Saturday, November 8, 2014

Improving Emotional Hygiene

"Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene." -- Facebook Post from Dalai Lama, Nov. 6, 2014

The Dalai Lama's Facebook post resonated so deeply with my spirit that I decided to share it here too.  As a physician I admit to being frequently over-focused on physical health.  Most people come through my door expecting a doctor to heal what is ailing them physically.  I typically oblige with suggested changes to their health practices (hygiene) concerning diet/nutrition and physical exercise.  Many conditions, however, are direct issues of the heart, the soul, or the emotions.  Many more conditions include these other planes of being in the cause of physical imbalance.  His post left me pondering the need we all have for attentiveness to our "emotional hygiene."  The more stressed, anxious and depressed we are the more attentiveness we should be applying.  Here are some of the daily practices I work to include in my efforts keep my mind healthier.  If you have some that you find helpful -PLEASE - share them through the comments!!

Smile:  There is pretty strong evidence that smiling -- even if it has to be forced -- will improve your mood.  Try it and see.  One book I read even suggested holding a pencil across your mouth as a way to force a smile.  When you exercise your smile muscles a signal gets sent to your brain to lighten up.  You know you are smiling enough when you find your facial muscles hurting later.  "Smile until it hurts."

Read Scripture:  Many of the Apostle Paul's letters (Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, etc.) admonish us to practice mercy, humility, gentleness, kindness, patience, generosity, etc.  Mining these books for these passages and committing them to memory is a way to impress their importance upon your mind.  When your mind prioritizes these attitudinal adjustments, your behavior (and your life) will change too.

Forgive: One of the largest keys to having a healthy mind is letting go of wrongs and mistakes of the past - be they yours or someone else's.  Carrying the toxic sludge of emotional baggage of resentment, guilt, and revenge around with you is a sure fired way to stay in a constant state of dank misery, oppression, and adrenal stress.

Encourage:  Instead of looking for what's wrong, attempt always to spotlight what is right.  Even in the worst moments goodness glimmers.  Habitual searching for what is good, brave, improving, and hopeful smooths out an otherwise very rough and rocky trek over life's journey.  We do have a huge impact on others.  Our words of encouragement to them will bounce back to us and lighten our day too.

Pray/Meditate: When I talk about prayer/meditation, I am talking more about quiet listening and seeking understanding than ticking off all the needs and wants I have.  While there is certainly room in God's life for the complaints, as well as the intercessions for others (as the Psalmist proves!), I think the greater dose of emotional hygiene is found resting in hopeful silence and watching for the illuminating insights that can flow from it.  
Journal: One of the best ways to self-process is to write them down.  This allows you to hear yourself.  This allows you to go back after you're done and see patterns and potential problems that you can reasonably address.  Journaling works well with prayer and meditation.  Keep a journal nearby and if a pesky or irritating thought keeps interrupting your quiet time, just write it down.  This will often release that thought's grip on your contemplation.

These are six acts of emotional hygiene I work at daily.  Do you have others?  Again, share them please in the comments.


No comments: