Flowers are blooming, days are warmer, lawnmowers are buzzing, and the birds are singing. Spring is here and it’s in full swing! Spring is a season of growth, expansion, and renewal. As nature cues our environment for growth and renewal, it can also be our cue to renew and refresh our space with spring cleaning. Check out the list we’ve compiled below of a few ways spring cleaning can benefit you physically and mentally.
Fewer distractions and more focus
As we continue to face a global pandemic, we are simultaneously navigating other challenging issues such as climate change, political polarization, social issues, and war. There are many factors beyond our immediate realm of control that may induce a sense of frustration, thus taking a toll on our mental health. We are living in unprecedented times and although it may feel as though there are many things out of our control, it is important to acknowledge the fact that there are many things that we do have control over. One being a place many of us find ourselves spending more time in since the start of the pandemic, our homes.
It can be easy for us to get caught in the middle of everything going on around us with social media and the news constantly inundating us with information and concerning news. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to focus on our mental health. With many of us now working and studying from home, we may have realized that working from home may be a bit distracting at times. Whether it be your cat walking across your keyboard in the middle of a zoom meeting, your toddler wanting your attention, your dogs barking it up in the background, or getting distracted with thoughts of things you need to get done outside of work. These factors can make it difficult to focus on our work because when our space is untidy, we may find that our mind can feel “cluttered” as well. A cleaner space frees up time in our day and in our mental to-do list to focus on what is meaningful to us. This mental shift, from being distracted to focused, encourages us to have a forward-thinking mindset. Ultimately, tidying up is crucial to creating an environment conducive to focusing on the things that matter, when they matter.
Promotes quality sleep
If you find that you have difficulty falling asleep at the end of the day, it may be a suitable time to evaluate your sleep hygiene and the influence your space may be having on your sleep. Sleep hygiene is a term used for habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well. These habits and practices may vary slightly from person to person. However, organizations such as the National Institute of Aging and the CDC, agree that working on our sleep hygiene improves sleep. While there are many ways to improve sleep hygiene, (e.g., room temperature, turning off electronics, creating a pre-bedtime routine), cultivating peace and quiet through having a clean space has shown to be helpful in falling asleep faster and getting more restful sleep.
Although the ease at which we fall asleep is not solely based on external factors, we can also make adjustments in our environment that will help induce a relaxed state of mind and reduce racing thoughts. One way to do this is by introducing essential oils. Essential oils, such as Lavender, provide a soothing and relaxing aroma that can ease us into sleep. Lavender is one of the most studied essential oils by scientists and research has shown that Lavender calms the nervous system. In a study conducted by Babar Ali and his team, they state that these effects are mostly due to the naturally occurring chemical compounds linalool and linalyl acetate found in lavender. When this essential oil is inhaled, it triggers the receptor cells in our noses. These signals are then transmitted to our brain and trigger the brain to release neuro messengers such as serotonin, a hormone that helps regulate anxiety, control sleep, and regulate feelings of happiness, and endorphins, which induce calmness and give a feeling of pleasure and euphoria. Another study led by Angela Lillehei also found that combining both, sleep hygiene practices and the use of lavender oil resulted in improved sleep quality along with waking up feeling refreshed. Fortunately, we can find many items online and in stores that are infused with essential oils, such as candles, sprays, and cleaning products!
Protects the immune system and improves heart health
It’s widely known that when our stress levels are heightened for prolonged periods it can take a toll on our immune system, making us more susceptible to getting sick. The reason for this is that stress results in elevated adrenaline and cortisol levels, depletes our nutrient stores, and, as a result, compromises our immune system. According to WebMD, Cortisol is a stress response that can trigger the fight, flight, or freeze response. This response can be beneficial if, let’s say, your life is in a short-lived situation where there is immediate danger (for example, being chased by an aggressive dog). However, when our body is consistently overflowed with this stress hormone, it can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Over time, prolonged stress can result in low-grade chronic inflammation which may make it more difficult for our bodies to fight off infection, repair, and recover. According to research conducted by Viktoriya Maydych on the interplay between stress, inflammation, and emotions, evidence suggests that inflammation is predictive of negative mood and depressive symptoms which feed back into the cycle of inflammation and cognitive stress.
Aside from protecting our immune system, cleaning also has its benefits in keeping us physically active. The American Heart Association website provides a list of the many benefits of being physically active, including, but not limited to, lower risk of heart disease, improved cognitive functioning, better sleep, better bone health, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and a general sense of overall well-being. The American Heart Association recommends working towards 2.5 hours of aerobic activity per week. This can include dancing and walking, which we may find can be easily incorporated into our cleaning routines.
Cleaning our space can improve our health, reduce fire hazards, reduce home allergens, and increase the amount of physical activity we get. For even greater benefits, choosing cleaning products that include calming anti-stress scents can further promote a feeling of relaxation. On the other hand, if you are looking for a boost in energy as you clean, citrus scents are known for their vibrant and fresh aromas that offer revitalizing effects.
Boosts your mood
Spring cleaning and decluttering may initially bring on thoughts that can trigger overwhelming feelings. However, when we take the time to tidy our space, it can begin to dissolve those discouraging thoughts and foster a sense of control of our surroundings and a sense of accomplishment. In turn, these small accomplishments aid in increasing our confidence, self-esteem, and sense of productivity. Over time, with every small task we complete, our brain will reward us with a positive feeling that can encourage us to continue. At the end of all the cleaning, we may also find that there are things we’d like to donate or pass on to family, friends, or even strangers. This act of donating, helping others and doing good can spark joy and a stronger sense of purpose knowing we are contributing to and helping our community and loved ones.
When we start to see our health from a holistic standpoint we begin to realize the interconnectedness between ourselves (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) and our environment and how tending to one of these areas, also impacts another area. While the thought of decluttering and spring cleaning may cause stress in and of itself, the benefits we reap are worthwhile and abundant. When we take control of our physical space and alter it so that it feels cleaner, safer, and more organized, our mind and body thank us in return by encouraging better sleep, feeling more rested and relaxed, protecting us from sickness, and improving our mood.