Spring has arrived! Here in the Northeast, this welcome change in season can feel like coming out of hibernation. Science professionals have long documented the connection between spring’s arrival and overall mental health and wellness. Can you guess where that wonderful feeling of renewal leads us? To spring cleaning!
It’s true: apply some of the energy you’re feeling to cleaning house and it will renew your spirit. There’s proof. Researchers affiliated with UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) looked at the clutter families accumulate. CELF’s first book, “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors,” reveals some fascinating insights.
Among them, indoor living during colder months often increases the amount of clutter found in bedrooms, closets and entryways. Clutter creates a physical inability to keep up with the volume of objects that accumulate in the home. As a result, elevated levels of stress trigger the release of hormones including cortisol, commonly known as the “fight or flight” hormone. If winter has you stuck indoors, it’s not easy to do either!
But spring is finally here and so you can enjoy the many benefits of spring cleaning. There are the obvious advantages of eliminating piles of junk that accumulated over the winter, but that’s just the beginning. Spring cleaning is good for us. It gets us physically active and provides mental exercise that inspires a sense of rebirth. While we do yard work, deep-clean the kitchen or organize a messy garage, we accomplish something apparent and meaningful as we clear our minds.
No matter how we feel about cleaning, science tells us that keeping things clean and organized is good for us. It helps reduce stress, improves productivity, boosts our mood and is a great way to stay physically fit. All of these things make us feel better and feel better about ourselves. For those of us who thrive on instant gratification, when we clean something it looks better—instantly!
OK, but what if you just don’t feel like working that hard? Lucky you! Cleaning has a process, and end goal and a result. It’s something you can accomplish in a short amount of time and once you’re finished you have something visually appealing that you have the satisfaction of knowing you did. Something as simple as cleaning out the junk drawer or cleaning out the refrigerator can leave you with a sense of accomplishment. That feeling gives you a boost of confidence in your abilities, and that can carry over into other areas of your life such as work, school and relationships.
You may wonder whether a messy house that stays messy is a warning sign. It can be. Research has revealed that a messy house can be both an indicator of mental health issues as well as a contributing factor. Because people tend to neglect the care of their surroundings when they don’t feel good about themselves, a dirty or disorganized living space can be a sign that someone may not be feeling well emotionally. And unfortunately, this can feed on itself. An untidy home can cause a decrease in the quality of one’s mental health. When our environment is dirty, cluttered and chaotic, we start to become ashamed and overwhelmed by it, internalizing those emotions into feelings of worthlessness.
Since the change of season presents a genuine opportunity to do a bit of emotional spring cleaning, why not commit to a few springtime to-do’s to enhance the way you feel? Spend more time outside. Get the yard ready for outdoor fun. Plant a garden and eat healthier. Take a walk and talk with your neighbors. Spend less time with TV and social media and more time with family and friends.
Spring is a great time to re-evaluate your mental health and take a next step to live your best life. And this spring, MHA will open our first outpatient behavioral health clinic, BestLife. To make an appointment or learn more, call 844-MHA-WELL.