As we kick off the first day of April and set ourselves firmly in Spring the feelings to start “anew” and “refresh” usually kick in like clockwork. We want to stir from our winter slumber, clean out our closets (literally and metaphorically) and start with a blank slate or renewed intentions (from what may have fallen to the wayside since January). But usually hiding within this language of “renewal” are bits of diet culture (convincing you that you’re not enough as you are, and must reinvent yourself) and guilt (if you have a clean closet, you’re a better person and why can’t you just “get your act together!?”).
I think the idea of “spring cleaning” is hopeful and even joyous, but not in the context marketed to us by our commercial, capitalistic society that compels us to clean out just to buy more or evaluate all the ways we fall short. Instead, we can take the idea of spring cleaning (a period to evaluate areas of our life with intention and gentleness) and apply it inside out – thus the purpose of this blog series! Each week during the month of April we’ll explore a different area of our lives (emotional, physical, relational and vocational) through the lens of “spring cleaning” – we can assess what is, keep what we want, let go of what we don’t and change where possible. The hope is these practices and journal prompts will help you to examine changes you can make internally, getting to the root of you, to help your whole life better align to your values and intentions.
As you’ll notice from the title of this post, this week’s spring cleaning focus is on emotions. As we’ve emphasized in previous posts, our emotions are not permanent. They’re often compared to waves in which they may crest and fall in intensity over periods of time. But you are not the wave. You are the ocean. Vast and beautiful. In the same way you are not your emotions. Though they may feel powerful and consuming (understandably so!), you are so much more.
Is there one emotion that feels prominent from this winter that you’re holding on to? Grief? Apathy? Frustration? Confusion? Loneliness? Each of these may have served its purpose then, but might not be one you have to hold on to this month. As we head into Spring take an inventory of your current emotional state – how are you feeling? Really. And whatever comes up, try your best to meet without judgment. It’s not good or bad, it is.
Our emotions are helpful guides to learning more about ourselves – what our boundaries, values and priorities are. So a good first step to cleaning out the cobwebs of winter is getting reacquainted with our inner selves, as you would an old friend. You may have been changed in the last few months or years (lest we forget a global pandemic!?) so be gentle with yourself in the process.
So what does this emotional “spring cleaning” look like in practice? Try out these journal prompts to get started:
- What emotions am I carrying going into this season? What would it look like to befriend them with a gentle curiosity? What can I leave in winter and what do I wish to bring with me in Spring?
- What have I learned in the past few months about how to process my emotions? What are some items in my “toolbox”?
- This month our practice’s ‘Emotion of the Month’ is inspired. What does this mean to you? How are you looking to be inspired this April?
Spring cleaning isn’t about polished final products, it’s the non-glamorous, mundane and everyday work that gets you to where you want to go. Here’s to you for taking that first step, and check back next week for the next stop in our Spring Cleaning series.
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image