THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Spring cleaning - 'self-improvement' v self-sabotage

This image isn't mine, but it's awesome.

This image isn't mine, but it's awesome.

Who doesn't love spring? The days are longer, the flowers are in bloom and there's baby animals frolicking around all over the shop. Energy and optimism levels are back at New Year's Eve-high as we make internal commitments to do more exercise and eat nothing but salad between now and August in pursuit of the elusive "bikini-body" (whatever that means).

It's also prime time for "New You" ad-campaigns as companies seek to shamelessly capitalise on our new-found health-consciousness. The ethics of this may be questionable, but the health industry is a business, its principle purpose being to make a profit, not to make you healthy (insert mock outrage here).  But anyway, what's so bad about channelling this springtime energy into some 'self-improvement'? Surely that's a good thing?

Thing is, I'm not so sure. First there's the inevitable disappointment when, invariably, at some point we crack and accidentally eat a whole tub of ice-cream. Whoops. But even if we hold firm in our resolutions, eat well, exercise often - then what? Nirvana ensues?

Obviously this isn't the case, but it seems to be an attitude that many of us carry across all areas of our lives. We belong to a society that believes it is terminally deficient in one thing or another; we just need to be a bit more hardworking, a bit more generous, a bit more creative, funnier, skinnier, wealthier... we spend most of our lives looking forward to a time when we will have got that job, dropped that dress-size, married that person. Our perceived failures we put down to some kind of personal short-coming and we fill the void of our disappointment with handbags, holidays, or 'self-improvement' projects.

But what if we're looking at it all wrong? Like one of those optical illusions that look like a lot of squiggles until you turn your head sideways and realise it's actually a perfect miniature of the Sistine chapel, what if all the things we perceive to be getting in the way of our happiness are actually just layers of nonsense distorting the real picture? What if the key to sustainable happiness isn't juice cleanses or crossfit?

In all seriousness, if the brighter mornings have got you waking up with the urge to go running - go for it! Feel motivated to feed your body healthy food, because it's the only one you have and you want to look after it, not because you want to post a picture of your meal to instagram. Do the things that make you feel good. Not the self-righteous, my smoothie's greener than your smoothie kind of good. The "holy crap, I'm alive. I'm a collection of atoms, essentially star dust, 15 billion years in the making, and here I am. Breathing and thinking and looking back at the universe that created me. Everything I see is part of me, and I'm part of everything" kind of good.

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." - Dr Seuss

You're a pretty incredible biological coincidence, and you don't get long to enjoy your body, your community, your world. Isn't it time we stopped deferring living our best life to some indefinite time in a future that we see as largely beyond our control? The only time you have to start being the best version of yourself is now. What are you waiting for?

This spring I urge you not to 'detox', don't give up carbs and please don't go looking for a "New You". The only toxicity that needs to be cleansed is the perverse idea that you're somehow not enough the way that you are.

"You're an impossibly awesome collision of overcome obstacles and constant revisions and all the best reasons to get out of bed. Your heart is the best written book that I've read." -Dallas Clayton

At the Northern Karma Spring Retreat we'll be exploring how mindfulness and meditation can help us to get out of our own way and start being our best selves. For more information, dates and booking details click here.