My favorite thing about March — an otherwise bleak, hawkish month — is ritualistically purging my closet, and also my psyche. Being a psychologist and overall brooding type, I like to think of spring as a time to reset emotionally, shedding the hibernating months like snake skin. I find this time of year to be reinvigorating, a chance to take a pulse on my social, emotional, and psychological lives; it's the time of year I get reconnected to old friends, revamp successful habits, and (yes) turn down invitations to events I'm not excited about.
Here are ideas for some cerebral spring cleaning of your own:
Clear out old numbers in your phone
Listen. "Joey Red Shirt" and "Yasmine LES" are likely not going to play prominent roles in your life. For a long time, I kept random numbers saved in my phone, like emotional souvenirs. But then I deleted one and was hooked. It felt so good; yes, I was saying no to a version of myself that was going to follow up on a spontaneous connection, but also I was clearing up psychic space for newcomers — first and last name included.
Do a social-media declutter
Numerous studies highlight the adverse effects of social-media use, but I think it's more helpful to think of it as bad social-media use. Like anything, if we can develop a more alert, mindful relationship to social media, it can enhance our relationships and keep us engaged. Go through your social-media accounts meticulously. Unfollow people whose lives — filtered or not — make you feel bad about yourself. Try to compartmentalize when you use social media. Instead of mindlessly flicking through feeds during every spare moment, commit to it like you would to another activity. (Don't do this to guilt yourself about the time you spend on your phone but rather to better understand and clarify your relationship to it.)
I have a little pact with myself that involves checking Facebook at specific times, for a few minutes, without doing anything else simultaneously. I've found logging out of all social-media accounts useful as well; that way, I have to make a conscious decision to engage with the medium. At the same time, also interrogate how social media might be a way to stimulate any budding interests, e.g., if you're trying to cook more, follow culinary Instagram accounts for inspiration.
Get in touch with people you miss
Take stock of the people in your life and how you feel after you've spent time with them. If there's a friend who consistently makes you feel insecure or anxious, consider reevaluating your closeness. That doesn't mean cutting them out, but perhaps their place on your priority lineup needs to be reshuffled. By the same token, ask yourself if there's anyone you miss. Many adult friendships peter out because of circumstance, not incompatibility. Our college friends move away; people have babies and/or high-powered jobs. If there's someone whose presence you genuinely miss, reach out to them. I've made a list of the top three people I want to rekindle contact with and plan on sending texts weekly just to check in. Even a quick text can reawaken a relationship. People like to hear they're being thought of.
Lighten your calendar
Look through your planner or Google calendar with a critical eye, asking yourself if you're dreading any commitments. Of course, the reality is that some of these will be financial, work, or domestic necessities, but there is a deeply felt Puritan work ethic in American society that espouses hard work and discipline, which is to say, doing things even when you don't want to. This attitude is unavoidable in certain spheres of our lives — employment, school, parenting — so gauge where it's not. Having said that, if there's something you've been talking about for ages (Spanish lessons, volunteering to teach citizenship classes), it might be time to swap things out. If it's financially and logistically practical, hold yourself accountable; I'm planning to sign up for American Sign Language classes with a friend and paying upfront to cement the commitment.