Commentary: Spring Awakening

I was jogging around my neighborhood recently and I found myself engulfed in this amazing fragrance. “What’s that smell?” I wondered. Perfume? Detergent soap? No, no, it was blossoms, flowers in bloom. In the next moment I realized I was witnessing a natural, yearly occurrence. It’s spring!
It felt like a celebration, at least one for my nose. Then I started seeing the trees all around me, marveling at the new sprouts and the greenery. I see it in my own back yard, the apricot tree full of beautiful white flowers, sending me hopeful signs I will be eating fantastic fruit in a few months.
And I hear the birds chirping everywhere. Is it in my mind or are there a lot of little baby birds singing these days? The celebrations continue in sound.
So as I think of all the new life around me, I start to wonder about our own capacity to bloom. Mother Nature is a profound instructor. Does she have something to teach us with her beautiful spring?
We’ve all heard the phrase “spring cleaning,” a time to clear out the old and usher in the new. Maybe we take on physical projects to spruce up our homes. Perhaps we begin a new workout regime to get in shape. All good endeavors, and if the notion of spring cleaning gets us motivated, that’s great.
I’d like to offer another idea for this spring moment. How about letting go of bad habits and being good to ourselves? We can use the metaphor of wiping the slate, and we can savor the message from Mother Nature to begin again here, too.
Every year without fail the blooms come. In this season we have the opportunity to see ourselves in bloom as well, trying on new ways to improve how we feel about others and ourselves. What would it feel like to think about us as freshly minted in our minds, free of heaviness? Let’s start by picturing our minds as a closet, and then we would apply the spring-cleaning concept to our mental baggage and wipe away.
Why not try letting go of some of those old ways of dealing with challenging situations in our lives. Maybe we are dissatisfied in certain areas: relationship, job etc. What would it feel like to start over, with brand new thoughts, applying them to familiar circumstances?
The first step is to start telling ourselves a different story about the situation. For example, let’s say you want your child to do better in school. You might have wished this for a long time, and every time you think about the situation you get mad and feel disappointed because it hasn’t changed. You might even feel helpless about being able to ever change it.
You may not be able to motivate another person, but you CAN change what you think about the situation. Instead of saying to yourself, “I wish my child would do better.” Why not try, “I love my child; she is trying and I believe she will find a way to improve.” See another side of the same situation. It may seem too simple to just find a happier thought. It may seem too easy. My suggestion to you— try it. It works.
Our minds don’t have to hold onto old messages if we’re not telling ourselves the same old thing. Our minds can incorporate new ways of thinking, and new thoughts will make us feel better. The trick is finding something truthful about the problem and saying the new truth to yourself instead of the same old tired thought.
You already know how to feel bad about the situation. This spring, in this time of awakening, renewal, rebirth and growth, why not take yourself on a journey of self-awareness.
So when you’re clearing out the garage, why not take a whack at your mental cobwebs too? Clean out your old thoughts. Begin again. You might just feel great.

Linda Nusbaum is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Long Beach. She helps people improve their lives. For more information visit www.lindanusbaum.com