Along with fresh air and sunshine, the transition from winter to spring often brings with it the urge to “spring clean” at home. Dusting off the cobwebs of winter can be refreshing. Would you be surprised to learn that it can have a positive impact on your health as well?
The state of your home is likely having a profound effect on your physical and emotional health. Spending time in a comfortable space surrounded by your most valued possessions can leave you feeling relaxed and content, while a cluttered or crowded space might increase stress and anxiety. The physical items in your home can make it easier (or harder) to reach your health goals.
Let’s consider how a deep spring cleaning can support you.
Get Better Sleep
How many ZZZs you’re catching at night could be playing a role in your physical and emotional health. Insufficient sleep has been linked to higher risk for cognitive decline, dementia, and depression.1
How can spring cleaning lead to more restful sleep? Experts recommend tidying up a cluttered bedroom as an important step toward better sleep because messy spaces can induce stress and anxiety. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary, not a storage unit. Here are a few pointers for a sleep-supportive bedroom:
- Keep furniture to a minimum. Extra chairs, desks, or tables can easily become catchalls for clutter.
- Invest in a comfortable mattress, bedding, and pillows.
- Use ambient lighting before bedtime with bedside lamps, sconces, or candles.
- Make it routine to put away discarded clothes before bed.
- Use labelled bins to store mementos or other items in your room if you have no other space. Keep these bins out of sight at bedtime.
[Related: How to Improve Your Sleep as You Age]
Getting your blood pumping is good for your brain. Exercise has been linked to improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms.2,3 In addition to the endorphin boost supplied by exercise, moving your body regularly supports lower risk for age-related cognitive decline.4
Use a twofold approach by reaching 150 minutes per week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise and by sitting less often during the day. Spring clean your way to a sustainable exercise routine and better physical and mental health with these tips:
- Make sure you always have something to wear by filling an empty drawer with comfortable clothes and shoes.
- Find accessible spots to keep activity-related tools like your tennis racket or set of golf clubs.
- Designate a space for exercise at home and stock it with everything you need, such as a yoga mat, motivating music, hand weights, and other home gym equipment.
- If you have a large exercise machine at home, such as a stationary bike or elliptical, keep it clear. Vow to never again use your treadmill as the holiday gift wrapping zone.
- Find recreational activities that get you moving. If your hobbies are usually performed seated, try standing at a counter to do them or limit yourself to no more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted sitting.
Eat Healthy Foods
Your diet plays a starring role in your physical and mental health.
Research has found that eating a modified Mediterranean diet can reduce depression and risk for cognitive decline.5,6 This means eating plenty of unprocessed foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Keep refined carbohydrates such as white bread and sweets to a minimum, as well as processed oils and meats.
Organization in the kitchen can also help you stay on track with healthy eating habits long-term. Consider these tips to boost your health in the kitchen:
- Clear out expired foods and those that aren’t supporting your health, such as processed foods, sugary treats, and high-fat meats. Donate any unexpired, nonperishable foods to the local food bank or neighbors in need for an additional emotional boost.
- Hang a whiteboard on the wall for weekly meal planning alongside a notepad and pen to jot down needed grocery items. Writing a list can help you stay on track at the store, but be sure to eat before you shop so you don’t go “off list.”
- Keep meal prep tools, such as a slow cooker or Instant Pot, in easily accessible places.
- Donate any tools you don’t use. Kitchens can quickly become filled with clutter that makes it difficult to reach what you need.
- Put “treat” foods in a location that’s more difficult to access, and store healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts on the counter.
[Related: A Guide to Proper Nutrition After 50]
The springtime season signals rebirth and renewal. What better time to build new habits that support your physical and emotional health? Use some of these suggestions and you may discover a whole new you!
- Spira AP, Chen-Edinboro LP, Wu MN, Yaffe K. Impact of sleep on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2014;27(6):478–483. doi:10.1097/YCO.0000000000000106.
- Schuch FB, et al. Exercise as treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of Psychiatric Research. 2016;77:42.
- Anderson E, et al. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2013;4:1.
- Falck RS, Davis JC, Liu-Ambrose T. What is the association between sedentary behaviour and cognitive function? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2017 May;51(10):800-811.
- Jacka FN, et al. A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Medicine 2017 15:23.
- Morris MC, Tangey CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Barnes LL, Benett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep; 11(9):1015-22.
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