It’s that time of year when spring should be in the air! But unfortunately for those of us in the Northeast or Midwest (I heard they got hit with another snow storm this week!), it still feels cold and raw most days, leaving many of us dreaming of California sunshine.
When you think of spring, you often think of shedding the old and bringing in the new. But that doesn’t have to mean just throwing out those old sweaters to make room for new ones. You can apply the same idea to the emotional clutter you collect and hold on to.
Just like unused clothes in a closet, emotions can take up room you can’t spare in your brain. That’s because you unintentionally hoard emotions like guilt, shame, sadness, and anxiety.
But what purpose does this collection of unfortunate emotions serve? None!
It's time to clean out that closet, weed that garden, take out the trash … you get the idea. It might not be as easy to throw out emotional clutter as it is to donate that ratty old sweater, but it can be done with a little patience and kindness.
Below are three steps to guide you through your emotional spring cleaning.
1. Emotional Sorting
Take those emotions off your mental shelf and look at them one by one. Do you need this emotion right now? Do you enjoy wearing it? If not, toss it into the trash. If you want to hold on to it, ask yourself why you want to keep it and for how long. I find these questions can help separate us from our thoughts and emotions, and help us answer honestly.
If you need some distance, I encourage you to ask these questions out loud. Talking it out can help! When you decide which thoughts and emotions are taking up too much space, you can take the next step in letting them go.
Put those thoughts from the trash pile onto a page. No judgment, no editing (swear words included), no holding back. Writing these thoughts down helps free your mind of any ruminative thinking. After you finish writing it all down, you can choose to keep it, shred it, or throw it out. Throwing out the physical evidence of those emotions can be particularly cathartic for many people.
3. Make a Self-Care List
Practice being kind to yourself. To loosen the grip of negative thoughts and emotions, and fully let go, you also need to put good things into your life. Go to the movies, read a book for fun, go for a walk, or do something you love on your own or with a friend. Make a list of activities that make you happy and pick something from it at least once a week.
Remember that these steps may need to be repeated several times before you feel the full effect of
letting go. Do not give up!
It is hard cleaning out old stuff, even when you desperately want to kick it to the curb. This is especially true of emotions. Be patient with yourself. You can always spend some extra time on Step 3 if you feel stuck.
Sending good energy your way!