We all know that junk food isn’t good for us, but how about junk emotions? Dr. Shoba Sreenivasan and Dr. Linda E. Weinberger are the authors of Psychological Nutrition and are guest blogging today on how to be mindful of what emotions we’re “feeding” ourselves …
You know junk food when you see it: high in calories, low in nutritional benefit. A diet of junk food ends up in lethargy, being overweight, medical issues and lowers your energy. But did you know there are junk emotions, too?
As clinical psychologists, we wondered what would happen if we started to consider our emotions from the perspective of ingredients that you feed yourself. We developed the concept of psychological nutrition; not about food, but about how to assess and monitor the emotions that you consume.
Because we don’t think to monitor our consumption of emotions as we might food, we unthinkingly consume a diet so high in negative emotions (high-fat/unhealthy), that there’s no room left for positive emotions (low-fat/healthy).
What should we do? In order to get rid of junk emotions, we have to be mindful of the emotions we are consuming. We have to deliberately restrict our diet of high-fat emotions.
7 Ways to Get Rid of Junk Emotions
1. Lower your consumption of high-fat/unhealthy emotions. High-fat emotions are negative and energy draining; they suck the fun and creativity out of your life and are bad for you. Examples: guilt, resentment, anger, envy, jealousy, frustration. High-fat (or negative) emotions create and maintain a cycle of pessimism and low energy. They are fatiguing and close the door to creativity and joy.
2. Increase your consumption of low-fat/healthy emotions. Low-fat emotions are positive and increase your energy. Examples: joy, optimism, love, patience. Low-fat emotions should dominate your psychological intake. Low-fat (or positive) emotions energize you. They open up your world, both in terms of your inner self and the doors to opportunity.
3. Keep a count of your junk emotional calories. Just as with junk food, a diet of junk emotions (like anger, resentment, worry) leads to psychological malnourishment. How many junk emotions are you consuming in a day?
4. Look at relationships as products. Relationships are products made up of feelings. Some are nutritious, others are not. Think of how you examine the packaging of a product for its nutritional content. How many calories? What are the ingredients? Some products may look good, but it turns out they’re not good for you. Relationships are exactly the same: some are good for you; others are not.
5. Make psychological nutritional labels. Just like food products have labels that describe their nutritional content, there should be “psychological nutritional labels” for reactions, relationships, and situations. In this way, you will know (or at least have a good idea) whether a situation has a “high-fat” or “low-fat” content before you enter it. Are there people or situations that should have warning labels?
6. Try a 7-day snapshot. In order to be mindful of your high- and low-fat emotional intake, you will have to undertake an assessment process in the form of diary. Many of us hear the word “diary,” and we groan, “Oh my God, another obligation!” Let’s face it, we’re all busy. But, we’re also interested in becoming and staying healthy. The 7-day snapshot means taking one period of seven days — each day recording your emotional reactions, the triggers and the values (positive or negative). This snapshot gives you a clear picture of your emotional nutritional content and whether you are psychologically nourished or malnourished.
7. Assess how many spoiled relationship products you’re consuming. Products have expiration dates to warn you that they are no longer fit for consumption. Relationships are no different. If you can assess the psychological nutritional content of these relationships, you have begun the first step toward understanding which relationship products are dangerous to your mental health and which are healthy for you.
Tips for Better Emotional Health
If something is dangerous to your psychological health, don’t do it.
- Even if it means someone won’t like you.
- Even if it means that person has the label of “family member” and you feel obligated to do it.
- Even if it means by saying “no” you will be perceived as not accommodating.
The Pay Off of Ditching Junk Emotions
Time is a finite quantity and none of us know how much of it we have. Start each day making life as fulfilled and joyful as it can be, and build on that. Stop filling it with junk emotions!
What junk emotions will you ditch today? —Dr. Shoba Sreenivasan and Dr. Linda E. Weinberger