Spring Awakening

beautiful girl enjoying the summer sun

As the weather changes, it’s time for spring cleaning. It’s time to purge, to do a complete overhaul. It’s time to clean out and refresh your home, your routine, your life. Spring cleaning isn’t just about cleaning the closets. It’s also about taking inventory, about looking at your life and considering how you might rejuvenate, replenish and reinvigorate yourself. It has been a long winter, and now that spring is finally here, I encourage you to take a long hard look in the mirror. Are there changes you want to make, post-hibernation? If there are, you can make them. This is the time. It will take effort and a deliberate intention, but it’s spring! Don’t you feel like you could do anything, as long as you don’t have to shovel any more snow or slog to work in your big boots any longer?

For the past month, all I’ve been hearing around the office is that my patients have gained weight. This is very common in winter for a couple of reasons. For one thing, people don’t get outside as much because it’s just not very nice out there. Nobody wants to go for a brisk walk when it’s below freezing, and a lack of vigorous movement often comes with a sinking level of motivation, until you don’t even want to venture out there to go to the gym. Also, in many areas, fruits and vegetables and other lighter, healthful foods aren’t in season and it’s easy to settle into a habit of heavy winter food – more meat, fat, and the comforting sugar so prevalent over the holiday season, which somehow manages to stay in the house long after the holidays are over.

But there is a price to pay for becoming lax in health habits over the winter. The American College of Cardiology conference recently brought to light a study that shows that people tend to have increasing LDL cholesterol levels and an increase in the risk of heart disease during the winter months. What better time to start remedying this situation than now, in the spring? The same study shows that cholesterol levels start improving during the spring, so make the most of it and lead the charge. Plan an exercise routine that excites you and gets you outside as the weather gets warmer, or at least gets you out of the house to try something new. Whether it’s as simple as a daily walk in the fresh air or as thrilling as a Zumba or hip-hop class at a local dance studio or just a new DVD of strengthening moves that gets your heart rate up, this is a time for anticipation and motivation.

But what about your diet? Let’s tackle that next. Spring is the perfect time to restock your refrigerator with the succulent and yummy vegetables of the season. Consider juicing some of them to start the day or steaming them over brown rice for dinner at night. Forget comfort food – it’s the season for energy food. Find vegetables in the produce section that you haven’t tried before, or check out any of the increasingly common spring farmers markets. In the store, make a conscious decision to food shop along the perimeter where the fresh food is, only stepping into the aisles to get whole grains and beans, like a whole grain cereal, brown rice, couscous, garbanzo beans, pearl barley, and lentils.

Are there other things you want to tackle now that the spring has sprung? What project, job issue, family event or life moment do you want to accomplish? Do you want to finally replace the kitchen floor? Take a day trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit? Ask for that raise? Plan a day out with your child for just the two of you? Take a painting class, or join a group that focuses on an interest you have, or start volunteering? What is it that you want to look back on and say that you got to do this spring? Pick one life goal you can undertake that will allow you to feel good about yourself, and that will allow you to have pride in your accomplishments. This perfect kind of pick-me-up helps to cure the winter blahs.

Now that you’ve got your spring plan and you’ve planned your own personal spring awakening, I want to wish you a happy spring, filled with health, heartiness, and satisfaction. As the flower buds are peeking their way out of the ground, you too can feel that same rebirth. It certainly has been a long winter. Do this for yourself. You deserve it.