20 Best Ways to Spring Clean Your Health, According to Experts
THESE SPRING HEALTH TIPS WILL HAVE YOU LOOKING AND FEELING BETTER IN NO TIME.
The spring season is all about getting your house in order, preparing for a fresh start, and, of course, cleaning. And while it's common practice to seek out ways to declutter and tidy up around the house in preparation for spring, all too often people forget to focus on their health, failing to realize that their physical and mental well-being need a good spring cleaning just as much their homes do. With the help of doctors, therapists, and other medical experts, we've compiled some spring health tips that will help you start the season off on the path to a leaner, cleaner, and healthier you.
Pay a visit to your local farmer's market.
In the spring, take advantage of the farmer's market and stock up on seasonal, straight-from-the-farm produce. Some great things to grab are kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bell peppers, spinach, asparagus, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, red cabbage, wild-caught salmon, free-range meats, and eggs. In diversifying your diet, gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, MD, author of Fiber Fueled, says that you are helping "support a healthy gut microbiota."
Reset your sleep schedule.
When we spring forward for Daylight Saving Time in March, it can really mess with our sleep cycles. But if you want to work on your health this spring, focus on resetting your sleep schedule ASAP.
"A lack of adequate sleep has been linked to many problems like stress, fatigue, and even cardiovascular disease," says Omiete Charles-Davies, MBBS, who leads the team at health information site 25 Doctors. "You can improve your mental health, alertness, physical condition, and productivity by getting adequate sleep."
Turn off your phone before going to bed.
What better time of year than spring to change your phone habits—especially the ones that are interrupting your sleep and affecting your health. Before you get ready for bed, make a point to turn off your phone and/or put it somewhere where you won't be tempted to use it. Why? "It creates the opportunity for you to set boundaries, it reduces your exposure to blue light prior to sleep, and it makes space for you to decompress without the pressures of social media, work emails, and constant communication," says Allie Friedmann Finkel, a licensed therapist at Kind Minds Therapy
Consider replacing your mattress.
Have you been dealing with neck and back problems all winter long? If so, you may want to add a new mattress to your list of things to buy this spring. According to Sleep Advisor, old mattresses can contribute to back pain, be a breeding ground for mold and mildew, and harbor tens of millions of dust mites, which many people are allergic to.
All mattresses are different, so ultimately it's up to you to decide when your mattress has become unusable. Typically speaking, though, Sleep Help notes that the average mattress lasts up to 10 years.
And your running shoes.
For all you runners—and dedicated walkers—out there, consider investing in a new pair of running shoes in the spring. According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Biomechanics, running shoes lose anywhere from 16 to 33 percent of their heel cushioning after about 300 miles of use. If you run 20 miles a week, you'll need to start looking at running shoe replacements after approximately four months. If you're a serious runner, try to make it a yearly rule to buy new running shoes every spring and fall.
Spend more time outside.
There's no better time of year to get outside than when the snow gives way to greener pastures—not just because it's pretty, but also because it's good for you. According to 2017 research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, simply being in the presence of flowers and verdure can decrease cortisol levels, especially if you're doing something active while taking in nature.
Take a walk every day.
Once the weather warms up, there's no reason why you shouldn't be walking outside more. If you're not yet used to too much physical activity, "start by walking five minuets away from your house, turning around, and walking back. Build up until you're walking a total of 30 minutes per day," suggests Gil Kentof, DC, founder of the Dr. Gil Center for Back, Neck, and Chronic Pain Relief. Adding just 30 minutes of outdoor walking a day into your routine will burn some serious calories and expose you to all the health benefits nature has to offer.
Try some new workout classes.
When the weather outside warms up in the spring, it's the perfect time to switch things up in your workout routine. Trying new types of workouts is "a great way to improve your health and stay motivated," explains professional fitness instructor Marielle Chartier Henault, founder of AquaMermaid. One 2019 study published in PLOS One concluded that switching up your workouts can not only keep you motivated, but also help your muscles grow.
Check on your feet.
The winter can wreak some serious havoc on your feet. That's why licensed physician Leann Poston, MD, a contributor at Invigor Medical, suggests paying close attention to your peds once the season is over.
