We love no time of year more than spring, when winter has turned over a new leaf (literally) and the air is rife with anticipation of fun summer days to come. And while January 1 is the day we resolve to make major changes, this turn of season is a great time for a life refresh, clearing out the cobwebs to welcome the light.
Here, five ways to achieve a little spring-cleaning of the soul:
1. Dust Off Old Resentments
We've been saying this for years (mostly to our ex-boyfriends) and now there's science to back it up—holding grudges is bad for your health! It increases cortisol (the stress hormone) and diminishes oxytocin (the love hormone). Start your spring-cleaning by bringing old resentments to the surface and releasing them, one by one—whatever this means for you. We've found the best way to clear this negative energy is to write a letter releasing the other person from all blame, apologizing for your part in the conflict and wishing him or her well. It may require you to swallow your pride, but you'll feel a thousand pounds lighter afterward.
2. Let Go of the Past
Wherever you are in your life, it's likely not all that bad (e.g., you're currently reading The Zoe Report rather than, you know, fleeing a war-torn area). With that in mind, think about whatever's plaguing you and ask yourself: Is this a concern in the present moment, or is this about something that happened in the past? If it's old news, treat it as such, because nothing in the past can hurt you unless you allow it to. If it helps, try a ritual or ceremony to aid in letting go.
3. Clear Up Current Conflict
You may find this one challenging, as you likely haven't arrived at the forgive-and-forget stage quite yet. For this reason, resolution probably requires face-to-face interaction; however, as a hypnotherapist once phrased it to us (don't ask), you can either live with the unease of conflict hanging over your head indefinitely, or you can confront and dissolve it after just a short bout of unpleasantness. Choose the latter, and feel immediately lighter.
4. Forgive Yourself
Shame can lead to all sorts of negative behaviors like eating disorders, social phobias, bullying and other abuse. Identify what you're ashamed of and compare the cause with your current behavior or actions—is it ongoing, or is it in the past? If it's in the past, guess what—it's time to let it go. If it's still happening, it's a larger issue that needs addressing and you may want to look into therapy to help you make peace with it or eradicate it from your life. The act of forgiveness has immense health benefits—especially when the person you're forgiving is yourself.
5. Acknowledge Gratitude
It's fairly common to wake up each day annoyed with your job, frustrated with your finances and easily irritated by the ones you love. Sometimes these feelings are inevitable, and we aren't going to give you unhelpful advice like "Just be positive!" Instead, we suggest you practice gratitude daily to help alleviate negative emotions. Multiple studies have shown that those who take time to list the things they're grateful for regularly feel better physically and emotionally than those who don't. This practice also enables better sleep, opens up the capacity for empathy and increases self-esteem and resilience. It's pretty remarkable that one small thing can so mightily impact your life in a positive way, right?