6 reasons why it's the perfect time to spring clean your health

If you’ve let things slide a little over winter, no worries. Spring will give you a helping hand to get healthy.

By Monique McKenzie
The sun is coming out to say hello, the flowers are beginning to bloom and the cold of winter is slowly disappearing.
'Tis the season to add more asparagus, rhubarb, watercress and plenty of other fresh produce to your diet, and get back on the path to good health and wellbeing.
We've rounded up the best reasons to love this season, and tips and tricks to put a spring in your step.

An abundance of fresh, seasonal produce

Many local farmers' markets are in full swing and the bounty of fresh produce available makes eating healthy even more delicious.
Some of your favourites may be available year-round, but now is the time to revel in loads of local, seasonal goodies.

The birds return

There is no better indicator of spring than birds chirping outside your window, and seeing more of our feathered friends can make us happy.
In 2017, a UK study found that the more birds people see in their neighbourhoods, the better their mental health.

More vitamin D

In the winter, vitamin-producing sunlight can be hard to come by, and nutrition expert and author Frances Largeman-Roth says that come spring, most of us are in a vitamin D deficit.
A lack of this essential nutrient can put our bones at risk, hurt immunity and impair healthy muscle and nerve functioning.
The return of spring allows us to more easily soak up what our body needs.

A healthier home

As a nation we spend 80 to 90 per cent of our time indoors, so it's important the air in our homes is as free as possible from pollutants (from sources such as cleaning product fumes) and allergens (like dust mites, mould, pollen, pets and smoke).
So throw open those windows and take advantage of nature's free ventilation system!

Flowers are in bloom

After months spent conserving energy, flowers bloom in the spring once they sense the days have grown longer and the weather is warmer.
That's good for humans, because studies have shown that looking at flowers can make us happy.
A 2008 study of hospital patients found that having flowers in the room made people feel more positive and reduced their pain and anxiety. Another study from Rutgers University found that seeing flowers elevated moods for days.

Park life is back

Spending time outside is good for the heart, and you can do more of that now that the weather's warmer.
A recent study estimated that nearly 10 per cent of people with high blood pressure could get their levels under control if they spent at least 30 minutes in a park each week, partly because of the heart-related benefits of getting fresh air and lowering stress.
In Japan, public health experts recommend walking outdoors, a practice called 'shinrin-yoku' or forest bathing, which researchers also link to lower levels of cortisol.

How to make the most of spring

Clean out your pantry and fridge:
Now's the time to go through your pantry and clear out foods that come in boxes.
Swap crackers or chips for crunchy vegetables, and if you tend to rely on prepared meals such as canned soup or packet mac and cheese through the winter months, find some easy recipes so you can make your favourites from scratch instead.
Plant a vege garden:
You'll be rewarded with nutritious and inexpensive herbs and vegetables, and you'll also get some exercise. Plus, research shows tending your own patch of earth is a great way to de-stress, and can even help ward off depression and anxiety.
Don't have a garden? Plant a window box, container garden, or herbs in pots on your windowsill.
Use fresh herbs:
Marinades, sauces and dressings are sources of hidden calories. Herbs, spices and seasonings are flavourful alternatives that taste delicious, without adding unnecessary calories and sodium.
Next time you're in the kitchen, try reaching for basil, thyme or rosemary.
Start greeting the day:
Dr Josna Adusumilli, neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, encourages people to take advantage of the increased sunlight in the mornings now that it's spring to set their circadian pacemaker (our body's sleep clock).
"I would recommend choosing a consistent wake-up time and aiming for a 20-minute walk after waking up. The sunlight will programme your body clock and help regularise your sleep and wake rhythm."

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