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Spring into spring! 17 simple, surprising ways to refresh and renew your life | Life and style

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Spring into spring! 17 simple, surprising ways to refresh and renew your life | Life and style


Life and style

This is the perfect time to make lasting changes – whether embracing exercise, learning a new language, planting seeds or painting your house

Step outdoors for extra exercise endorphins

Take it from a hopeless dopamine addict, spring is inarguably the best season to get into outdoor exercise. The trick to building the habit – as with any habit, really – is to start small, and reduce friction. Decide what you’re wearing and charge your phone before you go to bed. For your first few sorties, don’t worry about distance, speed or doing a whole workout: just get yourself used to getting up and out of the door. Counterintuitively, it can help to not dress like an athlete: if you go out covered in Lycra, it can feel mortifying to slow to a walk, but if you’re less formally dressed you can stop for a coffee. Keep it playful, and enjoy what your body can do: if that’s some step-ups on a bench or pull-ups on a tree branch, great, but even if it’s just going a little bit faster when a good song kicks in, the endorphin rush is what you’ll remember the next time it’s wet and windy. Oh, and don’t underestimate the value of a well-curated playlist. Many’s the morning I haven’t wanted to go anywhere, only for this Rihanna/Game Of Thrones remix to put a spring back in my step. Joel Snape, fitness writer

Plant sweet peas and herbaceous perennials for a beautiful, flowery summer

Planting sweet peas now will lead to ‘armfuls’ of scented flowers in June and late summer. Photograph: Photoshopped/Getty Images

A packet or two of sweet peas costs less than a fiver: simply sow straight into the ground in a sunny spot at the base of a trellis or obelisk. From June to late summer you’ll have armfuls of scented flowers to enjoy in situ or to cut and bring inside. I love the maroon and purple “Matucana”. Most sweet peas only last a year, but sow a perennial sweet pea such as Lathyrus latifoliusfor displays year after year. (One small downside: the flowers are not scented like their annual counterparts.) If you are going to buy plants, it’s cannier (and more sustainable) to swerve the temporary temptations of summer bedding and plant hardy herbaceous perennials instead. You can place these in the ground or a large container and leave them there permanently – their foliage disappears in winter but they shoot back up in spring. If your garden is dry and sunny, plant day lilies (hemerocallis), ice plants (hylotelephium), and agapanthus. For shadier areas, try astrantia, bee balm (monarda) and hardy geraniums. Jane Perrone

A trusty belt can always add a bit of polish. Photograph: South_agency/Getty Images

Belt-up for springtime style

It is hard to think of an item that everyone, regardless of age or gender, has in their wardrobe, but there is one safe bet: the trusty belt. Maybe you haven’t worn it for some time, but I hazard there is one in there somewhere, and the good news is that it’s the perfect single item to make your look spring-fresh. Got a roster of cavernous dresses that you have been flouncing about in for the last few years or a suit that is starting to feel a bit stale? Add a belt. Maybe you have a coin belt from the noughties – wear it with jeans or a dress with ruffles and you are instantly tapping into the boho-trend that is very much back. If you can stomach wearing it low-slung, all the better. If you are a habitual belt-wearer, there are other ways to make it feel fresh – experimenting with a belt over a jacket, for one. Trends aside, a belt is a one-stop-shop to adding a bit of polish. Everything else can be haphazard, but, whether functional or fun, cummerbund-wide or frite-skinny, a belt will tie it together. Ellie Bramley, Guardian acting fashion and lifestyle editor

The perfect time to give your home a fresh lick of paint. Photograph: Anna Efetova/Getty Images

Grab a paintbrush and lean into the light

People say you shouldn’t paint your walls when it’s too cold, but I think that’s only true if you’re a nudist and plan to paint without your clothes on! That said, there are other reasons why spring is the perfect time to give your home a lick of paint – the big one is that you’re getting a lot more light. It means you’ll get a clearer vision of what the finished paint colour will look like and the diversity of tone. When you put a tester patch in the middle of a wall, you get a very artificial idea of what that colour is going to look like in the finished room because it’s isolated. It’s better to paint a corner to see what happens when the colour bounces off itself. Trends have gone out the window, but there is an enormous amount of interest in bluey-green tones at the moment – richer colours that tell stories are enticing and compelling, and can make your home feel like a safe space. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, interior designer and TV presenter (as told to Leah Harper)

Feel the sensations of cold, shock and invigoration. Photograph: SolStock/Getty Images

Shock your system with a plunge in cold water

The point of cold water swimming isn’t the cold and it isn’t the swimming; it’s the water, especially in spring time. When better to – literally – immerse yourself in nature than now; the water is warming, the air is full of blossom and there are ducklings about. So, if you can, choose somewhere that gets you excited, whether that’s a river or pond or the sea. Check you know how you’re getting out before getting in. Breathe out as the water hits your chest, make the most of being at duck level, and feel the sensations of cold, shock and invigoration – don’t be frightened by them. By all means wear neoprene gloves, socks or a vest if it helps you stay in a few more seconds, but don’t feel intimidated by other people’s gear. Wear a nice bright hat so people can spot you. Don’t ever be afraid to be the first one to get out. And have a Thermos ready for when you’re dry, dressed and the shivering hits. Nell Frizzell, writer and swimming enthusiast