"Check for scaling, bunions, peeling nails, or signs of fungal infections and sores that are not healing," she says. "Look for abnormal changes in shape or pain in the toes and arch and at the base of the big toe and heel." If you notice anything unusual, make sure to consult your primary care provider or a podiatrist.
And your skin.
You should also devote some attention to your skin—not just in the summer when the sun is strongest, but throughout the year. "Look for any marks, sores, or lesions that have changed or look abnormal," Poston says. Use the American Cancer Society's self-exam guidelines to give yourself a thorough check from head to toe—and if anything looks unusual to you, make an appointment with a dermatologist to get it examined further.
Remove allergens from your home.
Spring is peak allergy season for sufferers. And while pollen in the air is pretty much unavoidable, you can clean up around the house to minimize allergens where possible.
"Remove things like dust, mold, grass, and flowering plants that are some of the many triggers for springtime allergies," Poston says. "Monitor your symptoms, try to identify your triggers, and then try to minimize your exposure to these allergens."
Consider going to therapy—or at least learning more about it.
"Therapy can be a gift we give to ourselves that helps our emotional, mental, and physical health. If you have been thinking about starting, now could be a perfect time to find the right fit," Friedmann Finkel says. Whether you're going through some life changes or just feel like having someone to talk to could help, it's always good to make therapy sessions part of your self-care routine.
Get a flu shot.
Just because winter is over doesn't mean cold and flu season is. In April 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even issued a health advisory warning individuals that "flu activity remain[ed] relatively high," according to WebMD.
So, if you didn't get a flu shot in the winter, make sure you get one in the spring. Though getting a shot can be unpleasant, registered practical nurse Jocelyn Nadua, care coordinator at C-Care Health Services, says that "you'll be happy you got it when you avoid catching a bad cold as soon as the weather starts to improve."
Wash your hands frequently.
Getting the flu shot isn't the only thing you can do to stay healthy in the spring. According to functional medicine doctor Lisa Ballehr, DO, washing your hands frequently also ensures that viruses like the flu don't make their way into you body.
"The common cold and flu is spread by direct contact with the virus, which is spread by others who are infected," she explains. "Avoid touching your face without first washing your hands."
Declutter and create more space for yourself.
Spring cleaning your home and spring cleaning your health go hand in hand. "Physical space allows room for mental space, so decluttering your personal space can serve as a symbolic way to rid your mind of negative thoughts," says psychologist Logan Jones, PsyD, founder and head of practice at NYC Therapy + Wellness. "Pick one corner of the room or one drawer and begin to declutter. Before you know it, your newly cleansed and transformed physical space may just manifest in other ways."
Clean your makeup cabinet.
When you're doing your spring cleaning, pay close attention to your makeup products. According to Poston, "old makeup can increase your risk of eye and skin infections." If you're unsure of a product's expiration date, CheckCosmetic.net can help you figure it out.
Go to the dentist.
If you avoided going to the dentist all winter long, make time to go this spring. "Regular dental cleanings and exams can detect problems in their early stages," says registered dental hygienist Kelly Hancock, oral health writer with Toothbrush Life. "The earlier you can detect a dental problem, the easier it will be to repair and the cheaper it will be to fix."
Drink more water.
It's no secret that being out and about in the sun can cause you to dehydrate. So, when you head outdoors this spring, make sure to drink plenty of water.
"Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue and affects nearly everyone," says Thanu Jeyapalan, CSCS, clinical director of Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto. "Your body relies on water for many physiological processes including producing energy and delivering nutrients throughout your system, so make sure to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day."
Eliminate sugary drinks from your diet.
"Consuming less added sugar is good for weight loss and it helps your skin avoid early aging," explains registered dietitian Robert Thomas. Plus, cutting out sugary drinks makes room for water, which "flushes out toxins, keeps you energized, and fuels your skin cells with oxygen that is vital for young-looking skin." Win-win!
There are plenty of things to be grateful for in the spring: warm weather, blossoming buds, and even longer days. Even if you have a bad day, take time to reflect on these small but significant positives and be grateful for them.
"Gratitude practice can help you to reset, refocus, and shift negative energy/thoughts to a more positive framework," says Friedmann Finkel. "Engaging in this daily can promote higher levels of satisfaction both personally and professionally."
Additional reporting by Ari Notis.