Emotional detox — 7 steps to releasing toxic thoughts

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about decluttering. I said a cluttered home equals a cluttered mind. And decluttering my home did make me feel less stressed, and gave me a bit of thinking space. But to be honest, it only scratched the surface. 

So I’m digging a little deeper. This time I’m on a mission to spring clean my emotions. It’s not so much a declutter as an emotional detox.

Why take an emotional detox?

You know how it is. You over indulge in junk food, alcohol or drugs and you know the next day (or even the same day) you’re going to feel lethargic, sluggish, unhealthy.

Toxic emotions work in the same way. They stagnate, keeping you mentally stuck in the same place, or worse, suck you into a downward spiral. 

Now I don’t believe that any emotion is inherently unhealthy — there’s no good or bad. It’s all down to attitude. It’s what you do with the energy the emotion generates that causes it to turn toxic. 

You feel stressed — you berate yourself for the emotion
You feel angry — you suppress the emotion.
You feel jealous — you reject the emotion.
You feel hopeless — you lie about the emotion.


You believe you shouldn’t feel what you do. 

But it’s when you reject, judge, suppress or lie about emotions that toxicity sets in. An emotion doesn’t go away just because you’re pushing it back under the surface. It festers, sabotaging your health and happiness, and eventually leading to stress, anxiety, burnout, addiction and depression.

And it’s not only the mind that suffers. Toxic emotions have been linked to high blood pressure, ulcers, IBS, and even cancer. 

Toxic emotions can be lethal. 

Releasing toxic emotions
Right, so that’s the scary part over. Now on to how you can begin to release toxic emotions.


I won’t take all the credit for this — Oprah’s mate Deepak Chopra inspired this simple seven-step process, which gives toxic emotions nowhere to hide.

1. Identify the toxic emotion
You feel bad — you’ve established that. But what is the actual emotion that’s making you feel that way? Too many to list? Identify the one that holds the most power over you. Which one robs you of self-confidence and self-esteem and keeps happiness and fulfilment out of reach? That’s the nasty one.


2. Witness the physical sensations
Now you know which toxic emotion you’re dealing with, witness what it’s doing to your body. Panic attacks? Nausea? Shortness of breath? Headaches? By releasing resistance and allowing yourself to experience the physical sensations, you‘ll find that the emotional charge dissipates.


3. Take responsibility for how you feel
Realising that you have the power to choose how you respond to and interpret your experiences is a crucial step in the healing process. Don’t feel guilty about your feelings either. Be kind. Accept that you feel crap and pat yourself on the back for making a change. 


4. Express the emotion Place your hand on the part of your body where you sense that the feeling is located. Say out loud “it hurts here”. If that’s too weird (or you’re on a train), write it down. 

5. Release the emotion through physical ritual
You knew it was coming… This is where your deep breathing, meditation, green exercise, interpretive dance (?) comes in. Do whatever you feel will best allow your body to release the tension that’s stored with the toxic emotion. If you wrote it down, now is the time to burn your piece of paper.

6. Share the toxic emotional experience When you feel calm, share the emotion with someone you trust. Just make sure you’re not seeking pity or approval, or trying to blame anyone else. 

7. Celebrate the emotional detox process
Reward yourself with something nourishing that’s just for you: book a massage, go out for dinner, or buy yourself a gift. And practise self love — the best way to prevent the build up of toxic emotions. 

Declutter. Detox. Emotionally or physically, cleaning up comes down to control. 

Take back control. Stop holding on to the stuff you don’t need. Let it go. 

Have you ever taken an emotional detox? What did you do? I’d love you to leave me a comment. And while you’re here, please take a minute or two to sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. It’s a little piece of awesomeness in your inbox each week.

Image by Matthew Johnstone
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