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The Psychological Effects of Spring and the Reminder of Change

As Spring unfolds around us we start to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the incredible changes of the season. Not only are our senses immersed in these alternately subtle and intense transformations, our internal processes respond as well. Our sleep cycles may be altered, our moods may change, and our perspectives may be renewed.

Along with these sublime shifts, most of us experience some kind of Spring Fever. Whether it’s the sudden urge to clean and organize a physical space like our home, or a sense of mental restlessness that compels us to move in other parts of our lives, the longer days and sweeter nights are often a source of unexpected energy.

As Spring presents us with internal and external motivators to make changes, we have an incredible opportunity to use this zest as a springboard for personal growth. It is important to remember that like buds popping open on the trees overnight, the change itself is usually not the difficult part. For us, it’s making changes stick that tends to be the real challenge. Getting a gym membership or bringing flowers to your partner is one thing; continuing to go to the gym and exercise regularly or being loving and compassionate towards your spouse when you’ve had an insanely stressful day can be quite another.

As human beings, we tend to have some pretty complicated feelings about change. On the one hand, we live in a culture that loves to sell the idea of overhaul. The popularity of “makeover” themed pop culture entertainment in which “average” people dramatically transform their body, wardrobe, house, partner, family, hairstyle, job, house, gym routine, or any one of a number of life features suggests that we are gluttons for change. Yet each of our personal histories suggest that changes can be very hard for us. We struggle to lessen our unhealthy habits and increase the healthy ones; make more fiscally responsible decisions; be kinder to the relative who is so irritating; and recycle more diligently.

How do you make changes last?

Embrace Spring as a natural starting point

Spring motivation is a wonderful driver of important growth and revolution in our lives, and can power us up for making changes that we’ve been contemplating for a long time. Let Spring inspire you to dream big, explore deeply, and imagine creatively. As adults, many of us rob ourselves of the gift of dreaming because we’ve become lassoed by our awareness of pragmatic factors. Yes, reality matters . . . but it’s not necessarily a helpful starting point when it comes to exploring what moves us. Consider starting a vision board, journaling, or utilizing some other mind-opening activity to flush out the contours of your biggest change desires.

Toss the idea of willpower and stock up on strategy

If you’ve ever wished for more willpower, you’re not alone. But willpower is a misleading concept, because it suggests that there is some secret sauce that once acquired will keep you on track.

Forget willpower.

Willpower is like the breeze … it blows in and blows out and is a highly unreliable tool because you can’t ever depend on it to be there when you need it. What you want is strategy. Strategy will never leave you high and dry. For example, you may or may not feel like being pleasant to your mother-in-law depending on the kind of day you’ve had (willpower, or lack thereof). Alternately, if you have a strategy in place it doesn’t matter how you’re feeling in any given moment. A strategy plan such as, I will count to ten before responding to my mother-in-law’s insane comments about my children ensures you don’t have to worry about how you feel because you’ll base your actions on a predetermined plan that reflects the change you’ve already decided you want.

Trust in the process

As adults we are constantly in a problem solving and find-a-solution-now mind mode. The change feelings we experience in the throes of Spring may make us a little uncomfortable and seem to be calling for urgent actions. Feeling antsy, impatient, elated, energized, charged up, spirited, and renewed can all drive us to some sort of corresponding, answering behaviors. Yet change is constant, and sometimes it is more helpful to observe these feelings, acknowledge them, and do nothing other than experience them and know that in time they will inevitably pass. Acting on our feelings may result in temporary satisfaction, but when the feeling changes again, we may find ourselves less than enthralled with what briefly seemed like a powerful mandate to change up our lives.

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