by Jennifer Norris-Nielsen
There seems to be a lot of great advice available about removing external toxins from one’s life—from the community or home, or from the body—but what about mental and emotional toxins?
Many of us have experienced worrying to the point of feeling sick, or feeling so angry or frustrated about something that someone said or did that it’s nearly impossible to focus on anything else. Repetitive thinking usually elicits feelings, as well. Our mental and emotional reactions and aftereffects are closely linked.
Like a lingering infection, stress or other chronic emotional states can negatively impact our health and well-being. Worry lines or pursed lips of irritation are signs of our bodies expressing our internal unrest.
While positive emotions tend to have favorable impacts on our bodies and minds, “bad” feelings aren’t actually bad, even though they feel that way. If we look at life as a journey, our emotions are like road signs indicating where to go and what we should do. Feelings of contentment might be a signal to stay on course and not change actions.
However, negative emotions are just as important as positive ones. Fear may be alerting us that we need to be vigilant or more aware. Stress may indicate that we have too much going on, that we need to say no, or require additional resources. Loneliness can urge us to discover new and meaningful connections in our lives. When we look at feelings with curiosity and openness, they often seem less daunting.
Anger may indicate some injustice, which if we can contribute to greater fairness, can be a very positive thing. Many unfair situations can be transformed when people use their anger to make changes. At the same time, while others may do or say things that are hurtful or toxic, we have control over how we allow them to affect us. We have power over our internal reactions and what we take in.
Whenever we discount emotions, distract ourselves with temporary diversions like food, TV or alcohol, or push feelings away, they tend to persist. Like a child pulling on a pant leg to get a parent’s attention, ignoring emotions simply makes the tugging more urgent. When we pause to listen, there may be important messages we can welcome, understand and move beyond.
Here are a few tips to start an emotional detox:
Our Minds, Our Choices: We often surrender control to external circumstances or people. However, real change tends to stem from taking back responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings and actions. While our past has passed, the future is yet unwritten, and those empty pages are ours to fill in the best ways possible.
Attention, Please: We mentally tend to go wherever we direct our attention. If thoughts and beliefs are focused on limitations or negativity, that’s what will be perceived. When thoughts are directed toward desires and positive outcomes, it’s possible to find one’s path cleared towards what one does want, rather than what is not wanted.
Emotional Compass: Feelings, especially bad ones, are skillful guides to needs and wants; to help with change, connect and perform better. They are important feedback mechanisms, so learning what our feelings are asking will provide a better idea on how to help the self and others.
Keep Score, Selectively: There’s a saying that reads, “Write your blessings in stone and your hurts in the sand.” For a mental and emotional detox, there’s no better advice. Others may have been harmful in the past, but they no longer have to continue to hurt us in the present. Even if we don’t like what might have been done to us, or what’s going on around us, letting go of those injuries allows us to heal and move on.
This is Not a Test: Life is a gift to be experienced and enjoyed. It’s not a spectator’s sport, so mistakes are inevitable. It’s not the falling down, but the getting back up that matters most. If one is having trouble getting out of an emotional or mental rut, there are many people who are able to help. Whether it is through hypnosis or any other therapeutic method, professional support from the outside can sometimes provide the tools and expertise needed to clear toxic relationships, habits, thoughts and feelings, and detox one’s life for good.