Spring Clean Your Emotional Life

There’s something about spring that feels so vibrant and alive. After the dreary winter months, it feels so good to be able to open our windows and let the fresh air clear out all that is stale and stagnant. We grab our brooms and brush away the cobwebs and shed possessions that no longer serve us. This yearly ritual gives our home and surroundings a wonderful facelift — so why not do the same for our emotional health?

Day in and day out, we are faced with new challenges, but rarely make the time to process our experiences. Typically, we wait to confront lingering emotional issues until something forces us to do it — but in those moments, we may not be in the best shape to make good decisions.

This year, make an effort to spring clean your emotional life. Not only can this take considerable weight off your shoulders, it also makes room for new energy to thrive. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Be Honest with Yourself

Too often, we dismiss aspects of our lives that truly need our attention. We get caught up in the busyness of life and may even try to convince ourselves that things are better than they really are.

Try this exercise: Give yourself 30 minutes (schedule it into your calendar, if necessary) to become centered and still. Allow all of the things that nag you in the back of your mind to bubble up and come to the forefront. This is not a time for judgment. This is a time for reflection.

Are you sleeping well? Have you been feeding emotional pain with food? Are your interactions with those around you strained? Consider all aspects of your emotional life and take an inventory of what’s working and what is not. Write it all down so that you can refer back to this as you move through your journey.

Set Clear Boundaries

Have you agreed to something recently that you really didn’t want to do? Do you find yourself having to remind the same people about the same things all the time? Do you feel the need to explain your decisions to people who ask very personal questions?

If you can relate to any of the above, you may need to work on setting (and maintaining) clear boundaries. One of the most liberating things you can do for yourself is to learn to say “no.” You may disappoint a few people, and it could impact your relationships but, ultimately, you want to surround yourself with those who respect your limits. If someone who wants to use or abuse you leaves your life, so be it.

Change Your Relationship with Technology

Technology can be a very valuable tool. So many aspects of our lives are easier because we have access to these resources at the touch of a button. We can shop from our couch or call for help without having to hike to a pay phone if we get a flat tire. It’s amazing!

There is a downside, of course. Too many of us are living our lives through a screen and it can interfere with our relationships and sense of self-worth. Instead of enjoying a conversation with a friend or basking in the glory of a perfect sunrise, we’re busy reaching for our phones to document the moment. We scroll in the middle of the night and skip out on eye contact. This can create a disconnect from reality.

The next time you’re having a great time, let yourself enjoy it without having to post an update or a picture. Relish in the intimacy of the moment rather than feeling the need to have it be “liked” or validated by the masses. You’ll be amazed by how much you’ve been missing by looking down at a device.

Address Toxic Situations

No relationship is ever perfect. We go through ups and downs with our friends, family, and coworkers. Every single one of us is in a constant state of evolution which will affect our interactions from day to day. That’s normal.

If, however, you find yourself dreading the moment when you will have to face someone or something, you need to address it as soon as possible. What is it about the situation that makes you feel this way? Have things become toxic? Can anything be improved?

Come up with a game plan and follow through, whether it involves a conversation, a shift in perspective, or a drastic measure. Ignoring it won’t make it better, so be proactive before things get worse.

Learn to Forgive

Forgiveness is a complicated thing. Just the word alone can stir up emotions. People sometimes bristle at the idea of forgiving someone (or themselves) because they believe that it means condoning or excusing unacceptable behavior. They believe that forgiving someone is letting them off the hook — but that’s not true.

Forgiveness is about setting yourself free by removing the burden of anger, shame, or pain. You might even have to forgive someone with whom you will never even interact. This doesn’t mean that you will ever forget the situation, or that you will somehow be magically healed, but it is a way of learning to live more fully again.

Start Journaling

As you work through your emotional cleansing, consider keeping a journal. Be open, vulnerable, and honest in your entries. It will feel so good to release your feelings about your day. From time to time, look back on your writings and engage in self-reflection. Look for patterns and new ways that you can challenge yourself to maintain your growth.

Spring cleaning your emotional life can be exhausting, painful work — but it is worth it. As you work through difficult moments, remember that everyone you encounter is also dealing with hidden challenges. Be compassionate, be kind, and be mindful. The benefits will ripple through your life in ways you could have never imagined.

Jeanne Croteau

Jeanne Croteau is an adjunct psychology and social sciences professor as well as a contributing writer for ForbesLife, Social Moms, and more. As a married mother of six, she strongly believes in living a healthy lifestyle and enjoys being outdoors, cooking, and watching hockey.