By Tara Watkins, LICSW
Spring has officially arrived! Days are becoming longer and warmer. Spring holidays, such as Passover, that celebrate the theme of hope and renewal, are right around the corner. What better time than now to begin to think more fully about how we might revitalize and renew ourselves? Here are a few tips:
De-clutter: physical, mental, and emotional purging
When we think of renewal we often think of rebirth. Mental and emotional clutter often gets in the way of actualizing this experience. Many gardening experts recommend trimming back old branches on plants in early spring before new buds emerge to help keep a plant blooming at its fullest potential. Our lives parallel this example. Each spring we are reminded to reassess and "cut back" what is weighing us down, sapping our energy, and holding us back from fulfilling our hopes and dreams. We mayneed to challenge the negative or limiting thoughts we have about ourselves and how things "should be," rather than accepting how they truly are, in order to more fully embrace our actual life as it is here and now.
Getting rid of physical things we no longer need can be hard, but a good place to begin. Identifying something as clutter often has more to do with how we feel about it than how it might necessary look in our home. If you are having a hard time parting with something, I recommend focusing first on those belongings that have a negative association. For example, holding onto possessions such as clothing, home décor or correspondence given to us from past partners (especially if these were toxic relationships) usually only serve to bring us down. Instead, try to focus on keeping things that inspire or motivate.
Explore a new spiritual practice
Daily spiritual activities, such as yoga or meditation, offer a chance to renew ourselves more fully in the moment. They can be a gift we give our true selves. Additionally, reading sacred texts, either our own tradition or those of others, helps connect us to the larger community. This feeling of connection forms a foundation for rebirth, both within us as well as our greater community.
Start something completely new.
Focus on spring as a time of new beginnings and resolve to do something you've always wanted to do but never felt you had the time for. Maybe it's time to begin taking more care of your physical health, start volunteering, or begin to explore that creative streak?
I encourage you to begin slowly, one change at a time, gradually adding others as you go. It's a good idea to begin making small changes first, as this is usually more manageable and helps set us up for success and a desire to continue trying new things. Remember that it's never too late to fulfill a dream-we might just need to adapt the way we go about trying to achieve it.
Spend more time outdoors.
Lingering outside when spring arrives can be especially beneficial. One study conducted by the University of Michigan found that during Spring when participants spent at least 30 minutes outside, the warmth and sunshine positively impacted their mental health and overall mood. As time spent outside increased, researchers found that study participants experienced improved mood and memory as well as increased openness to new information and creative thoughts.
"Being outside in pleasant weather really offers a way to re-set your mindset," says Matthew Keller, the post-doctoral researcher who led this psychology study. He explains that although most people think weather affects mood previous research tested this theory and found no relationship. "We did find that there are two important variables: how much time you spend outside and what the season is. If you go from winter to spring and spend enough time outside, there's a noticeable change."
Keller stresses, "life is full of color and life is fun. It's easy to forget that during the wintertime."
Life moves so quickly, we seem to always be "plugged in" in some way or another through our smartphones, and various other digital gadgets. We are surrounded with constant stimulation from information. It can be hard to quiet down our minds, or just slow down enough in general to have true quality time that is "unplugged" with our families. One way we might be able to achieve this is to have one location in our homes where we store all our smart devices (such as a basket). When we walk through the door, all devices are placed here and only retrieved during specific times. This allows some families to feel like they reclaim family time as well as some time for themselves.
Simplifying helps us rethink what is most meaningful in our lives and if have lost our way from this. We might reflect on: What do we value most? How much quality time do we spend with people we love and doing the things we most care about? What is the best way to use our time to create the life we want?
Hopefully, these tips have encouraged you to reflect on what is most meaningful and "spring" into a life that is more fully your own. Welcome to Spring!
If you want to implement some of the suggested tips but find yourself struggling to do so, as the Kesher social worker I am here to help you work through these challenges. I can also explore potential supportive services, if needed. My contact information is: 401-338-8301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brenner, Abigail, M.D, 7 "Rituals" for Spring Renewal, Psychology Today, March 28, 2013.
Khazan, Olga, "How Spring Opens the Mind" The Atlantic. March 21, 2014.
Science News, October 7, 2004, University of Michigan. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041006082239.html
By Rose Murrin, LICSW, Kesher social worker at Congregation Beth Sholom
As a psychotherapist, I find myself apologizing to people again and again. "I know this sounds weird. I too am a skeptic." Usually, I'm talking about mindfulness exercises, progressive relaxation, visualizations, you know the stuff. And I am a skeptic. The first time I was offered reiki (a form of energy healing), I reluctantly accepted, but only if I could work on my paperwork while I got it. The reiki practitioner and my ego agreed to that. My mind did not get the message- it just chilled right out and refused to focus on my notes.
And I feel silly sometimes- admitting that I, too, try to use these tools. This is the stuff of illogical, hippy-ish people and that certainly is not me! But here's the thing....it isn't illogical (there is a ton of research to support it!) AND it works for me. I spent 2 hours trying to convince myself to write an article today, but kept finding errands on the other side of the building, emails to answer, calls to make. So, I forced myself to sit quietly, imagine leaving all the things that are nagging at my mind and heart in a safe place, and now, I can write. Some people run, draw, make lists, do yoga, pet a dog, clean the house..... you name it. Furiously scrubbing a bathtub might sound like the most kooky form of centering to some, but for some people it is just what they need to focus on what is most important that day.
Some people fall naturally into these habits. For others, it is hard to do. To get going and to let the worries settle is a difficult balance to find. We struggle to be kind to ourselves, but not to the point of avoiding life. We struggle to push ourselves to be better without finding ourselves in self-punishing, burned out places. If the lines between each of these poles could intersect so our gentleness and our healthy drive could work together, I suspect we would all have slightly different looking X's. A little more gentle for one person may be just right. A little more drive for another might feel more comfortable. Wherever that point of intersection falls, it is ok to not hit the mark perfectly- this is where embracing the kooky stuff comes in. Embracing the kooky stuff almost requires a sense of humor. It reminds us that we are "playing" with ideas and skills to see what works and what doesn't. Maybe today it is scrubbing the tub to see if it helps. Maybe tomorrow it is sitting still with our eyes closed, just noticing the sounds around us for a few minutes. At some point, in the midst of feeling ridiculous, we might find ourselves calmer, more focused, where we need to be in that moment. Then we can try that again or try something new the next time. Over time, you can fill that tool bag with a variety of stuff that works. There will be tools that work for different situations, distractions, and feeling states, because you may want a variety of skills for a variety of situations.
If the idea of beginning to fill the tool box appeals to you- whether to be calmer, happier or more productive- begin to play with ideas. If you are struggling to get started, reach out to your Kesher social worker. We all have different skills to share and are happy to help get you started.
Back to Kesher Program
Amy Small, LICSW, is the new Kesher social worker at the synagogue. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and currently active at Congregation Agudas Achim, Temple Torat Yisrael, Temple Am David, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Beth Sholom. Amy may be reached at email@example.com or