When it comes to staying clean, most people donít need lessons about how to take a bath. But when it comes to cleaning the emotions, itís much harder than just jumping in the tub. How do you get to the dirty, ugly, worries that drag emotions into darkness?
Why is it important to do mental house cleaning? Even if you ignore the mental health purposes and just consider the physical, there are good reasons to do emotional housecleaning. The pituitary gland is a small extension of the brain. The emotions have dramatic effects on the function of the pituitary which is the gland that controls directly or indirectly all the other glands of the body. Healthy emotions give a healthy metabolism by improving pituitary function. The immune system, strength, energy, sexual function, and clarity of thinking are all dramatically changed with changes in the emotions. For physical health reasons alone, itís worth making a conscious effort to clean out the poison of depression and worry and replace those emotions with faith, hope, and joy.
I donít claim to offer the one answer to the difficult problem of emotional house cleaning but would like to describe a method thatís been a great help to me and to some of my patients. The method was described in an old classic by Norman Vincent Peale. Iíve done this exercise as described by Dr. Peale many times and always find it helpful. Hereís how it goes:
First, make a list of everything that worries you. Make a written list that you can study. Iíve found that sometimes Iíll have a vague heavy emotional feeling without really knowing why. If I stop and write everything that worries me and then study the list and add more to it until I run out of things to write, just looking at the list seems to offer some relief. Think of your health and your body and write every worry. Do you have a skin lesion that should be removed? A tooth that needs repair? Worried you may contract breast cancer? Write every possible worry that you have about your health. Next, list worries about family (large and small). Next, list worries about work and finances and friends. What about your home, does it bother you that the hall needs painting? Write it all down, the big right next to the small.
Something about herding every worry large and small onto a sheet of paper or a few sheets feels good. Itís all thereĖeverything that bothers youĖand youíve reduced it to something that you can hold in your hand.
Next, take the list and start whittling away. Some things might seem impossible. Saint Paul as far as is known, never had his "thorn in the flesh" removed. But, he found a purpose in the thorn. Some items on the list may become more bearable if you can find or create a purpose for them. Others will be easily eliminated. Maybe you make the phone call to apologize; maybe you paint the hall. Just whittle away at the list with work, with conversations, with meditation, with education, with prayer.
The truly healthy people Iíve known practiced some form of mental and spiritual cleaning and had a routine they followed to accomplish that cleaning.
__ Mark 10 - 11
__ Walk 3 miles: actual miles walked _____
__ Eat 5 fruits or vegetables: actual amount _____
__ Virtue: Resolution/Courage-Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
The purpose of these daily strategies