Americans are obsessed with hygiene!! “Embracing cleanliness became a patriotic duty for Americans during the Civil War ….and by the 1920’s personal fastidiousness became an American obsession.” (source). The global pandemic is escalating our cultural OCD and Americans are cleaning and disinfecting more fervently than ever (try finding 409 these days)!! But, as the pandemic goes on, what are we doing about our emotional hygiene? Alcoholism, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, and suicide rates are rising as a result of feeling isolated, angry, lonely, and helpless with many things out of our control. So how can we help ourselves emotionally?
What is Emotional Hygiene?
The Dalai Lama believes that negative emotions like anger, frustration, and anxiety, cloud our mind s so we must wash them away. ‘Therefore, emotional hygiene is the ability to replace destructive emotions with constructive ones that lead to greater happiness.(source)
Managing Negative Emotions During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Negative emotions are destructive and ugly, like neglected mold in the shower (Ok- I’ve been cleaning the shower grout). Whether you lash out at others when angry or spend mindless hours distracting yourself on Social Media, it’s important to identify and manage feelings so they don’t cause damage. Using virtuous words can counteract the negativity much like a cleaning agent treats a stain.
It sounds silly to use “words” to help us change our mood but words are powerful antidotes. Moods are the result of our thoughts which are also words in our minds. So, using these virtuous words, can help change our thoughts thus, change our mood. To apply this practice, identify your mood and repeat the phrase..”I am…(insert the positive word)” until your mood shifts.
- Anger – Two virtuous words that dissolve anger are FORGIVENESS or PATIENCE! When anger builds, silently repeat the phrase, “I am forgiveness” or “I am patience” over and over until the anger dissipates.
- Anxiety – If you are experiencing the unsettled state of anxiety, repeat, “I am PEACE” to relieve your mental agitation. Or try exercise to exhaust the nervous energy. I love Madfit videos, or going for a brisk walk.
- Sadness – Sadness is the suffering of loss. First, acknowledge the loss. Then, apply COMPASSION. Compassion is a strong antiseptic that drives us to want to help alleviate distress. Repeat the phrase, “I AM compassion”.
- Depression – Depression robs us of joy and people no longer finds pleasure in their favorite activities. Depression is also stubborn which is why it’s so important to practice GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE is a “natural antidepressant” that transforms ordinary opportunities into blessings. Another helpful word to apply is COURAGE! Especially when feeling weak or avoidant. Ask: What am I afraid of? What am I avoiding? Then repeat, “I am COURAGE” to build inner strength.
- Loneliness – Loneliness is the feeling that no one cares or is there for you. It is a dangerous side effect of the lockdowns. The antidote to loneliness is the word INDEPENDENCE! The truth is that we are never alone because you always have yourself. For example, when I was young I got rejected by two friends. I vividly recall the thought, “you can’t be lonely if you have yourself”. I promised I’d never abandon myself. This taught me the joy of being alone without feeling lonely. I love treating myself to nice dinners, romantic comedies, good books etc.
The Road to Peace and Happiness
It’s normal to avoid messy, unpleasant emotions. Not only because they feel bad, but because we don’t always know how to deal with them. This is where practicing emotional hygiene, like flossing your teeth, helps us achieve greater peace and happiness. Not only for ourselves, but for everyone around us.
If all else fails, hold a Koala: