You’ve Cleansed Your Body, You’re Avoiding Toxins, But What About Your Mind?  The Importance of an Emotional Detox


The fact is, we are surrounded by many chemicals and toxins in our atmosphere. For the substances that are studied, there are plenty of references to the negative health implications of our bodies under constant environmental bombardment. Most of us don’t want to play a game of chance with our health when there are means in our control for better outcomes. However, sometimes we may deal with unwelcome and crushing news in not the best of ways.

I just reviewed here three ways to NOT deal with this overwhelming knowledge that we are swimming in a toxic, chemical soup world and offered some more productive solutions. You can read about them in my latest Saratoga blog here. Thankfully, you can be assured that there are plenty of ways to decrease body burden and mitigate its health complications. Below are some more of these resources:


A Toxic Mind, An Unhealthy Body

One aspect that is often overlooked in today’s toxic world is the impact of negative emotions. I’m not just speaking of the social consequences, but also our bodies’ response to the feelings that ensue from repetitive negative thoughts. Feelings and emotion modulate our health. In his article, “The Importance of Emotional Detox,”  Dr. Z reviewed some of the science behind this. He discussed how poor gut health, poor immune function, and negative mood states may be a sign that your body is being physically effected by “emotional overload.”

Dr. Z also expertly outlined eleven ways to cleanse the mind and why one would want to consider these steps of “emotional detox.” I enjoyed reading this posting and diving into the references so much, I wanted more information! So, I did some more digging myself and will share it here with you.


The “How-To’s and Whys-Of” a Cleansed and Happier Mind

Here’s some of the ways and reasons Dr. Z listed for “emotionally detoxing” and the science of “why:”

The Power of Forgiveness:

1. Forgive Oneself

2. Forgive Others

It’s not just for spiritual and religious enlightenment. Forgiveness has several studies that support its benefit for us physically. Here’s a good summary in an abstract from a 2005 article that discusses how forgiveness can mediate health impact:

The relationship of forgiveness, both state and trait, to health was assessed. Eighty-one community adults completed a packet of questionnaires and participated in a laboratory interview about a time of hurt or betrayal. Heart rate and blood pressure were recorded during a 10 min baseline, the interview and during a recovery period; interviews were structured around a framework of questions and videotaped. Four measures of forgiveness were all statistically associated with five measures of health (physical symptoms, medications used, sleep quality, fatigue, and somatic complaints). Trait forgiveness was associated with decreased reactivity (rate-pressure product) to the interview, but sympathetic reactivity did not account for the trait forgiveness-health association. Four mechanisms or pathways by which forgiveness could lead to fewer physical symptoms were examined: spirituality, social skills, reduction in negative affect, and reduction in stress. All factors either partially or fully mediated the effect of forgiveness on health; however, the strongest mediator for both state and trait forgiveness was reduction in negative affect. For state forgiveness, the second strongest mediator was reduction in stress; for trait forgiveness, both conflict management and reduction in stress were strong contributors. (1)

In a 2013 study in the Journal of Psychology, the researchers also discussed the importance of forgiveness, and included the impact of self-forgiveness on all dimensions of health:

Controlling for demographic variables (i.e., gender, age, education, ethnicity, and marital status) and lifetime religiousness, multivariable analyses reflected associations of forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others, but not feeling forgiven by God, with physical health status, somatic symptoms, mental health status, and psychological distress. All such associations operated through health behavior and/or social support; however, only in the context of forgiveness of self did such associations also operate through interpersonal functioning (problems). While forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others each appear to have a robust indirect relationship with health, mediation-based associations involving forgiveness of self were nearly twice as frequent. It may be that forgiveness of self is relatively more important to health-related outcomes. (J Psychol. 2013 Sep-Oct;147(5):391-414.)

Finally, another study reported that forgiveness of others is linked to risk of mortality (death):

… conditional forgiveness of others is associated with risk for all-cause mortality, and that the mortality risk of conditional forgiveness may be conferred by its influences on physical health. (J Behav Med. 2012)

Google “Forgiveness and health outcomes.” You will be shocked at the hits!


