10 Ways to Cultivate Emotional Hygiene
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
We asked a hundred people how much time they spend on their physical hygiene every day. The average answer was 30 minutes. We also asked the same hundred people how much time they spend on their emotional hygiene every day. Most of them were quite perplexed by the term itself, and had no idea what it encompassed, so practicing it was a long shot. This general neglect of our emotional hygiene is both profound and baffling. How is it that we spend more time taking care of our teeth than our minds? Would we rather lose a tooth, or our minds? We all know the answer and that’s why it’s time to start becoming more aware of this concept, understand what it entails, and how it can help by being a prophylactic and a healing mechanism for our emotional and mental health.
What is emotional hygiene?
Being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological injuries as and when they occur. Just as you brush your teeth at least once a day to keep them clean of plaque, bacteria, and food particles, the practice of emotional hygiene ensures that your emotions are acknowledged, addressed, and cleansed on a regular basis. Here is how to get started.
#01 Pay attention to emotional pain.
Just like the body gives us physical pain to alert us that something is wrong and in need of attention, so do our emotions. Be aware if you are hurting emotionally for several days because of a rejection, failure, loneliness, change of some sort, a financial set-back loss of a relationship or person, or any other reason? Notice your reactions to psychological pain: anger, tears, withdrawal, meekness, rebellion, aggression, moodiness, crankiness, change in sleep patterns and appetite. If they continue for over two weeks, it’s time to seek help.
#02 Stop emotional bleeding
Look inward and catch negative cycles like lack of confidence, low self-worth, feelings of helplessness, and anxiety. Self-esteem is like an emotional immune system, it acts as a buffer from emotional pain and strengthens emotional resilience. But poor self-esteem, like a weak immune system, can crush your confidence and belief in yourself, so it’s important to avoid putting yourself down, and immediately replace negative self-talk with gentler, positive, empowering and compassionate statements.
#03 Control negative thinking
Ruminating and mulling over the past , over-thinking the future, over-examining people or situations, and thinking the worst, are all negative thinking patterns that increase anxiety and stress levels, reduce trust, happiness and contentment, and are very damaging to our mental health. Replaying distressing events without seeking new insight, perspective or solutions leads to brooding and deepens psychological pain. Over time, these can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. You can disrupt unhealthy thought patterns by engaging in a task that requires concentration, like Sudoku, Crossword, or a memory game, or do a burst of physical activity like 30 jumping jacks. Just 2 minutes of distraction breaks the chain of negativity, but it has to been practiced regularly.
#04 Redefine you view of failure
Failure has a funny way of making you amplify your shortcomings and focus on what you can’t do, instead of focusing on what you can, and when you are focused on your shortcomings, your self-worth and belief goes down and you are less likely to perform at your best. This becomes a vicious cycle. You need to notice this emotional spiral on time and stop it by mindfully ignoring the post-failure auto-reaction of feeling unworthy, helpless and demoralised. Reduce the negative voices by making a list of what you could control and change, if you were to try again. Change how you view failure, not how you value yourself.
#05 Do not let guilt linger
Guilt can be useful in small doses but excessive guilt causes emotional contamination. It drains emotional and intellectual energies, distracts you from other tasks, and prevents you from living your best life. The best way to move forward and let go of guilt is by offering a sincere, empathetic and effective apology. Make amends if you can. Process what you have learnt from the situation, and think of how you can avoid the same mistakes again. Once you have done this, let go, forgive yourself and move on.
#06 Exercise daily gratitude
Even in the midst of the roughest times, there is something to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude changes the neural pathways of your brains and increases your sense of overall satisfaction and wellbeing. You don’t have to offer gratitude only for the big things. In fact, it’s ideal to find new things to be thankful for, every single day. Start with the small things like finding a good parking spot, drinking the perfectly brewed cuppa or having a comfy pair of shoes to walk in.
#07 Reduce digital noise
Believe it or not, bad news makes good headlines. Negativity sells more than positivity, so make sure you are consuming the right kind of media and digital diet. Choose wisely and do not be swept away by fake news, social media rants and graphic images that tend to stay in your mind for a lot longer. It’s often better to read about a disturbing event, than to watch it. Also, keep your social media and online engagement limited, as excessive use leads to various psychological issues like digital addiction, loneliness, depression, inferiority complexes, social anxiety, concentration problems and sleep disorders.
#08 Spring-clean your social network
Be vigilant about the people you surround yourself with, and diligently avoid and distance yourself from people who are negative, toxic or emotionally deplete you in any way. Do a regular spring-cleaning exercise with people, just as you do with your home. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, support and encourage you, and create space for more positivity in your life.
#09 Gain from the “Helper’s High”
Introduce yourself to the best kind of natural high, the “Helper's High.” This is the uplifting feeling that you experience when you help someone or do a good deed or an act of kindness. Get involved with local groups, work with a cause you feel for, or do something small in your personal capacity. Even small acts of kindness count, simple things like being nice to a stranger, or lending a small helping hand to someone.
#10 Cultivate compassion and create “Help Circles”.
Try to be less judgmental and practice compassion towards people and animals alike. Understand that everyone, no matter how it looks from the outside, has their own battles to fight, and issues to work through. Be gentle with them, as you would like them to be towards you. Cultivate “Help Circles” where people join for the sole purpose of being a collective where everyone supports one another. These could be within the sphere of work, in a parent circle, for personal development or emotional support.
Start embracing these small practices and make them a part of your regular routine. A little effort and practice will take you a long way, and improve your mental and emotional fitness by leaps and bounds.