Feel-Good Corner

Mental Health Spring Cleaning

Hi guys, it’s March 3rd and only 17 days until Spring! I’m thrilled…I simply can’t wait for all the snow to melt so I can start spending more time outdoors. I really tried to do more outside this winter and succeeded with that, but I’m still a warm weather girl. I really miss skateboarding and I can’t wait to walk in the woods with our doggos! Oh and archery is easier when your fingers aren’t frozen.

The warmer air and stronger sun hinting at good things to come lifted my spirits and gave me an idea. As you know, I’m keen on the association of Spring with rebirth, renewal and regeneration. Now we’ve all heard of Spring cleaning (not that we all do it…cough…yours truly), but I’m big on the idea of personal spring cleaning. Why not use the opportunity to clear out some mental cobwebs? Out with the old, in with the new! Now that would be fantastic…there’s a whole lot of old baggage I’d love to rid myself of at the moment! For example on Friday I have a ‘suicide attempt one year anniversary’. Yeah. My head is full of fun stuff at the moment. This time of the year has been historically…well…sh*tty. Sorry, but that’s the shortest way to say it.

Moving on, I’d love for us ALL to have a positive association with this time of year. That’s why I’m pushing for a spirit of cleansing, healing and growth, along with whatever your own personal goals are. My plan is to write some articles on Mental Health Spring Cleaning over the next few weeks, and I’d love to hear personal goals and plans in the comments throughout this journey!

Window Cleaning

The first exercise of our spring cleaning will focus on windows. You heard right! Whip out the shammies, your favourite cleaning products and some good old-fashioned elbow grease because it’s time to tackle this head on! Now I’m not referring to the windows of your dwelling; I’m talking about the personal window through which we view the world. If stuff is looking dusty and dirty, it’s time to do some cleaning and change our perspective!

I wear glasses all the time from when I wake up until I go to sleep and I think I speak for most of us when I emphasize how annoying it is to have smudged and dirty glasses! (It’s actually one of my pet peeves.) Now because of this I clean my glasses A LOT, but I’m noticing that the metaphorical glasses through which I view the world are sometimes in desperate need of TLC. I’m often a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person which is unfortunate and I really want to work on this. That’s why I’m starting a new art project/exercise! I give you…my positivity tree!

Positivity tree

How it Works

This tree is relaxing to draw and colour but it’s much more than that. The goal of it is to help us get in the habit of actively looking for the positive. When you think of something positive and happy or something pretty good happens, add a key work or two to the green ovals. When you think of an element of core positivity, such as family, that can go in the roots or the trunk of the tree.

It’s really annoying to hear platitudes like “just be positive”, so believe me when I say that this isn’t my intent. We can’t go from ingrained patterns of negative thinking and perception to positive thinking in one fell swoop. That’s just not realistic. As my dad pointed out to me, positivity is something that requires development when we’re not feeling at our worst. If we wait until our worst times to attempt positivity it won’t get us very far because we’re not accustomed to it. I’ve lived this a lot actually; desperately grasping for positive thoughts in the midst of breakdowns. Unfortunately that was all to no avail, seeing as I had very little practice with positive thinking even when things were less intensely bad.

This is why I’m trying to un-complicate a few things for us. This tree is not about drastic changes and epiphanies, it’s about building a regular habit of acknowledging little pieces of goodness on a daily basis. It doesn’t mean that our problems will simply disappear…but it does harness the power of our minds to work for us instead of against us! My dad was speaking about the subconscious, using the example of driving a car and holding a conversation. Driving a car becomes an unconscious process which is why we can speak, look around, etc. If it weren’t for the subconscious taking control, we’d be crashing all the time!

The point is that by repeating the process of searching for positives, our subconscious will become used to this process. Then as time goes on looking for the good will replace the automatic process of only seeing the bad. Again, this isn’t overnight, but hopefully it will add some balance in the way we view things.

My recommendation is to use your tree as a poster (putting it on a piece of cardboard to add solidity is a good idea), and put it in a place that you can see it often. Look at it every day – the more the merrier!

Other Positive Thoughts and Ideas

  • When something bad happens, try to envision the ways in which the situation could have been worse. That’s not to say that your situation isn’t serious or should be minimized by others, but if you can somewhat minimize it in your mind, this can make a surprisingly large impact. It doesn’t negate our emotions or the need to address the situation, but when it comes down to it we don’t have control over everything that happens but we do have control over how we react to it.
  • This may sound cliché, but it’s true that every ‘tomorrow’ is the near future. Within that new future we have the capacity to shape our reality and make tiny changes. The idea is to look through the ‘window’ and keep it clean so that we can see all our options before us with clarity.
  • When we speak of windows, this implies an indoor and outdoor area. Imagine being inside and looking out the window. If you don’t like what you see, remember that you are safely inside and are observing the negativity around you rather than being in it. In other words let’s try to distance ourselves from the situation and view it from a safety bubble. Within this bubble we have the power over what is let in and what isn’t.

Maybe this sounds silly, but the notion of being in a personal protective bubble creates an imaginary barrier between myself and my issues. For example I use it with my scary thoughts; I tell myself that if I don’t stray from my bubble, I’m safe. Within my bubble I attempt to keep moving and doing what must be done. The thoughts and emotions do invade, but my goal is to work on letting in one element at a time so that I can process it individually instead of as an overwhelming whole. I wish I could say that I’m good at this but I’m really not. YET. This brings me to my next point.

  • When we think of things that aren’t working for us or that we haven’t achieved yet, perhaps it’s best not to use statements of ‘finality’, for lack of a better word. This is why I emphasize the importance of adding qualifiers such as; yet, for now, for the time being, in this moment, right now, currently, etc. These simple words give us power because they program us with the concept that things are temporary and changeable. It’s a crucial attitude because when we feel stuck in a rut it’s easy to ingrain a feeling of permanent powerlessness, when we instead need to remember that NOTHING is constant. Or as the adage goes; “The only constant in life is change.”

I wish you all a happy and productive March break if you have the time off, and if you don’t I still hope you can fit in time for self-care! It’s essential! Also, happy window cleaning everybody!

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