I have heard a lot of chatter over the last few months about diet detoxes and health cleanses. The New Year tends to bring with it a renewed motivation to get fit, cleanse our system and revamp our health behaviours. In January, I attended a Healthy UBC lunch-and-learn hosted by Dr. Thara Vayali, called ‘The Toxin Myth’. Dr. Vayali defined toxicity and explained the consumption and elimination methods of toxins in our bodies. In addition to listing the environmental and metabolic causes of toxicity, she included emotional causes as well. This intrigued me.
If I’m being honest, when it comes to cleanses and detoxes, emotions are not exactly a ‘sexy’ sell. We would never see a magazine add that promised “to reduce self-critical talk and reveal a stunning disposition in only 12 days!” We want to hear about miracle cures or a fast-pass to lasting health and vitality. But what good is a makeover to the physical body without at least considering how we might also care for what’s on the inside?
I had never considered how emotions could act as toxins. In reflecting on this after the presentation, I wondered why we aren’t more concerned about toxic emotions and the effects that they might have on our health. Personally I think that holding a grudge or internalizing anger would probably be more destructive to my health, than consuming the occasional dose of nitrates contained in processed foods.
This month, I will be embarking on an emotional cleanse to rid my life of negativity, judgment (of myself or others) and emotions that do not serve me in a productive way. I practice a lot of these behaviours already but in setting concrete (and very public) goals, I hope to become a happier person.
In her presentation, Dr. Vayali included five examples of how emotions can become toxic to our bodies and I have set a goal to accompany each one.
Toxicity: the degree to which something can cause harm to a living organism.
|Toxic emotions||Proposed Cleanse|
|Withheld emotions||Share and then let go. Share frustrations and anger with others when they arise or commit to letting them go (for good). Refuse to stew in negative emotions.|
|Dwelling||Look forward and not backwards. We have never been able to change the past so forgive yourself and focus on doing better next time. Dwelling might prevent you from finding an opportunity to excel.|
|Gossip/Judgement||Cut others some slack. We can never truly know what others are facing in their lives. Give people the space to be themselves and afford yourself the same. Judging others only provides an excuse for not improving ourselves.|
|Self-deprecation||Say “I’m awesome” every day. Focus on what makes you awesome. Critical self-talk, when internalized, can change the way we interact with the world. Embrace your awesome.|
|Digital Addiction||Turn off before bed. Having an ipad (with Netflix) and a smart phone are great, but they have drastically changed my bedtime routine and sleep habits. Books and magazines only before bed this month.|
Embarking on this type of an emotional detox will not be easy. Training our brains to think and act differently will take time and practice. In the long run however, I feel that this type of cleanse has to be easier than drinking nothing but lemon water for two weeks straight, right?
This month, I invite you to reflect on how you might start to include emotions when thinking about caring for your physical health and body.
Want an easy start? Watch this Ted Talk: The Happy Secret to Better Work. In addition to being extremely funny, it provides some examples for how to tune our thinking towards the positive.
All my best,