Sexier Than Flossing: Emotional Hygiene

Since moving to Portugal, I've been a bit shy to talk about the work that I do, especially at social gatherings (nothing livens things up like a nice little chat about emotional well-being). But, there are times when I can’t dodge the topic, and the baton is passed to me. “So, what do you do for work?” People’s eyes tend to glaze over when I say, “I help people clear chronic toxic emotions and connect to their ability to create the life they truly desire.” Usually I get a nod, and then an awkward silence follows. But a few weeks ago at a party, I began talking with a lovely young woman who asked the dreaded question. I attempted a party appropriate approximation of what I do, and was completely caught by surprise by her squeal of delight. Turns out, she is a university student majoring in Positive Computing. I hadn't heard of that before, and she explained that it's about creating technologies for psychological well-being. Her focus is on developing wearable computer applications that help us track our emotions through a type of bio-feedback, and allow us to tend to our “emotional hygiene” in real time. Wow! I was blown away (and had a new BFF for the duration of the party).

In his TedX Talk, Psychologist Guy Winch talks about the importance of emotional hygiene. He raises the question,

“Why do we spend more time taking care of our teeth, than we do our minds? Why is it our physical health is so much more important than our psychological health?”

I’ve often wondered the same thing. Dr. Winch goes on to say,

“We sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones, injuries like failure or rejection or loneliness. And they can also get worse if we ignore them, and they can impact our lives in dramatic ways. And yet, even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don't. It doesn't even occur to us that we should.”

Negative emotions such as fear, guilt and anger build up in our system and create a toxic internal environment that undermines our health and our ability to respond to life’s challenges with creative clarity. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a simple yet highly effective off-line technology you can use for daily emotional hygiene. For those of you who are already familiar with EFT, this is a gentle reminder to take a few minutes to tap every day – like brushing your teeth - as a way to keep your system from building up emotional “plaque.”

For those who are new to EFT, here’s a brief introduction. EFT combines traditional cognitive therapy with contemporary energy medicine, in a field known as “Energy Psychology (EP).” Evidence based research in EP shows that positive, lasting results are reached more quickly than talk therapy alone because, just as a computer hard drive contains information in electromagnetic fields, our brain and body also operate electromagnetically. Gently tapping with your fingertips on the endpoint of the meridians found in Chinese Medicine while focusing on a specific challenge which evokes a negative reaction, allows the body/mind to balance itself and re-calibrate to higher functioning. (For more of the science behind EFT, you can take a peek here).

Ok, enough of the intellectual explanation. Why not try it for yourself, right now!

3 Minute Emotional Hygiene Routine

eft points woman.png

1. Tune into something that has been bothering you recently.

2. Name the feeling that comes up when you think about that challenge (fear, sadness, anger).

3. Where do you feel the tension, stress or emotion in your body? (throat, shoulders, belly)

4. Now, gently tap with two fingers on the points in the picture above, while naming the challenging situation, the emotion, and where you feel it in your body (just talk and tap). If it feels too weird to talk out loud, then do it silently. The key is to stay “tuned in” to the issue and the emotion while you are tapping.

5. Do 2-3 rounds of tapping (with a deep breath in between).

Tune into the situation again. How is your emotional reaction now? How does your body feel?

Even if you notice feeling slightly more relaxed, or can take a deeper breath than when you started, you have done yourself a great service on behalf of your physical and mental well-being. Bravo!

A hundred years ago, people began practicing personal hygiene, and life expectancy rates rose by over 50 percent in just a matter of decades. Imagine how our life and our world could improve if we all began practicing emotional hygiene, every day.

Thanks for joining me on the journey,