I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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It’s so important that we regularly spring clean our heavy heart. I recently shared on the Simple Joys blog how I learned to shed my old layers while vacationing in Finland, but in this blog post I want to dive deeper into this concept of forgiving, letting go and how to spring clean a heavy heart.

To put it simply, our heart is our home. Over time, our hearts become cluttered and heavy, and unless we consciously set aside time to go through, declutter and revive our hearts, the world around us can seem unmanageable.

With the COVID-19 pandemic flooding our thoughts these days, it’s even more critical that we properly clean out our hearts and purge all the clutter that has been built up over the past weeks and months. It’s a new season, a new fresh beginning, a new quarter. It’s time to clean that gunk out, friends! And I’m doing it right there with ya!

When our hearts are feeling heavy, when we intuitively know it’s time to spring clean our hearts, that is what we must do to – not only survive through the hard times but – thrive.

No one is stopping you from sowing your seeds. 

This is merely a footnote in our story. It will not define us, and if it does, it will define us for the better – it will make us stronger, more resilient. We will become rising phoenixes. 

I am no self-care expert, but I do have a talent for taking care of myself emotionally in a very healthy manner. So, I thought I’d share some self-care tips I’ve developed over the years to help you spring clean a heavy heart. 

Here are my 7 tips you can use to spring clean a heavy heart…

1. Nurture Yourself

A good amount of self-criticism can be effective in our journey towards self-improvement. It’s essential that we recognize our faults and that we have self-awareness. It’s the only way we will grow! We all have our own baggage, our own issues and being open and upfront with these issues is the first step to tackling it. But it’s important to remember that we should be discerning about WHEN we apply that criticism.

When our hearts are feeling especially tender from a wound, a ton of stress, or a lot of anxiety, it’s important to be gentle with ourselves. Now is the time to be gentle with yourself.  If you are going through a hard time, or a period of grief, piling on the pain and criticism won’t help.

A good rule of thumb: if you would not speak to a friend that way, then you should be softer with yourself.

An Exercise I Love and Use: Place your hands over your body, wrap them around your shoulders and just hold yourself. Speak out loud to yourself. I often say things like, “Hey…you’re okay. I’m here…. All is well…”

I’ll also sit down with my journal and write some loving kindness to myself. I’ll sit in silence and allow a mantra to spring forth from my stomach or my chest. I’ll quiet my mind and allow my mind to drift down to a lower brain state such as Alpha and Theta (relaxation, hypnosis) where my deeper subconscious lies. When they float up to me from that deeper well of myself, I’ll scribble them down and repeat them aloud. 

spring clean your heavy heart with simple joys blogger Helena Woods

 

2. Recognize Emotional Triggers

Our willingness to accept responsibility for our own lives is the source from which character and self-respect spring.  Over time, I’ve noticed that when I recognize my own emotional triggers and what makes me resort to past negative behaviors and limiting beliefs, I can spring clean my own heart and change old beliefs I’ve self-programed. For me personally, I find that my biggest trigger is being ignored or not accepted by others.

In the past, I’ve resorted to intense anger and grief when faced with people who didn’t like me or accept me for who I am. But over the years, I’ve learned to become a “watcher” of my mind. Essentially, I practice mindfulness. And it’s a habit I’ve been cultivating for three years. Today, this habit is so ingrained in me, that it’s become a large part of my day-to-day personality. When a situation arises where I feel rejected by another person, I’ve discovered that sitting with the feeling and watching it as opposed to being in the intense emotion is immensely releasing and soothing. There is no anger or grief; I simply observe the situation from a bird’s eye view. I have epic compassion for my ‘lil human self, the mind, the “ego” that just wants to feel safe and loved. 

I’m not perfect, of course, and if I don’t check myself, I can fall into a pit of despair, but when that happens, I release through the written word.

Resist the temptation to judge yourself for your negative feelings and problems. Release it all on paper, or speak it out loud. Cry if it springs forth! Make space for yourself and allow the trigger to be where it is. Allow yourself to be where you are and express compassion for yourself.

3. Discover the Root of the Emotion

Writing, speaking out loud and thinking about our problems objectively are all wonderful ways to understand our heavy hearts. But understanding the root cause of the emotion is vital for taking action so that the emotion isn’t a repeated experience. Dissecting an emotion and unraveling it to its core is very important in understanding why we experience the things we repeatedly experience. When we don’t place our awareness on the root of the problem, the linchpin habit, we resort to old patterns that eventually become an endless cycle in our lives. It’s then that we often begin to numb ourselves out. When we numb ourselves with Netflix or shopping or food, etc, we run away from the root issue. 

Addiction is the avoidance of pain. 

Instead, look to the energy of that feeling. For me, when I am ignored, I sit with the feeling (as opposed to being in the feeling) and unravel it, ultimately discovering that the root fear is rejection. And when I realize that the fear of being rejected is actually keeping me small and holding me back from living the fullest life possible, that’s when I can take proactive steps to change that limiting belief.

A few books I love that tap into these ideas of limiting beliefs and linchpin habits…

4. Forgive and Let Go

When I set aside time to spring clean my heart, I inevitably come eye-to-eye with some old wounds and people that need some forgivin’! I’m a big advocate for forgiveness and making amends with people. When we hold onto negative feelings towards someone, we’re actually only hurting ourselves. Clenching onto negative past memories and feelings only gives us more stress. (And ultimately stress and anxiety make us physically ill, so why would we want that?)

