June 03, 2021
For most—if not all—people, personal hygiene is important.
We take regular baths, brush our teeth, do skin care, and have a regular haircut because we recognize their importance. Physical hygiene is not just a matter of vanity or social graces; they are also important for our physical health because we are constantly exposed to dirt and germs every single day.
The same is true for our emotional health.
Every day, we’re exposed to people, media, and circumstances that can negatively affect our mind and emotions. These negative emotions, thoughts, or mindsets take residence in our mind and can shape our values, influence our decisions, lower our self-esteem, and change the direction of our lives if we don’t squeeze them out of our system.
Hence, in the same way that we take a bath to wash off all kinds of dirt and germs from our body, we need to practice emotional hygiene to rid our hearts and minds of the negative things that can destroy our emotional and spiritual well-being.
In a TED Talk that he delivered in 2019, mental health expert Dr. Guy Winch explained that emotional hygiene is about “being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.”
In other words, emotional hygiene involves taking care of our emotional well-being by getting rid of toxins that poison our heart and mind. How do we do that? Here are some practical steps you can take.
1. Assess your emotional well-being.
Before trying to address or change our emotions, we should first recognize where we are in terms of our emotional health and well-being.
One practical way to do this is to assess how we respond to our circumstances and the situations around us. In which areas do we need help? Do we need help identifying and processing our emotions? Do we need help going through and responding to our emotions?
Knowing where we are emotionally will help us determine the next steps we can take toward emotional hygiene.
2. Acknowledge any emotional pain.
Emotions are not wrong or right. As we see in Scripture, there is room for all kinds of emotions—happiness, anger, sadness, frustration, despair, or rejoicing.
Whenever we feel a certain way, the first step is not to repress it, change it, or remain in it. Name the emotion to yourself and to God. Give yourself some time to feel it. Do not push it away. Then allow God to meet you and help you through your experience and emotion.
As Christian neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf, said, “The first step in undoing the effects of bullying, rejection, and loneliness is to face the fact that it happened and to choose to take responsibility for what we are going to do to move forward.”
3. Squeeze out the toxins from your heart and mind.
A few years ago, I had a habit of writing in my private journal the names of people who offended me. The offense could range from a tactless joke to the more serious ones. I write down their names not to keep tabs of their offenses against me, but to make myself recognize that I was hurt and that there’s anger in my heart towards these people.
I pray to God about them and release my negative emotions towards Him. I tell God about how badly I was hurt and what I was feeling towards these people. After all, God is my Father; I can talk to Him about my unfiltered emotions and tell Him about the people who hurt me, right?
As soon as I released my emotions unto God, I found myself having the heart to forgive. Then, one by one, I erase their names from the list—a sign that I have already released forgiveness. There were times when conversations needed to happen. There were instances when it required quite a long process before reconciliation took place. But nevertheless, the decision and commitment to forgive was already there.
That’s my way of squeezing out toxins from my heart and mind. The Bible calls it “bitter roots” that can potentially defile people. When we harbor bitterness or negative thoughts in our hearts, it’s only a matter of time before we hurt other people, starting with those who are closest to us.
That’s why the Bible says, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (Hebrews 12:15, NLT)
4. Guard your emotional purity.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts, for it is the wellspring of life. In other words, the things we do, say, and believe flow from the bottom of our hearts.
Guarding the heart means so much more than just protecting your heart from unwise relationships. It means being responsible in your choice of books to read, movies to see, Netflix series to binge-watch, online content to consume, and songs to listen to.
It also includes the people we allow to influence our lives or the emotions that we allow to linger in our hearts. Additionally, guarding our hearts can also mean guarding our thoughts and refusing to allow destructive, impure, and unhealthy thoughts to take residence in our mind.
Being aware of our emotions and knowing that God is with us as we process our pain can help us become more intentional in choosing to “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8, NLT)
As we choose to do so, we allow God to transform and renew our minds, we learn to cast our anxieties on Him, and we can take a step closer to releasing forgiveness.
May your heart and mind be renewed day by day as you spend time with God, the lover of our soul. May you have an undivided heart for Him, and may you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27).