renewal: the time for birth and rebirth, for welcoming the warming of the earth, for new growth and opportunities. Time to throw off the heavy coats and boots and heavy moods and get some sun on your face. Time to plant the seeds that will be harvested throughout the other seasons.

In addition to our diets and our workouts--addressed in earlier posts--we can also focus our attention on cleansing the mind.

Our minds are amazing in many ways, storing decades worth of memories, solving problems, and planning for the future. But our minds can also become mired in negative thought patterns. It might be useful to take the time to listen to your thoughts, and maybe even write them down, in order to notice the paths down which your mind tends to wander. You might also note your daydreams, your middle-of-the-night thoughts, your nightmares. See if your mind is acting as an asset, or if your thoughts might be dragging you down.

Our brains are hardwired to pay extra attention to negative experiences. If you have ever been embarrassed or shamed in public, you know that this experience is etched in your memory forever. But try to recall something pleasant--a nice compliment, for example--and you might have much more difficulty. We remember the painful moments clearly because those moments were so stressful. Our survival instincts tell us we need to remember, in vivid detail, in order to avoid such moments in the future. Once upon a time, our ancestors might have been killed had they forgotten their negative experiences.

How do we begin to let go of the old patterns and welcome in new thoughts which serve us better in the present? Here are some possible responses to negative thoughts:

1) Deep breaths. Anytime you find yourself strolling down the path toward negative thoughts, hit the PAUSE button and take some deep breaths. You can do this while you are driving, eating, reading, typing, conversing, playing sports, you name it. Deep breaths instantly send a calming message to your nervous system. And while you are focusing on the breath, you will have stopped that negative thought, at least for a moment.

2) Insert a helpful mantra. Choose something simple that instantly calms you down and reminds you of something positive. Phrase your mantra (or you can call it an affirmation) in the present tense, as if you have already mastered it. For example, you could say to yourself: "I am filled with peace and love." Of course, it helps if you believe the mantra! So choose something that rings true (or close enough!) to you.

3) Feed your mind positive stuff. A dose of the nightly news is enough to make just about everyone anxious. Who wants to hear an hour's worth of the most ugly, depressing, angry, violent, negative stuff that happened around the globe? Instead, choose to watch an uplifting comedy or read a light novel. Listen to calming music or just sit and watch the fire. Discover the activities that make you feel happier and choose those!

4) Fill your belly with nutritious foods. Eating a bunch of refined sugar and processed foods riddled with additives and preservatives is a recipe for anxiety, mood swings, and depression. It is very hard to feel good when you are eating bad! Choose nourishing whole foods, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and homemade meals instead of fast food. Cooking can be a very soothing activity when practiced with love for yourself and your family. Drink alcohol in moderation, or just skip it, as this can also lead to depression.

5) Spend more time outdoors. Get an extra dose of Mother Nature in order to heal your mental state. Studies have shown that spending time in nature calms our minds and bodies. Breathe the fresh air and feel the warm sun on your skin. Drink in the vitamin D, a natural mood enhancer.

6) If you struggle with serious depression or anxiety, see a professional. You do not need to suffer! While the above suggestions might be enough for some people, it is possible you need more. If you are headed down a dangerous path, do not hesitate to get help.

This spring, cleanse your mind of negativity and welcome in the light!