Spring is finally here. Sure, the season arrives at this same time year after year, but has there been a year in recent memory when spring, and the themes it evokes — rebirth, renewal, regrowth — have been as desperately welcome as they are this year? It’s been a very long and challenging year since last spring, and we’re all eager to turn the page on more than just the winter. So now that our clocks have sprung forward — at least for those of us not living in Hawaii and Arizona — how can we use the change of season and our desire for renewal to spring forward in our daily lives?
Spring, of course, evokes spring cleaning and reorganizing. Nature and the world around us are opening back up, and we have the impulse to open up our homes, throw out what we’ve accumulated through the winter, and swap out our cold weather wardrobe for our summer clothes (even if, for those of us still working at home, that might just mean lighter sweatpants). But spring should be about more than just spring cleaning. It’s also a valuable opportunity to throw open the blinds on our habits and routines and ask ourselves: Which ones aren’t serving us anymore? What can be improved? And are there parts of our routines that need to be thrown out entirely?
Here are eight ways that can help you spring forward into the new season with more joy, more motivation, and more well-being.
Our days are getting both longer and warmer, and that’s a great reason to make sure we get outside every day, spring showers permitting. If, like many people — myself included — you’ve found some virtual movement or exercise classes that work for you, try taking them outside or to a park. You can also do it with a (socially distanced) friend. We know movement is great for our health, and studies show that exposing ourselves to natural light and greenery also has a range of physical and mental health benefits, so take spring as an opportunity to get outside and get active.
Refresh your diet
Spring means spring flowers, but it’s also a time when a lot of delicious fruits and vegetables come into season, like beets, artichokes, spinach, kale, carrots, strawberries, cherries, and so many others. It’s a great chance to introduce some new and fresh fruits or vegetables into your weekly menu, or just refresh your diet with some fresh produce.
As the weather is getting warmer and we’re — hopefully — spending more time outside, we need to make sure we’re drinking enough water, which often isn’t something that we think of regularly when we’re cooped up inside during the winter. Studies show that even mild dehydration can cause headaches, lower our energy levels, and impair our ability to concentrate. To make staying hydrated easier, try spicing up your water game by adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, or strawberry.
Schedule those medical visits
During the pandemic, many people have canceled or postponed routine medical appointments. A recent TIME-Harris poll found that 78% of respondents had put off at least one medical service, with 27% delaying an annual checkup. This can be dangerous, and research from the National Cancer Institute suggests that deaths from certain kinds of cancer could increase as a result. As a cancer survivor myself, I know how crucial regular screenings and checkups can be. So if you’ve been pushing off any routine medical visits, this is the perfect time to get back on schedule.
Revamp your workspace
I count myself lucky that I’ve been among those fortunate enough to work from home during the pandemic. But one of the biggest complaints I hear from people working at home — and I sympathize, believe me — is how sick people are getting of the same four walls of their workspace. So even if you’ve settled into a setup that’s working for you, this is a great time to think of ways you could make it better. That doesn’t mean a complete overhaul, but it could be as simple as bringing in some nature by adding a bit of greenery, or swapping out the photos in your picture frames.
Renew your relationships
The past year has been a time in which we’ve both lost a lot of human connection and also learned the value of it. This is a topic I’m passionate about, and, if you’ll allow a brief plug, it’s also the subject of my new book, written with Anh Phillips, and coming out in June. It’s called Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, and it’s based on the truth that nurturing authentic relationships at work is vital not just for the health of companies, but for our own physical and mental health. We show how our “always-on” culture, combined with remote or hybrid work, can easily lead to burnout and isolation, damaging relationships in all parts of our lives. So we should use this time of renewal to rekindle our relationships, both at work and at home.
Reimagine time off
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but for many of us, vacation travel, at least as we used to know it, won’t be coming back for a while. But the importance of taking time off to recharge has never gone away, even if our ability to travel has. So let’s reimagine what it means to take time off. One way to do that is with a themed staycation. Always wanted to go to Paris? Just bring Paris to you — with a week of French movies, French food, maybe an online French cooking class. There are lots of ways we can escape our routines without escaping our home. The important part is to disconnect from work, which will allow us to feel motivated and engaged in the months ahead.
Remember you’re human
In our eagerness to say goodbye to a trying, difficult, and often very dark time, let’s not forget what we’ve learned about humanity over the past year. When we’re deciding what to leave behind or throw out, we should make sure we carry forward the lessons this time has taught us about the value of connection, vulnerability, empathy, kindness, self-care, and self-compassion — all those things we now know (if we didn’t before) makes our world a better place.