Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mental Spring Cleaning

Spring at last? It's the end of March and this has been a very long winter. Everyone seems to agree that it's time for a change in the seasons and even the birds seem a little annoyed with the recent return to snowy weather here in Chicago. Spring is supposed to be a time of renewed energy, healthy change, and new beginnings. But if you're finding it just a bit harder to shake off this winter's doldrums you might be in need of some mental spring cleaning. Here are a few suggestions to help you clean out those mental cobwebs.
  1. Take a breath- deep, relaxed breathing is a wonderful way to improve mental alertness. Try breathing in through your nose to a count of 4, holding your breath to a count of 7, and exhaling out your mouth to a count of 8. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise can help you find the relaxed, alert frame of mind needed to approach difficult situations in a new way. Even a few of these special breaths can be powerfully relaxing. Take it slow and if you start to feel at all light-headed its time to stop.
  2. Move your body- exercise, even in modest amounts, can be as effective as prescription drugs in dealing with depression. Exercise improves both muscle tone and mental tone. Start out slow and be sure to talk to your physician first if you haven't been active for awhile.
  3. Get organized- easier said than done? Well then at least start with a plan, and then plan to break that down into smaller steps. The trouble with most plans is they're too ambitious or ambigous. You don't change your life in just one step. Start small, like something that you can do in under a minute, and then move on to the next step. If you can't get something important done then try breaking that into even smaller steps. I like to use the Kaizen method of approaching change and will talk more about this in a future post.
  4. Watch your diet- We are what we eat...and drink. I'll have more to say about this in a future post as well, but for now just try to pay attention to what you are putting into your body.
  5. Get better sleep- not necessarily more sleep, but better sleep. The earlier start to Daylight Saving Time this year seems to have left many people feeling particularly sleep deprived. Sleep shouldn't be thought of as a luxury or just something you have to do between busy days. It's a vitally important part of healthy living and many people (up to a third of all adults) are suffering greatly and probably needlessly from a lack of restorative sleep. I'd strongly recommend the National Sleep Foundation's website where you can learn all about the importance of sleep hygeine and how to improve your sleep.
  6. Seek help- if you find yourself stuck in life, unhappy, anxious or unable to get a handle on what's bothering you it may be time for a little help. Therapy can be a great way of finding a new beginning. Happy Spring and healthy living to you! Dr. B.