Open Mind: Take a spring break

At this time of year I expect the sun to be shining, with birds singing and positive feelings of hope and promise in the air.  

For some, instead of thinking and feeling like this, they can be overcome with heavy thoughts. Sadness and anxiety may prevent them from getting outside to experience the natural positive changes of spring. Meditation can be a beneficial practice to help relieve distress and anxiety by providing a moment of quiet reflection that may help restore balance and perspective. It can also help people reconnect with experiences they are missing, such as getting outside.

Through my career, I have supported people taking a moment to pause, remember and connect with positive experiences. This guided meditation engages all of the senses. Instead of just thinking “go to my happy place,” it helps you experience a moment through what you’ve seen, heard, touched, tasted and smelled. 

Using this method helps to fully centre yourself. Connecting with these pleasant memories helps to create a moment of rest and provides an emotional boost, helping us experience calmer feelings. Once familiar with the technique, people reported that they looked forward to it and began using it independently.

The idea is to recall positive images and sensations, allowing your mind to connect with good things you have experienced. Take a moment to try it yourself. Get comfy in your chair rest your eyes.  Make sure there are no distractions like TVs, phones or people chatting in your area. Be guided to recollect your own positive moments through connecting with your sensory memories. Let’s think about springtime, like in my opening line.

The easiest sensation for us to recall is what we have seen. What sights do you look forward to in spring? The small spring flowers like crocus, tulips, lilacs and daffodils. Some envision little yellow baby chicks, or the first robin. I like to think of the beautiful, bold yellow forsythia bush in my back yard.

Then we move to sounds. What do you remember hearing in the springtime? I think of the call of mourning doves as they return to my yard to nest. The call of many of the songbirds that leave us in the winter and are now returning.  What about the sound of splashing in puddles? Rain that for the first time in months is not falling as snow! Children laughing and playing outside.

Let’s activate our memories through our sense of taste. Yes, taste.  What are your best memories of spring tastes? I think of lemon pie because my family would often include this as part of spring celebrations. Is spring asparagus a taste you enjoy? Some like fiddleheads that come later in the season. For some thinking of taste brings back memories of home and comfortable feelings.

What about your sense of smell? What smells are special to you this time of year? I like the garden and that first smell of earth and grass is intoxicating to me. That takes me back to the flowers and the smell of hyacinths, in the yard and the sweet smell of lilacs by my window.

Lastly, try to remember the sensations you feel. Perhaps the wind on your face, the warmth of the sun, maybe the feeling of pulling on your favorite spring coat or the feeling of being able to go outside with no coat on for the first time in months!

There are many reasons that people cannot connect with real sensory experiences when they want to. Maybe the weather has taken a turn and it is actually cold, blustery and windy out. People might be experiencing anxiety and depression where the thought of getting up and outside seems overwhelming. They may be at work with long hours, or perhaps isolated indoors with physical limitations that make experiencing these sensations difficult.

Using your memories through your senses can be a powerful tool. There are also many benefits to intentionally encouraging your brain to find a restful state, focusing on your positive sensations and shifting from busy days and chaos to quiet restoration.

A moment of peace.

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Paula Frappier is an occupational therapist and community education coordinator with Homewood Health Centre. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. For local mental health resources/information, visit or call 1-844-HERE247.

Paula Frappier