Renewal, Revival and Reinvention
As seasons go, spring overflows with symbolism. Renewal, revival and reinvention come to mind for me, which are not the same thing even though they are semantically related. Spring brings the renewal of life—and the sprouts, shoots and buds that emerge as the weather warms are nature’s tools of revival. And when plants mutate, a fairly frequent occurrence in spring, we see reinvention in action. I believe this form of organic and often stunning disruption is nature’s “strategy” for transformational growth.
What draws renewal, revival and reinvention together is the promise they represent: new opportunities, experiences and possibilities. All three help bring excitement, optimism, awe and joy to our lives. Spring, with its vibrant energy and promise of fresh starts, is inspirational in this regard as it spurs us to use our imagination to find greater meaning, innovation and change. The energy of spring makes me want to be better in my life and to better the lives of others around me. To me, this is the process of self-realization and reinvention, and spring is the perfect time to act on this effort. I like to think of it as a “project self.”
Project self is a process of reinvention that forces us to reflect on what really matters to us. It involves taking chances and making sense of emerging opportunities over time. And it alters how we live, learn, work and play. I’ve found the hardest part of reinvention and the change it brings is deciding to just do it. But as one wise spiritual leader I know once told me, “building a better world is a very worthy goal, but it can often help to just build a better you.” After all, more fulfilled and happier versions of ourselves are likely to thrive and have more to contribute to bettering the world!
Read my latest Rolling Stone article on “Project Self” to get started.
Alice’s farm, Wilton, New Hampshire
The Therapeutic Power of Gardening
I come from a family that LOVES gardening. My sister Alice has a 40-acre organic farm, and my niece and nephew have extensive gardens and can name every plant! Me? I’m an urban dweller, but I believe in the healing power of plants—and I know firsthand how gardening is a therapeutic practice. Gardening is a form of space-time medicine that offers nourishment, both physical and psychological. Scientists agree and say gardening offers a “psychological lifeline” in times of crisis.
For me, I don’t need acres and acres to reap the benefits of gardening. I have a compact 72” X 135” balcony garden that I tend to, which brings me endless joy. I regularly long for those earthy moments of solace, especially when the events in my life lean more towards crisis than calm. This spring find a patch of land, a collection of pots, a seed to plant—and create a garden project that comforts and inspires you! See my Instagram for ideas.
Chicago at dawn
Follow the Light to Start Your Day Right
With earlier sunrises, it’s easier to “rise and shine.” But rather than wake up, shine your boots, and get right to work, as the military wake up call advises, make it a part of your spring renewal plan by practicing the science-backed circadian ritual of “following the light” for kick-starting your day.
While I hated when my father pulled up all the shades in my bedroom every morning, I now know he had a point! These days I expose myself to as much light as possible to wake myself up. That’s because science also shows the first 15 minutes of your morning sets the tone for your entire day. A CNN article calls it mental hygiene and points out, “it’s the mental health equivalent of brushing your teeth.” To “change up your wake up” and make your mornings better: follow the light, don’t fight the alarm, douse yourself in chilly water, eat more savory vs. sweet—and put yourself in motion. Try my energizing yoga video to give your morning some punch!
River Runs a River Run 2, Cheryl Warrick
Try this Escapist Salve for the Soul
Face it, it’s not just you or me. The entire planet is coping with both physiological and mental health issues, political conflicts, climate change, overwork and sometimes, loneliness. None of us are unaffected, and all of us can use an escapist salve for the soul. One science-backed therapy that a recent New York Times piece called a “smooth-brain anesthesia to pacify the mind,” is the powerful tonic of ambient music.
Did you know that the most-played song of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, was “Celestial White Noise,” three long hours of soul-calming ambient layers of sound? Ambient music is a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structures or rhythm. While it may not be a comprehensive solution for all our stresses, upsets or wounds, its sound waves can soothe us, force us to slow down, facilitate more productive days and more. Take a page from my playbook and try out the generative ambient music app Bloom, developed by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers in 2008 that’s still available today (it’s even ranked #30 in music by Apple’s App Store.)
Reboot Your Body For New Beginnings
We may feel like things are letting up and approaching normalcy, but while the world is still in uncertainty, many of us are stuck in unhealthy pandemic habits we may have racked up over the past two years that are linked to a constant state of stress and coping. Lack of activity, increased alcohol consumption, comfort eating and other unhealthy habits can, over time, disrupt our breathing, hormones, heart rates, blood pressure and more, undermining our physical health and happiness. But we can disrupt these patterns and make change for the better, as NPR pointed out last month in a very helpful story on how to reboot. NPR’s four-step plan is a great place to make a fresh start, along with this attention-building yoga video to put a new spin on spring!
Learn to Breathe for Balance this Month
Lastly, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the National Alliance on Mental Health has chosen to amplify the critical message of “Together for Mental Health.” Each year millions of people face the reality of living with a mental illness, and each year we must all fight the stigma around this issue, provide support and advocate for improving our mental health care system. Everyone everywhere deserves access to the care they need when suffering from mental health challenges.
We can all spread the word by having conversations, sharing personal stories and providing resources for others to live well. In the spirit of this mental health initiative, and spring’s inspiration to take on a “project self,” here is one of my favorite breathing practices to try this month and make part of your permanent toolbox: “Yoga Breathing Technique for Calming Emotions.” Do this anytime you feel anxious, upset or fearful and to help you maintain balance even in the midst of stressful circumstances.
Find over 60 healing practices for your body and mind.
Get Bija’s book Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind (Simon & Schuster)