Spring cleaning 

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By John Gray

After the winter that almost wasn’t we find ourselves turning the page to April, perhaps the most underrated month of the year. I say that because people think not much happens this month—but it doesn’t have to be that way.
April is the perfect time to hit the reset button and reassess our lives. We are fond of the phrase “spring cleaning” but it need not be confined to putting in the screen windows or dusting off the lawnmower. Nature has a way of pruning away the dead branches and making the tree stronger so why not us? I didn’t take a single psychology class in college but, like Lucy in those old Charlie Brown cartoons, that won’t stop me from hanging out my “psychiatrist is in” shingle and offering some free advice. Call it “Personal Pruning 101.”
Social Media – With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Flikr, Foursquare and a bunch of others too new and cool for an old guy like me to keep up with, social media has become an all-consuming thing in our lives. But in the grand scheme, does any of it really matter? No one cares what you look like in your new sun glasses and you certainly don’t care what your friend Jennifer had for lunch (complete with photo). Pare it down to one or two pages and promise yourself to visit them just twice a day at most. Social media is fun but none of it makes you smarter or thinner or kinder. Often it is the technological equivalent of slowing down to look at a car crash 20 times a day and you can make better use of that time.
Entertainment – While we are cutting back on time spent staring at a smartphone that isn’t making you smarter, how about doing an inventory on how much time we spend plopped in front of the boob tube? I’m a devout believer in the theorem of “garbage in, garbage out” and five hours of daily refuse isn’t helping any of us. Yes, there are some great shows and we all have our guilty pleasures but some of it is just a waste. Plus there are reality shows that are 100-percent pure backstabbing and present a warped moral mindset that only serves to rev up or awaken the worst in us. Put another way, the song from the Broadway show “Rent” told us we only had 525,600 minutes in a year, so how many do you want to give to “The Bachelor” or the “Real Housewives” of wherever?
Book report – If your 5th grade English teacher were here, she’d tell you to read a book a month to better your mind and soul. I know you’re busy so how about two books this year? Something new and a classic. I finally got around to To Kill a Mocking Bird recently and I’ve got my harpoon set on Moby Dick next. Books make you smarter; they just do.
Clothes and house – Go to your closet this weekend and bring an empty trash bag. With the exception of things with true sentimental value, any clothes you haven’t worn in two years go in the bag and get dropped at Good Will. Same can be said for the “stuff” in the basement or storage closet. It’s all a waste of space.
Habits – All of us want to look better and be healthier, so why not use this month to take out some bad habits with that trash. Pick one bad thing you do to sabotage your diet each day and eliminate it. Maybe it’s hitting the snack machine at work late in the day or (one of my worst) eating cereal straight out of the box late at night before bed. Trade those bad habits for an 80-calorie low-fat yogurt or cup of sugar-free hot cocoa and watch what happens.
The weather is finally nicer so map out a loop in your neighborhood that takes just 25 minutes to walk and add that to the rest of your activities. Most people walk at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour so just that quick 25 minutes will add a mile and a half to your daily routine. Multiply that over five days a week from April until November and you just went 250 miles or the equivalent of walking from Albany to Philadelphia. It’s good for your heart and really adds up.
Last thing. If you are a person of faith and have drifted away from church, think about going back, even a little. You might be surprised how happy and centered if makes you feel.
It’s amazing how little changes can have a big impact on our lives, so let April be the month you hit the alt/control/delete button on “you” and see the result.
I like to leave you with a smile so here’s a riddle: How excited was the gardener about spring? So excited he wet his plants. See, made you smile!
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at johngray@fox23news.com.

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