Having compassion for other people and empathizing with them is an essential part of moving on and letting go. I know, it’s harder in the moment, especially when the experience is fresh and recent. But realizing that we are actually only hurting ourselves is a great reminder to let go. 

When we let go, we feel lighter. Our heavy hearts melt and we can have more fun! When we release resentment, deeper healing is able to flow through to us.  

I encourage you to work on accepting the situations you cannot change, and improve the situations you can. Everyone has some sort of pain in their heart. Some people have a lot of sadness that they carry around with them, others have far less than others. But we all carry something. And no matter what, it is up to us to release it. 

Love yourself enough to let go. Recognize how fragile, how fleeting, how precious your time on Earth is and use that as motivation, a gentle reminder of sorts, that you deserve a fun, light and free existence. Having freedom and feeling light requires us to let go and forgive others even when they’ve wronged us.

Forgive them because you deserve a happier life. 

spring clean your heavy heart with simple joys blogger Helena Woods

5. Self-Respect

Yes, we need to forgive, but it’s also important to be aware of the energy that people hold around them. This is where it’s time to have some self-respect for yourself. I’ve learned from past experience that allowing negative people to walk in and out of your life will only continue a cycle of negative experiences. It’s like a repeated soul lesson that isn’t being learned. A merry-go-round you just can’t get off of. And when this happens, when you find yourself in a similar negative experience with a similar type of person over and over again, that is a signal that it’s time to change your energy and set some boundaries.

There comes a point when you won’t have any hard feelings anymore. Too much time has passed. You’ve grown up, you’ve matured, and you’ve forgiven them. You feel compassion for them, and you wish them nothing but blessings and abundance.

And there’s also having enough respect for yourself that you don’t allow them back into your life anymore.

There doesn’t need to be resentment, annoyance or frustration. There doesn’t even need to be a confrontation or peaceful conversation. You just allow. You simply don’t respond.

You can love someone unconditionally and still set boundaries with them. 

It’s not either-or. It’s not yes or no. You can love someone and still not want them simply because you love and respect yourself enough, and you have enough self-awareness, to understand that the person doesn’t bring any life or vitality to your present life experience.

Life is short. Set some boundaries. Let those people go live their lives, and pray that they don’t hurt else someone along the way. 

6. Release…Again

Let’s be real: forgiving and letting go is never a one-time thing! It’s a habit we have to cultivate. And consciously at that! Please, friend, don’t become discouraged if your troubled heart returns; simply pause and realize that it takes time to heal! Things do not go away on their own, especially our heavy hearts! It’s also a great reminder that many times we cannot just simply pause and feel better. We must make continual improvements and conscious changes in our daily lives so that our hearts can revive and thrive. 

Taking a single step towards improvement and showing up for ourselves and our own hearts often requires many attempts. But each time we show up for ourselves, we allow more growth and peace to enter our lives. Keep releasing, keep letting go.

In the past, I’ve held onto things for years. Once it took an entire year for me to finally forgive someone. And not only did it continue to hurt myself, but I saw it manifest physically in my life: I’d meet people who were eerily similar to the other person, I’d get sick, I’d lose money, I’d miss opportunities, life would crumble repeatedly etc.

What we focus on we attract. Where our minds go back to continues to reappear. 

When we spring clean our hearts, it’s also a reminder to get some external help if we need it. Don’t try to conquer and spring clean your heavy heart by yourself. Rely on the resources in your life and the people who love you to help you. We are naturally social beings, and a friend is a great resource in times of stress. Rely on them – that’s what friends are for. While therapy is a great tool for those that value a more rational approach, I often use RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy) and EFT Tapping to help me release deeply buried issues that are buried in my subconscious. I’ve released numerous random phobias, fears, paranoias through EFT videos on Youtube!

The point: Include others and make a strategy to tackle it!

7. Remember the Big Picture: Enjoy the Simple Joys of Living

Often the last thing we’re doing when we’re experiencing a heavy heart or a season of grief is looking at the big picture of our lives. I find that seeing our world, our day-to-day, and (I hate to say it…but) our insignificance in the grand scope of human existence is a humble reminder that there is so much that is out of hands, so much that is entirely out of control. We don’t have all the answers, we don’t know the Universe’s grand plan and that’s beautiful.

We are living on a floating blue ball in the middle of a massive universe.

Thinking big picture is a humble reminder that we are okay, that all is well and all will be well.

Take your life in your hands, grasp it firmly in your fingertips and enjoy it. Enjoy the ride. Add a dose of whimsy and playfulness to your morning routine! Turn up your favorite childhood tunes, dance around in your underwear, wear a brightly colored outfit, eat some chocolate for breakfast! Yes, go eat some chocolate! Take a different commute or route home from work. Cook something you’ve never cooked before! Create something with your hands. Write a letter with a feather quill!

Our days matter

When we forget the simple joys, the sparkle of life, our mere existence on the plant, that’s when all hope is lost. That’s when we aren’t truly living anymore.

If we’re not trying to get the best out of any given moment, that’s when we start living our lives from a defeatist mindset. So, I encourage you to remember the big picture. Have some fun, add some playfulness to your day, enjoy this time that you have.

What a gift. What a precious, fleeting gift. 

xoxo,

Helena

 

When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence? – Gabrielle Roth

a few annual spring portraits 🙂 – Strasbourg, France in March 2020

 

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How to Spring Clean a Heavy Heart

March 31, 2020

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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