Photograph: EddWestmacott/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Indulge in the first batch of jersey royals

The arrival of jersey royals on supermarket shelves often feels like the first hurrah of spring. They’re the earliest “new” potatoes of the year, but they’re not only remarkable for being first – maybe it’s the southern sea air, or the seaweed they use to fertilise the soil, or maybe it’s just the hype, but they do taste particularly, deliciously potatoey. You don’t need to do much to enjoy them at their best. Rinse off the mud, scrub away any flaking skin (peeling such tiny spuds is a crime), steam until tender, then toss them in plenty of butter (or a good oil) and salt, then tuck in. Keep any extras simple – a fistful of soft green herbs on top perhaps, or a dollop of salsa verde (good with fish or lamb) is all you need. Felicity Cloake, food writer

Distract yourself with a new hobby, such as birdwatching. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Swap dry January for sober spring

For anyone cutting back on booze, dry January can be hard to stick to because of the cold, miserable weather. In many ways, it’s easier in the springtime because you can distract yourself with nice walks and make the most of the morning light. In recent years, the choice of alcohol-free drinks has grown, so you’ll have a greater selection of alternative options when you go out for meals. If you want to give up or you’re curious about going sober, I recommend joining an online alcohol-free community. This doesn’t have to be an addiction support group, but you’ll hear more about the benefits of quitting alcohol from people who’ve done it. If your social activities are hinged around the pub, you could try taking up a new hobby, playing sports or meeting friends for brunch instead of during the evenings when you’re more likely to drink. Matt Pink, sobriety expert and founder ofDryyapp (as told to Lizzie Cernik)

Blusher releases your skin ‘from the grey shackles of winter’. Photograph: Paper Boat Creative/Getty Images

Gain a rosy perspective

Blusher is a joyful piece of makeup that lifts your demeanour and releases your skin from the grey shackles of winter. Blusher, however, has “potential to go wrong” written all over it. Heavy handedness – the biggest culprit – will either make people think you have a skin condition or you’re heading to a fancy dress party for 80s pop stars. If that’s the look you want, be my guest. Otherwise, the easiest way to wear blusher is to opt for a cream, as opposed to a powder, as it’s more malleable. Simply blend into the apple of your cheeks and off you go. I love blusher by Saie, Westman Atelier, Ateh Jewel beauty and Ilia because they all have sublime textures and glide on to the skin like a well- formulated skincare product. But the best thing of all? There’s no brush required. Funmi Fetto, contributing beauty editor for Vogue

Create a feature wall with striped wallpaper. Photograph: mihalis_a/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Embrace striped wallpaper and scallop borders

Spring is the perfect opportunity to breathe new life into our homes with its vibrant hues, from bright yellows to soft pastel pinks, lilacs and peach tones. Incorporating colour through paint, wallpaper and soft furnishings is a fantastic way to refresh our living spaces relatively quickly. I’ve noticed a resurgence of pastel gingham, spring florals, and fresh stripes, which makes wallpaper a really exciting option for creating feature walls (or even ceilings). Additionally, paint effects like stripes on furniture can add a playful touch – and simply changing the handles can transform a piece entirely. While I typically shy away from trends, I can’t help but appreciate the return of scallops. Whether adding them to existing furniture or crafting a wooden scallop border from MDF, they infuse a sense of rustic charm. For those with sewing skills, consider elevating your cushions, curtains or tableware with a charming gingham frill for a delightful spring upgrade. Siobhan Murphy, interior designer and stylist

Find meaning in fiction

Books can help us get in the spring mood. If you’re looking to start afresh, I’d recommend Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down by Corey Keyes, which encourages us to stop obsessing over feeling happy and focus on finding meaning and community. In fiction, Ann Patchett transports readers to a family orchard in northern Michigan in her novel Tom Lake, set in the pandemic spring of 2020. While harvesting fruit, a mother unfurls the story of her romance with a famous actor to her three daughters. In Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa, formerly imprisoned confectionery shop worker Sentaro forms an unlikely friendship with an elderly woman. The novel also conjures spring’s sense of renewal: Sentaro dreams of a “carpet” of cherry blossom, and “senses the full force of emotion that has been dormant in the trees all year, waiting for this once-a-year explosion of joy: their pure, unadulterated happiness”. Ella Creamer, Guardianbooks reporter

A cold shower will refresh tired plants. Photograph: saulgranda/Getty Images

Give your houseplants a shower

Just like you, your houseplants are fed up with winter’s grey skies and the dryness of central heating. Give your plant an outdoor shower. When the warm spring rains appear, kick your houseplant outdoors for a wash (don’t leave it outside overnight though) – you’ll be amazed how refreshed it looks. If you don’t have anywhere outside, give it a cold shower. This will wash off all the house dust and give you a chance to blast off any pests that might be appearing. Spring is the time to repot as the plant is coming back into active growth with longer days. It will also love the new addition of compost. If your plant doesn’t need to change to a bigger pot (roots coming out of the bottom of the pot means it does), just carefully remove the top couple of centimetres of soil and replace with new compost (peat-free please, for the sake of the planet). This will give it a little boost of food for new spring growth. Alys Fowler, gardener and Guardian columnist

