Spring Cleaning for Body, Mind and Soul

The way I remember them in my childhood memories, the seasons seemed longer and more pronounced than today. Winter was colder and brought much more snow. Spring carried a greater sense of excitement and promise. Summer never seemed to end. And Fall was full of melancholy and serenity. I don’t have these deep feelings of being connected with nature any more. I’m too busy with the realities known to adulthood. The changes I notice now are mostly in my face and around my waistline. And, of course, although I am determined to fight it every inch of the way, I am aware that I’m engaged in a losing battle.

I also remember my mother preparing for each season with an intense burst of cleaning and mending activities. Especially Spring. Our home got a real makeover as soon as it was warm enough to open all the windows, letting fresh air breeze through every room. I was always amazed how much dust had settled in with us over the winter months. How could it get so dirty all by itself? I was young then and ignorant about the fact that all things deteriorate over time unless they are regularly cared for.

I consider myself a health-conscious person. After all that is my profession and I try to live by what I preach. But when I take stock every so often, I realize that inevitably some dust has settled in and I’ve been paying less attention than I could or should have. Well, as I keep telling my clients, every setback offers the chance to start over. So I begin a new season and, like my mother, I start out with a good cleaning.

As a first step, I examine my current eating habits. I consider good nutrition as the most essential part of my efforts to stay healthy, not because I’m a dietitian but because it makes sense to pay close attention to what goes in my body. I’ve traveled a lot over the last few months, which means that I’ve eaten more in restaurants than in my own home. Although, I usually try my best to make smart choices, the menus tell me only so much about the ingredients, cooking methods and portion sizes I can expect. So, now that I’m back home, I have a chance to do some detoxing. This is not to say that I’m going to deprive myself of all the joys my palate has become used to. It simply means that I consciously shop for fresh foods (instead of processed) and stick to lighter cooking styles. I’m glad the local Farmer’s markets re-open at this time of the year. If you look for organically grown produce, there’s no better place to buy.

In my profession as a writer and a counselor, I am largely restricted to a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for hours in cars and on airplanes when traveling does not help either. My best efforts to maintain an even rudimentary exercise routine on the road seem to fail more often than I like to admit. So, when I’m back home, I prescribe myself a stricter and more rigorous regimen. It may take me a day or two to shift gears, but I know my body will thank me eventually with more energy and flexibility. I also know that the longer I let things slide the harder it will be to get back on track. “Being on track” means that I develop and maintain a level of fitness that is right for me. Since I have no intentions to climb Mount Everest or win the Boston Marathon this year, I follow an exercise program that is appropriate for my lifestyle and – dare I say – my age.

In all the hustle and bustle of dealing with projects and deadlines, there seems to be almost no time left for myself. Like most people who love their work, I am usually intensely focused on the task at hand – and sometimes to the extent that I lose sight of the larger picture: Why am I doing this? I know I miss the long walks, good conversations and quiet moments that give me pleasure and put things in perspective. A little house cleaning for the soul can go a long way and often the small things in life make it all better. There’s no need to push the panic button and get off the train. Just slowing down a little, taking a deep breath, allowing time for a refreshing stretch or perhaps even a quick nap can put a happier face on everything that comes my way. It’s a small effort but it puts the spring back in my step.

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