The Mindfulness of Spring

Viviana del Aguila Niebylski, MHC-LP April 13, 2023

This spring, let’s take some time to reconnect with the Earth, ground into our bodies, and reflect on the mindful possibilities of the season.

Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating presence and awareness of ourselves in time and space. And what better time to do this than in the spring – as the natural world wakes up, so do our senses! 

Coming out of hibernation

Although Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can manifest in any season, many of us aptly associate it with the idea of “Winter Blues.” Whether or not we meet the criteria for SAD, most of us recognize the impulse to slow down, stay in, and hibernate during the winter. Our bodies notice when the sun sets earlier, the days get shorter, and the nights grow longer. We recognize the fatigue that comes with changes in light, clocks, and weather.

2023 is well underway, and those of us in the Northern Hemisphere find ourselves venturing out of our caves and into Spring’s welcome embrace.

4 ways to reset your mindfulness practice this spring

The celebration of springtime is rooted in traditions the world over. From the pagan celebration of Ostara and the Hindu tradition of Holi to the Jewish Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter, our ancestors recognized the importance of greeting the seasons by creating rituals and traditions for connection and renewal. If you have ancestral or familial traditions for these holidays that you enjoy, I invite you to lean into your customs with the perspective of honoring generational gifts. If the traditions of your lineage feel stifling, I invite you to keep what does resonate and create new rituals for yourself to mark the transition into the sunnier part of the year. The following are some optional suggestions for creating space for ritual and presence this season. 

  1. Celebrate the equinox! 

Take a look out your window, walk around your neighborhood, and focus on observing your surroundings. Crocuses and daffodils are blooming in tree wells, community gardens, and other green spaces. Even on those lingering chilly days, see if you can notice the green tips of the first leaves coming out of the soil. Can you resonate with the feeling of emerging from the dirt, the desire to stretch towards the sun? 

For myself, when I see daffodil bouquets available in the early springtime, I make a point to purchase them and liven up my space with the fresh flowers – a reminder that warmer, brighter days are coming. It’s a small and satisfying pleasure to connect with these flowers in their seasonal prime. 

  1. Lean into nourishment

Over a decade ago, author Michael Pollan wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and encouraged food lovers to eat omnivorously, locally, and sustainably where possible, leaning into seasonality, availability, and the body’s natural inclination to move with the seasons. We exist in, on, and with a living celestial marvel.

If you’re a plant lover and intend to plant seeds this spring, perhaps experiment with a self-care garden as a metaphor for the care we offer ourselves. As you water and feed your garden, mindfully ask yourself, “Have I explored my own body’s needs today? How can I nourish myself to sustain growth?” Perhaps even name a plant after yourself as a reminder that each time you care for your plant you will do one thing to care for yourself.

  1. Take advantage of light and movement

One of the most common prescriptions for helping people beat the Winter Blues is the recommendation of light therapy. As this Harvard Health article points out, there is strong evidence that consistent use of a “happy lamp” can mitigate most seasonal affective symptoms, and has even preventive benefits if we implement this intervention before we experience any symptoms. As the days get longer, there is more opportunity, without the purchase of any new equipment, to make conscious efforts to harvest more sunlight for our bodies and minds. 

I invite you to explore the possibility of an outdoor walk on a sunlit day, moving and nourishing your body with naturally harvested vitamin D. Try walking slower than your normal pace, taking in sights, smells, and sounds – awaken your senses to your environment! Even on an overcast day, a walk outside can offer the minimum of 1000 lux natural light to stimulate your circadian rhythms. If your capacity for movement feels limited, try placing your workspace near a window. Attuning our bodies to the increasing daily light allows them to regulate our internal clocks and energy levels.  

  1. Spring clean

As a child, I recall the concept of spring cleaning appearing prevalently in cartoons, movies, and books. There was a cultural expectation that in the spring, families do a deeper clean, sweeping out the soot from a winter of warm fires and closed windows. Historians suggest this tradition began as a Persian celebration of the New Year, Nowruz, also falling on the Spring Equinox. Other cultures have spring cleaning traditions as well. Some Jewish folks may clean out their homes and pantries of chametz, tossing all leavening in anticipation of Passover’s week of unleavened bread. Catholic celebrators may clean the altar before Easter, and Greek Orthodox celebrators may clean earlier, at the beginning of the Lenten season. The common tie here is the ushering out of old dirt and welcoming in of new beginnings. 

If you’ve been putting off that organization project or a deep clean, perhaps take this opportunity to review the untouched corners of the spaces you occupy. I like to break down this task into one-room-at-a-time reasonable and reachable sub-goals. You might wrangle your whole household and divvy up the spring cleaning. See what works for you. Invite yourself to frame this task as an investigative adventure. Notice what has moved in the last year, and what has not. Has anything collected a film of dust? Give yourself space to bring out your spring and summer wardrobe and consider putting those winter boots back in the closet! 

Look for aspects of this task that might present a novel challenge. Those living with ADD tendencies may have noticed an inclination to move the furniture! The novelty of changed room arrangements can refresh our feelings about these tasks. And if you find yourself focusing on the unpleasantness of cleaning, that is OK. We can outsource this task (hire, recruit friends, request assistance from guardians); the benefits of a clean home are just as valid if you did not do the scrubbing yourself.

How does your household welcome the spring? How do you intend to prepare yourself and your home for the change of the seasons? 

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