Unclutter and detox your mind with a 7-day mental diet.
At the start of the New Year or as each season rolls around, many people follow a cleansing diet, or a detox, in order to get their bodies in tip-top shape. These diets normally limit processed, high-fat, and sugary foods, and replace them with more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
However, few people think of following a mental detox. In essence, your thoughts are brain food. A mental detox consists of limiting thoughts that trigger negative emotions, and substituting them with thoughts that lead to feelings of peace and joy.
I came across the idea of a mental detox in a pamphlet I found online titled “The Seven Day Mental Diet”, which was written by a spiritual leader of the 20thcentury named Emmet Fox. Here’s Fox:
“The way our bodies work is based upon the food we put into them. The mind is no different. . . Everything in your life today is conditioned by your habitual thinking. The way you have thought in the past has led you to where you are right now.”
The diet consists of the following: for 7 consecutive days, you’re going to carefully select your thoughts. During those seven days you will not hold on to any negative thoughts. If you’re willing to take this challenge you’ll discover what to do, below.
The Three Rules of the 7-Day Mental Detox
In order to follow the 7-day mental detox you have to follow three rules. Here they are:
First Rule. For seven consecutive days you will not dwell on any unresourceful thoughts or emotions. These include the following:
- Thoughts that make you feel angry or frustrated.
- Thoughts that make you feel jealous of others.
- Thoughts that make you feel stressed or anxious.
- Thoughts that make you feel inferior or insecure.
- Thoughts that make you feel sorrow or despair.
- Negative thoughts about yourself, someone else, or the circumstances you find yourself in.
- Thoughts that fill you with regrets about the past or fear about the future.
Here’s how Emmet Fox defines negative thinking:
“Negative thinking is when you are dwelling on failure, disappointment, or trouble; any thought of criticism, or jealousy, or spite or condemnation of others or yourself, or any thought of sickness or accident. In short, any kind of limitation or pessimistic thinking. Any thought that concerns you are anyone else that is not positive or constructive.”
Notice that the rule isn’t that you can’t have any negative thoughts, but that you’re not to dwell on them. As Emmet Fox points out, you can’t control the first thought that enters your mind. However, you can control the second one, and the ones after that.
Second Rule. When you catch yourself having negative thoughts during the 7-day period, and you will, immediately snap yourself out of it and shift your focus to something else. You can do any of the following:
- Tell yourself, “Stop!”, to interrupt the cycle.
- Accept that you’re having negative thoughts, and then allow them to drift through your awareness like clouds drifting through the sky. Simply allow the negative thoughts to float by without placing your attention on them.
- Distract yourself by doing something else. You can read, exercise, get to work on a mentally challenging task, call an upbeat friend, turn on some music and sing along, and so on.
- Change your perspective. Ask yourself: “Is this really true?” and “Is there another way to see or interpret this?”
- Shift into problem-solving mode. If your negative thoughts are warning you that there’s something wrong, or that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, shift your focus to looking for a solution to the problem.
- Keep in mind that, due to the negativity bias, your brain is always on the alert for anything that could go wrong. For every negative thing your brain calls your attention to, come up with a list of five things that are going right.
Third Rule. If you catch yourself indulging in or dwelling on unresourceful thoughts, don’t beat yourself up. Just switch your focus to more empowering thoughts immediately. However, if you find yourself ruminating on the negative thought for more than a minute, you have to start over. Wait until the next morning and start the 7-day mental detox again from Day One.
“As you embark on any diet, you know that your mind plays tricks on you. You crave the old food you use to partake of. This diet is no different, you will find your mind wanting to go toward the negative, wanting to say something or gossip about someone or something. Sometimes it will be exhausting to fight the urges you have to just say one thing, much like just having one taste of that delicious cake when you are on a food diet. So if you make a false start, or fall off the wagon, you must stop and start again the next day.”