A little sunblock goes a long way. Photograph: MarsBars/Getty Images

Stock up on SPF

It’s important to wear sunscreen year-round, but even more so in the springtime after a long period of limited exposure to the sun. As the weather gets warmer, you need to be wearing an SPF 50 to protect against UVA and UVB rays, no matter what your skin tone. For those with sensitive skin, I suggest avoiding sunscreens with titanium oxide and oxybenzone, which can aggravate your skin. Instead, opt for brands with hyaluronic acid, which is hydrating, or zinc oxide, which won’t sting the eyes and skin. Children can struggle with thick creams, as they don’t have the patience for applications. Sprays are a good alternative, but you need to ensure you’re applying them liberally and covering every part of the body, including feet, hands, neck and tips of ears. For anyone with darker skin, try a tinted or clear sunscreen to avoid white marks. Veerpal Sandhu,clinical pharmacist and founder ofMedline SkinAesthetics(as told to LC)

Get out of the house and start crossing off your new year wishlist

Swap a night in for a night out. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

The other night, I went to a sound bath in an old church with a group of total strangers. It was light and bright out, so I walked there and back and was still in bed by 10pm. It was a far cry from my winter routine in which all my evening activities require being under a blanket. Now that the evenings are brighter, it’s time to bring to life the wishlist you set in January. Perhaps it’s time to swap a night in with friends for a concert. Revive your dormant WhatsApp groups to plan an outing, and keep tabs on Eventbrite for any events in your local area. Or visit a new restaurant to support local foodie establishments, now that we can step away from the warm winter stews. The blossom is out, flower buds are starting to show and our gardens are coming alive again. It’s officially time to leave the house again and try something new. Emma Gannon, author, novelist and host of the creative careers podcastCtrl Alt Delete

Reset with a springtime playlist

It’s hard to imagine an album that sounds more like spring blossoming than Rafael Toral’s Spectral Evolution. The Portuguese composer made his latest release using his arsenal of self-made synthesisers, which speak to each other in a joyful, intricate burble that evokes the unfurling intricacy of the undergrowth and new shoots coming into bloom. (I can’t hear it without picturing insects having a giddy party.) For a record that embodies the peace and release that an exit from a long winter can bring, there’s also Waxahatchee’s Tigers Blood, a contented yet radiant Americana set that brings to mind Lucinda Williams at her peak. And for something completely different, how about Kim Gordon’s The Collective? Yes, it’s abrasive, malevolent and mistrustful, closer to trap than the rock of her old band, Sonic Youth – but it’s also a staggering creative rebirth for a 70-year-old artist at the peak of her powers: a reminder that new seasons of life are always ours to claim. Laura Snapes, Guardian deputy music editor

Getting out in nature is great for mental wellbeing. Photograph: borchee/Getty Images

Find opportunities to connect

While some people come alive during the spring, others feel overwhelmed by the expectations to go out more and be productive. For anyone who’s feeling like this, I recommend giving yourself the time and space you need; but if you love the spring, it’s a good time to embrace opportunities to connect with people. That could be meeting up with friends, volunteering, booking theatre trips or anything else that’s going to put you in touch with the world. Getting out in nature is also great for your mental wellbeing at this time of year, even if it’s just a short walk around the local woodlands. There’s also a rising trend for outdoor walk-and-talk therapy, which is worth exploring if you want more support with your mental health. Katerina Georgiou,psychotherapist(as told toLC)

Practise each day to train your language-learning muscles. Photograph: gpointstudio/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Master the basics of a new language

Always dreamed of mastering another language? Spring is the perfect time to start learning. If you’re going away in the summer, you’ve got about 100 days to learn the basics of wherever you might be headed – a good motivation to commit to a learning schedule. Start small and stay consistent. If you set aside time every day to practise, you’re building a habit, as well as training your language-learning muscles. Jot down key phrases and common words as you come across them, and repeat them out loud. If you opt to learn with an app such as Duolingo, use it as a starting point and listen to podcasts or watch films and TV in your new language to help those key phrases and words stick. If you have a patient friend or family member around, rope them in to practise speaking sessions. The more you can immerse yourself, the better. Mabel Banfield-Nwachi, Guardian news reporter

Consider the ethics and values of the institutions you bank with. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Spring clean your finances

The start of the financial year in April is an ideal time to spring clean your finances. Begin by reviewing what you are paying out each month in direct debits and monthly subscriptions. Cut back on anything you don’t need and set up a standing order to pay that money into a regular savings account instead – the best currently pay over 6% interest. Next, consider whether the institutions you bank with – and the pension funds you invest in – align with your ethics and values. A recent Which? money report named Nationwide Building Society, the Co-operative Bank and Triodos as the UK’s greenest banks, while other leading current account providers finance the fossil fuel industry and invest in some of the dirtiest, most polluting firms on the planet. Switching to a new account takes just seven working days – and is one of the easiest things you can do to make a difference. Donna Ferguson, freelance journalist



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