Letting go of toxic thoughts
What do you do? What is your usual plan – your modus operandi? To “eat over it?” Cram or force the thoughts and feelings down with Oreos? As Dr. Phil would say, “So, how’s that working for you?” Not well, I bet.
How do we identify and let go of toxic thoughts – those itty-bitty shitty committee thoughts?
Some people use exercise to clear their head, indeed a good strategy. Hitting a punching bag or screaming into a pillow can also be therapeutic.
A tool to help
If you want something that’s not quite so action-packed or dramatic, simply pick up a pen and start writing. Whatever flows from your pen, just write. Call it a stream of consciousness. It’s for no one’s benefit but your own – no one will read it. I guarantee you’ll feel better.
I’ve been journaling for many decades. I don’t write every day – although I have when I needed to. I write when some thing in my headspace won’t leave me alone. I write when I’m frustrated, angry, sad, depressed. There’s something about purging my thoughts that takes its power away.
I write, too, when I’m happy, joyful, feeling blessed. Writing extends my pleasure. Nice.
The power of the pen
Clients I work with like Marie – who begin this journaling practice – recognize the power, the power of the pen. Marie knows her thoughts and emotions affect her habits…particularly her eating habits. Where once she used food to comfort herself, deal with emotions…life, she’s learned to get it out. She likes the thought of her head being precious real estate. “I don’t want challenging people, thoughts, or feelings taking up headspace. I’ve a good life to lead.”
Starting to write wasn’t easy for Marie, but she learned. She might write about her day, what happened, why she felt a certain way and so forth. As writing became habit, her thoughts flowed more easily. She had life frustrations – a call with her boss, her live-in boyfriend, her father. Marie got it out on paper, releasing her angst.
Letter-writing as a tool
We also used a letter-writing exercise. Marie’s get-it-out-of-my-system letters were written – of course not to be mailed – but to free her mind. Some examples:
“Dear Client, we worked hard together. I thought we had a good relationship and you had faith in my abilities. We spent countless hours looking at homes, homes I chose based upon your criteria. What happened? Why did you ghost me?”
“Dear Significant Other, I know you love me but why must you insist on sabotaging my efforts to lead a more healthful life? I’m trying my best to make good food choices and not forcing those choices on you. Please listen! I’m doing it for me, but when you bring home a favorite treat of mine, it drives me insane. You don’t get it. What do you say? “Honey, you’ve been doing so good. You deserve this. You can have just one.” No. I. Can’t. Not now. Someday, but not now. I’m not there. You don’t get it because you’ve never struggled with your weight and self-esteem. Please help me. Try to understand me.”
The letter-writing method was a path Marie took to use the power of the pen. After getting the gist of it and transferring her thoughts to paper, Marie got comfortable journaling on a regular basis – a more productive (and healthy) way to deal with her emotions. Eating over them wasn’t the answer!
Learning to use the power of the pen as a coping mechanism became critical to Marie’s emotional health. Through writing, she purged disquieting thoughts.
While the freedom that comes with this may not be lifesaving, it is self-saving.
(Important note: Journaling is a useful tool but does not solve all problems – please take advantage of a licensed therapist as needed.)
Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
Check out my Neily on Nutrition YouTube channel! And follow me @NeilyonNutrition (Facebook/Instagram)
Photo credit: pixabay.com