You know junk food when you see it—high in calories, low in nutritional benefit. A diet of junk food ends up in lethargy, being overweight, medical issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and lowers your energy.

But did you know there are junk emotions too?

 

Psychological nutrition

As clinical psychologists, we wondered what would happen if we started to consider our emotions from the perspective that they are ingredients that you feed yourself? We developed the concept of psychological nutrition; not about food, but about how to assess and monitor the emotions that you consume.

Because we don’t think to monitor our consumption of emotions as we might food, we unthinkingly consume a diet so high in negative emotions (high fat), that there’s no room left for positive emotions (low fat).

What should we do? In order to get rid of junk emotions, we have to be mindful of the emotions we are consuming; we have to deliberately restrict our diet of high-fat emotions.

 

How to get rid of junk emotions

Here are 5 ways to get rid of junk emotions:

1. Lower your consumption of high-fat emotions

High-fat emotions are negative and energy draining; they suck the fun and creativity out of your life and are bad for you. Examples: guilt, resentment, anger, envy, jealousy, frustration. High-fat (or negative) emotions create and maintain a cycle of pessimism and low-energy. They are fatiguing and close the door to creativity and joy.

2. Increase your consumption of low-fat emotions

Low-fat emotions are positive and increase your energy. Examples: joy, optimism, love, patience. Low-fat emotions should dominate your psychological intake. Low-fat (or positive) emotions energize you. They open up your world, both in terms of your inner self and the doors to opportunity.

3. Keep a count of your junk emotional calories

Just as with junk food, a diet of junk emotions (like anger, resentment, worry) leads to psychological malnourishment. How many junk emotions are you consuming in a day?

4. Look at relationships as products

Relationships are products made up by feelings. Some are nutritious, others are not. Think of how you examine the packaging of a product for its nutritional content. How many calories? Is it high fat or low fat? Some products may look good, but it turns out they’re not good for you. Relationships are exactly the same—some are good for you, others are not.

5. Make psychological nutritional labels

Just like food products have labels that describe their nutritional content, there should be “psychological nutritional labels” for reactions, relationships, and situations. This way, you will know (or at least have a good idea) whether a situation has a “high fat” or “low fat” content before you enter it. Are there people or situations that should have warning labels?

 

The payoff

Time is a finite quantity and none of us know how much of it we have left. Start each day making life as fulfilled and joyful as it can be, and build on that. Stop filling it with junk emotions!

Shoba Sreenivasan, PhD and Linda E. Weinberger, PhD
Dr. Shoba Sreenivasan earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA in 1986 and completed a post-doctoral forensic fellowship at USC. She is a Clinical Professor at Keck School of Medicine of USC, works as a VA psychologist, and has a private forensic psychology practice. She’s co-authored Totally America, a motivational book, and authored the Mattie Spyglass series. She has also written numerous scholarly publications and book chapters in the fields of forensic psychology, violence risk assessment, and Veterans’ issues. Dr. Linda E. Weinberger earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston in 1979 and subsequently completed a postdoctoral forensic fellowship at USC. She has been the Chief Psychologist at the USC Institute of Psychiatry, Law, and Behavioral Sciences, and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Keck School of Medicine of USC for over three and a half decades. She is the author of numerous book chapters and scholarly publications in the fields of forensic psychology, suicide risk, and violence risk assessment.

2 COMMENTS

  1. There are no junk emotions. All emotions are evolutionary and they have a purpose although if they are upsetting, it’s hard to see how they can beneficial. Most negative emotions are transient. However, many individuals find their emotions problematic when they do not know 1) how to validate their emotions and accept them e.g. when one feels guilty when they think they are not grieving enough for a someone they loved and died or 2) when those emotions are excessive, persistent and they are interfering with their lives e.g. feeling depressed, having panic attacks, etc.

    If your emotions are getting out of control, we can help. We offer cognitive behavioural therapy online and it is very successful for a wide range of psychological problems. You can start feeling better very soon with CBT online therapy.

  2. I have always said how grateful I am for everything and have always been healthy. I eat well & like a glass of wine and an occasional brandy and can do 15/20 press ups each day. I do suffer from back pain but that is because I popped two discs and had to wait for the operation for almost two years. So, removal never helped my back pain. Still, otherwise, I’m as fit as a fiddle & I’m 73.

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