Lighten you life ( and your mind) by releasing old habits, possessions and attitudes, says coach Richard Blakeborough
As a young man I attended boarding school on the North Yorkshire Moors.
The school terms were neatly sectioned to semi-mirror the seasons: a short and exciting summer term, full of the promise of a long school break; a long autumn term, spiced with the gift of Christmas; and then the feared cold and dreary winter term between Christmas and Easter. January through March were hard yards on the moors: bitterly cold, with little to look forward to at the end.
We reflected the season.
We were miserable, insular, focused only on enduring long nights contemplating our woes. Winter was the traditional term for runaways and people leaving, a grind, like a long Russian winter.
We huddled in our school dormitories, wrapped in as many clothes as we could find, shielded from the world of dark weather and harsh reality. Sport was frequently cancelled; events were often postponed due to bad weather and snow.
And I imagine we looked like a smelly rabble, which I think we probably were!
Which is why I remembered Tolstoy and his comments about the fourth season in Anna Karenina: "spring is the time of plans and projects".
After Easter, we all returned. Spring was in the air. We had longer days, more sports, and there was a general feeling of anticipation.
People made plans to prepare for exams, cricket, summer, the future.
We had thrown off the grim mantle of winter, which was about more than just changing our attitudes. We also did stuff. We discarded winter clothes, cleaned up the dormitories, and moved our beds nearer to the windows to make the most of the sun. We engaged in that ritual we now call ‘spring cleaning’.
It always felt good to get rid of old stuff and find or create new stuff.
My personal coach, Charisse, has a twice yearly ritual of ridding herself of 10% of her material possessions, mainly clothes and items from her wardrobe, and other things she hasn't used for six months or more.
How can you use this ritual for your own benefit? Declutter your life! This may involve material items (a good closet cleanout), mental items (stop that habit you don’t like), or just freshening up your appearance.
To celebrate spring, why not pick three new things to do, three things to stop, and three things to change?
You may decide that as it is lighter in the evenings you could start to walk for 10 minutes after dinner; you could stop watching TV for 20 minutes to do something else; maybe you want to change your evening meal routines.
You could learn a new language, give up smoking, or change your hair.
How about starting a new habit, such as eating a healthy breakfast, while stopping the habit of eating fried foods, or changing your coffee to decaffeinated?
Why regularly shed attitudes and habits and try new things? Well, let's face it, some of us are perfectionists, some of us hoard things we don't really use or need, and some of us are untidy.
Spring is a great season to ‘let go’ of stuff, such as a need to control everything (that perfectionist tendency is hard to maintain, and adds heaps of pressure to our lives), or continuing to shoulder resentments we hold against someone who has ‘wronged' us.
It's also a good season to change things for the better: paying our bills on time instead of leaving them until the last stressful moment, or maybe cleaning the car more regularly. It may be that we get rid of any clothes we haven’t worn for six months, or that fondue set we got 30 years ago and have never used.
Why not also do an inventory of the thoughts and feelings that have been bugging you through the winter? Negative self-talk, feelings of frustration, the habits that create a ‘dark mood’ and contribute to lack of self-esteem. Be courageous and list what these are, then pick the ones that serve you least and ‘throw them out’.
When I wrote my list I saw an interesting pattern. I have a tendency to be become unsettled and restless in September. This can also have an element of melancholy. Being restless isn’t an issue, but being melancholy doesn’t serve me. When I discussed this with my parents, it seems that as a ‘boarding school boy’ I returned to school in September after summer holidays, so this habit of melancholy was obviously sitting in my subconscious, and is a ‘habit’ because it has been affecting me for more than 35 years!
Figuring these things out and making more positive habits can be fun and liberating. We feel good when we're proactive. A sense of control and euphoria comes over us. We are subtly telling ourselves that we are not owned and defined by our thoughts and possessions.
So take Tolstoy's advice: leave winter behind by reinvigorating your life with new plans and projects this spring! You'll notice a feeling of release as you let go of old attitudes, habits and possessions. Just try it: three things you start, stop, or change. Make this a fun thing to do, not a chore. After all, this is about spring, the season of fresh starts, new growth, and new beginnings!
Richard Blakeborough is a life coach and regular Family Care NZ contributor. One day Richard was a fit and healthy man, then his cardiologist told him he had heart disease and needed a triple bypass.
His e-books, Life After A Bypass and That’s A Big Fat Lie Richard, chronicle his journey following heart surgery and subsequent departure from the corporate world to become a life coach.
Learn more about Richard and his books here.