3. Practice self-love.

Having positive self-esteem may relate to better health status. There are several ways, but the most direct way is the impact of self-care on health behaviors. I wrote more about that here.


4. Positive Affirmations

Yes, that “happy woo-woo” does have some science!

First, there’s evidence that “distress” (“Type D personality”) and the resultant stress of being a “negative Nelly” can lead to detrimental cardiovascular outcomes. In fact, according to conclusions of a 2010 analysis in the journal Circulation:

Quantitative analyses of prospective studies that included a total of 6121 patients with a cardiovascular condition indicated that Type D personality was associated with a more than 3-fold increased risk of adverse events (9 studies) and long-term psychological distress (11 studies). In addition, a narrative review of 29 studies showed that Type D personality and depression are distinct manifestations of psychological distress, with different and independent cardiovascular effects. There are also plausible biological and behavioral pathways that may explain this adverse effect of Type D personality.

On the flip-side, there is evidence that POSITIVE affirmations affect physical symptoms POSITIVELY. One study looked at their beneficial impact on chemotherapy side effects in 140 subjects. Other studies have shown affirmations can positively influence performance and buffer stress.

However, there is  a “dark” side to always being “Sammy Sunshine.” If positive affirmations are used to “cover up,” rather than deal with traumas or maladaptive behavior, the beneficial effects disappear into “woo-woo” land.


5. Deal with Regret, Constructively.

Learning from a mistake and changing behavior is one thing, but feeling like there isn’t an opportunity to set it right and/or living in prolonged regret can lead to chronic stress and negative health impacts.

I have written several articles on the physical impact of stress on the body and how to cope with it helpfully. If you want more specifics, check out these posts: one, two, three.


Shed a Few Tears

6. Cry Alone.

7. Cry with Others.

This article was fascinating on the nervous system components and social factors that may be linked to why one cries and how it effects our physical health. The authors believe that the those who are NOT depressed benefit more than those who are. Therefore, if you are crying from feeling hopeless versus to express and release emotions, there are different implications. (Learn more about balancing mood holistically here to better receive benefits of shedding tears.)

Another factor for well-being upliftment from watery faces is if the result provides social comfort. When recipients get positive attention, they tend to feel more relief from emotional distress. This means crying can synergize with the impact of social connection on health, which I discussed in my Saratoga blog and here.

In summary, the benefit of crying can depend on the context and overall emotional tone of the individual. If one is balanced in mood generally, there tends to be a benefit.


8. Have Some Faith

That one’s covered here.


9. Mindfully Make Your Way to a Retreat

In a recent study on the benefits of a meditation retreat, researchers were able to demonstrate that not only did meditation effect well-being measurements, but also modulated gene expression related to stress, immune function, aging markers (telomerase), and amyloid beta (AB) metabolism (a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease).  Read “Why Everyone Needs a Mediation Vacation” here for more info.


Other Potential Beneficial Suggestions


10. Remove Distractions

According to a 2014, PLoS One study, “media multi-tasking” is linked to more cognitive and socio-emotional disturbances as well as a smaller volume in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC). This is the brain area associated with “implicated in sensorimotor, nociceptive, higher cognitive and emotional/motivational processes.”


11. Take a Social Media Vacation (read more here)


My Additional Suggestions


12. Journal, Gratefully

Journaling has a positive effect on well-being and may help with stress relief and problem solving. Furthermore, a grateful heart has been shown to be a happy heart (AKA, implementing a gratitude journal).


13. Essential oils!! Remember all those posts I wrote on how essential oils:

Click here to learn about and how to implement five of my favorite oils to support your emotional “detox.”


In summary, the body and mind are interconnected. We know that the physical health effects our mental health, but very few people pay attention to the reverse order.

Here’s to a cleaner, healthier body and mind for a longer, vital, more enjoyable life!


Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.

This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.