Mind-Body, Health & Wellness : Detox for the Mind

As a society, we place a lot of focus on outward appearances. We judge others and, perhaps more harshly, we judge ourselves based on how things look on the outside.  It is natural and, in many ways, more efficient to look at someone and create a “story” about what kind of person they are.  He is overweight; he must be lazy.  She is beautiful; I bet she is so happy.  This is much faster than getting to know someone, right? A quick assessment means I can judge you and move on.  It means I don’t have to see you as another being, I don’t have to open my heart to others, and I can avoid exposing my own vulnerability.  Do these stories we create about others really have more to do with how we judge ourselves? Does it have something to do with our deep-seated fears of how others judge us? Or is it a subconscious desire to protect our delicate egos?

The truth is that the more you accept and care for yourself, the more capacity and ability you have to accept and care for others.  Caring for yourself in this context doesn’t mean your external self, and it doesn’t imply new clothes or expensive cars. That is the easy way out and it fades as soon as the newness of the object disappears. It is about caring for your mind and your spirit in a nourishing and balancing way. This notion helps to develop a strong mind and heart, so you can have the strength to be open to others.  Besides, there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into constantly judging and comparing. Let the sweet reward of freedom from these mental habits drive you forward.

It is not outwardly looking.
It is inwardly seeing.
– Sogyal Rinpoche

How do we begin to rid ourselves of such toxic thought patterns?
– A mental detox to identify the negative and cultivate the positive.

Before we move on, please remember that this is not intended to be medical or psychiatric advice.  If you have or suspect that you have a medical or psychiatric condition, it is best to consult your physician or mental health professional.

1.  RECOGNIZE THE MENTAL HABITS OF SELF-SABOTAGE.
The first step is really about mindfulness and recognition of habits. Be aware of any unkind thoughts that you may have about yourself.  Notice when you are the harshest or most critical. We all tend to concentrate these thoughts in different areas of our lives. Some of us use food to drown out emotions.  Do you overeat and then blame yourself for lack of discipline? Do you crave meaningful relationships and make yourself feel better by indulging in sugary snacks? Do you feel a need to prove your success to others with extravagant purchases? Does an unfulfilling career lead you to retail therapy?

Take a moment and reflect on one area where you criticize yourself the most. What triggers this self criticism and judgment?  Try to experience it, but not feel bad about the habit or feel that you “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing it.  Let go of the analysis and just observe the habit, thoughts and actions as they are.

As you go about your day, be mindful of when the self-destructive thoughts arise. Just notice them without the urge to get upset at yourself. Notice that it is happening and notice your reactions to it.

2. NOURISH YOURSELF WITH A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.
I’m a big believer in focusing energy on healthy habits instead of the unhealthy ones.  This step is about setting yourself up for success with a solid foundation. So what does a healthy lifestyle entail?

  • Exercise – Schedule it in for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week.  Go for a walk, swim, bike ride, or slip in a yoga DVD.  There are so many benefits to regular physical activity that I’m putting it first.
  • Eat well – Forget the latest fad diet and focus on eating healthy portions of whole foods. Whole foods means food that can be found in nature (Chips: No.  Apples: Yes.). Include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and water.
  • Get sufficient rest – Sufficient rest and sleep are part of your body’s recovery needs.
  • Relationships – Create and cultivate meaningful and supportive relationships with others.
  • Purpose – Do work that you love or find ways to like the work that you do. Move with purpose and intention.

Looking at the list above, what is one area that you can focus some positive energy on? List some specific steps you can take to achieve your goal.

3. OPEN YOUR MIND AND HEART TO OTHERS.
You are mindful of self-sabotage and are focusing on making positive and healthy changes in your life.  What’s next in the detox? The last step is opening your heart to others. This simply means seeing others as you see yourself. Our most basic needs in life are a desire to avoid suffering and a desire to be happy.  These are Buddhist principles and two concepts that tie us all together.

The next time you catch yourself judging someone else, simply remind yourself that this person, like you, wishes to avoid suffering in life; and that this person, like you, seeks happiness in life. This gentle reminder allows me to smile at the people I see in recognition of our similarities. In opening my heart and smiling, I find that I am happier and more understanding towards my own imperfections.

In health,
Bahareh

Bahareh is a certified Health Coach based in Encinitas, California. She empowers others to live healthier, happier lives by eating well, increasing energy, reducing stress, and finding balance.  www.mindbodyalliance.com

Steve

Author: Steve

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