Spring is about new growth and renewed hope and development after the retrenchment of the winter months and while we are still in the COL, Ukraine War and many other challenges to our lives, we can face them more effectively by opening up psychologically to the seasonal changes on offer advises psychotherapist Noel McDermott. With Spring comes a renewed sense of hope with warmer weather, increased daylight, and the joy that nature brings us at this time of year. Now is the time to take control back of our psychological health and give our mental health a serious spring clean.
Tune into Nature this Spring!
Tuning into the natural changes going on around us at the moment can definitely improve our outlook on life and noticing nature’s new energy and abundance will improve your psychological and biological functioning. We are designed to connect to nature through biophilia which is our innate response to attune to nature and draw sustenance and peace of mind from it.
A simple walk-in nature can activate what is called biophilia, an inbuilt capacity we have to relate to and take comfort from other forms of natural life. Biophilic activities reduce stress responses and create a sense of connectedness and well-being. Noticing natural events in our local park, garden or natural beauty spots produces a response in our brains similar to mindful meditation. Mindfulness has significant psychological and physical health benefits. Biophilia also creates a greater sense of bonding between us. Parks for example reduce violent crime due to this effect of bonding, so, nature literarily soothes the savage beast.
Noel explained: “This improves our outlook as nature reminds us of growth and hope for the future and allows increased energy for our everyday lives. Now is a good time to use some of that energy to let go and clear out the cobwebs of fears and anxieties we may have been ruminating on for the dark winter months”.
The psychological benefits of spring cleaning your home
- Exercise. Cleaning is a simple exercise, and this releases happy hormones into your bloodstream to feel good. Cleaning can become a regular part of your exercise regime giving you a double whammy, making your bed in the morning improves your chances of better sleep that night and sleep is the bedrock of mental health.
- Happy relationships. Clean and tidy homes when cohabiting improve relationship function with observable increases in satisfaction ratings amongst couples.
- Eases depression. A clean home reduces feelings of depression; cleaning can become a couple or family activity with a shared sense of achievement at the end.
There is a psychological term called “decompensation” when your psychological system is breaking down and can no longer function and this is often closely linked to our physical environment. Maintaining one maintains the other.
Tidy your internal space or garden
We can also learn tools for tidying our internal spaces and now is a good time to refocus. Thinking of our minds as similar to a garden and our conscious ability to focus our attention as we wish as the sunlight, water, and nutrients that any element of our internal garden needs to grow to allow us to nurture what we wish. We tend to ruminate on anxious or depressive thoughts due to the stress hormones associated with them (to our brains stress is dangerous and therefore we have a seemingly perverse attachment to those thoughts), and this rumination literally grows the size of the thoughts and the stress hormones associated with them. We can learn through practice by shifting our focus to thoughts that are better for our health and well-being.
Noel said: “One way is to simply have a list of happy thoughts that make us feel good and simply practice bringing them to the foreground or our attention regularly throughout the day. The other way is through learning mindful techniques which encourage greater choice in mental functioning. In this understanding thoughts as hormones help; we have stress hormones, or we have happy hormones and being discerning about which we activate is great for us”.
The key issues to think about are stress management and adding health to your daily routine. Where possible increase those hormones that make us feel good such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins (DOSE). It’s hard, if not impossible to overstate the positive health impacts of learning better management techniques around inappropriate stress hormone production. The other side of it is learning how to DOSE yourself up on reward hormones which positively improve your global health functioning.
How to DOSE yourself up on reward hormones
- D: dopamine, gives you a feeling of well-being, happiness, and motivation. It can be activated by a good night’s sleep, eating a nice meal, going for a walk or other exercise, listening to music, hanging out with friends, getting sunshine, engaging with nature and even stroking pets.
- O: oxytocin, promotes strong emotional and relational bonds and improves mood. You get it from being physically close to those you love.
- S: serotonin, regulates mood and manages depression and anxiety. Great ways to get some include sunshine, exercise that fatigues you and eating healthy foods with good protein.
- E: endorphins, our natural painkillers, and a super stress buster. Here’s some of the stuff that produces endorphins: vigorous exercise, yoga and meditation and laughing.