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Whether it happens during the actual springtime or not, a good “spring cleaning” that freshens up your living space can really help to lift your mood. Here are just a few of the ways cleaning is good for your mental health.
Cleaning Gives You Less to Stress About
Cleaning up your home – especially removing unnecessary clutter – has a clear advantage: it makes you feel calmer when you’re at home.
The reason? There’s a definite link between clutter and depression, particularly for women. A 2010 study examined the way 60 women described their living spaces. Those who described their homes as “cluttered” or “full of unfinished projects” were more likely to be depressed than the women who felt their homes were “restful” or “restorative.”
Plus, the women who described their homes as cluttered were found to have higher cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
Removing clutter reduces distracting and overwhelming stimuli from your environment. Biologically, we’re wired to be constantly aware of our surroundings. When our surroundings are full of clutter, there’s more we have to pay attention to. Even if it’s not something we’re consciously aware of, clutter is stressful to our nervous system.
Streamlining your living space will help reduce your stress hormones, thereby helping your mental health.
Cleaning counts as exercise!
Anything that works up a sweat, such as vacuuming, scrubbing, or rearranging furniture, can be counted as a form of exercise!
And exercise helps your mental health by reducing stress and boosting the happy chemicals in your brain.
Cleaning is an especially great form of exercise because:
- you don’t have to leave the house to do it.
- you can do it in your pajamas.
- when you’re done, you get to enjoy having a clean house.
- you have a decent excuse skip the gym for a day.
I love the way cleaning puts me on high alert for things I could easily get rid of. Because sometimes it just feels better to throw an item away than it does to put it away!
A Good Spring Cleaning Has a Butterfly Effect
Your home is sort of like a mirror of your inner state. “Living space is a powerful metaphor for your life. Whether you know it or not, you can’t change your life without changing your home, and vice versa,” writes Martha Beck in her book, Steering by Starlight.
Beck suggests a bit of redecorating as a way to bring about positive change in your life. Not your entire living space, just one small area that you don’t like.
This is a great idea for when you’re feeling a bit “stuck” and you want to change things up, but you’re not sure what to try. Here’s the process she recommends:
- Choose one area in your home that bothers you, and identify exactly why it bothers you.
- Close your eyes and visualize a place that inspires you. It can be a place in nature, someone else’s home, your favorite café.
- Identify a few adjectives that capture your feelings about this inspiring space.
- Find a physical object that reminds you of the beautiful space that inspires you. Bring it into that area in your home that is bothering you.
- For every item, you bring in, remove something that doesn’t delight you. Repeat as needed.
This process of changing your surroundings in response to your inner desires will cause a sort of “butterfly effect,” Beck says. The idea is that when you make little changes in your home that align you with your true desires, you invite an easier, happier flow of energy into your overall mental health and other areas of your life.
You Can Trick Yourself Into Cleaning
When you’re depressed or tired, the hardest part of tidying up can be finding the energy to get started. I’ve found that I can sort of trick myself into cleaning. I don’t start out by making a major commitment to clean and declutter the whole house. I just put one thing away that’s out of place, or toss that one unflattering pair of jeans into the donation pile. That’s sometimes all it takes to get some momentum going.
“I Wish I Hadn’t Cleaned Today,” Said No One Ever
The same way that forcing yourself to take a shower (or even just wash your face) when you feel depressed can lift your mood, putting things right in your living space helps to put things right in your head.
When I’ve completed a good spring cleaning, regardless of what time of year it is, I feel amazing. My head is clearer and I can focus better. Just thinking about it right now has me looking around my home office and wondering what else I can Marie Kondo out of here.
Have you ever done a major spring cleaning or changed up your living space and noticed an improvement in your mental health?
Guest Post by Priscilla Medders
Priscilla Medders is a reformed pessimist who now blogs about happiness (and how to get more of it), holistic wellness, and more at prismwell.com. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, their son, and their tiny dog.
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Over to you
What activity help you unwind and stop stressing? I think that gardening has a similar effect than spring cleaning. And you?
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