These days it is particularly difficult to stay positive and feel hopeful in our daily lives. Although we can’t control many of the events going on around us, there is one thing we can do to ensure an up-tick in mental and physical wellness. It’s time to get rid of the toxic things that you KNOW are dragging you down!
Recently the power/internet went out at our house for a day because of weather. The first hour or so was the hardest, not because of the heat or lack of TV but because my teenagers couldn’t use their phones. They blessedly aren’t very active on their own social media but they still love to scroll through other peoples’ feeds on Instagram and watch countless YouTube video tutorials. After telling them to “work it out” and retreating to my bedroom (my favorite teen parenting go-to) they eventually decided to find something “boring” (ie. not
electronics) to do and had a Lego competition. A few hours later I heard my son say, “I’d forgotten how much fun these were.” I was reminded for the umpteeth time how much time we, as a family, waste on scrolling on our phones, especially on social media. As soon as the power went back on I resisted the urge to head straight to FaceBook and instead reloaded an app I had a few years ago that logged my screen time and showed me in black and white just how much of my week was dedicated to wasteful scrolling. In addition, I’ve removed certain apps from my phone (buh-bye gossip site) and have again started to put stricter limits on how much social media time the kids have. I’ll always follow ex-Bachelor contestants and senior pet rescuers …..just not for hours a day.
Friends (and sometimes Family, too)
We’ve all got at least one friend or family member who causes us undue anxiety and self-doubt. Believe it or not, toxic people can create not just emotional damage but also actual physical harm. A recent study showed that being in a relationship or friendship with a toxic person who breeds negativity actually increases a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. You’re probably thinking of a particular individual in your life right now and wondering, “Hmmm. Does that person qualify as “toxic”? To answer that question ask yourself if you have someone in your life who:
- Is manipulative
- Never owns their own feelings and projects their emotions on to you
- Never apologizes
- Doesn’t respect your boundries
- Is surrounded by drama
- ALWAYS needs to be right
- Loves to play the victim
And the most important trait, in my opinion, is that they just aren’t nice to other people. They may be complimentary and charming, but are they truly kind to others?
Once identified, it is probably time to confront them and determine if the relationship is worth saving. I’m all for giving it the old college try but there are certain situations that simply make it impossible to continue a relationship with a toxic person. Have you tried to communicate your feelings with that person in the past but nothing changes? Are you still walking on eggshells or feeling that there is no self-awareness or remorse from that person? Most importantly, does being close to that person still make you feel, for lack of a better term, “bad”? If so, it’s time to cut the cord. Even if this person is a family member who you cannot avoid on a permanent basis, do your best to express your feelings and separate yourself. There are a million reasons to cut toxic people out of your life but, in reality, it all comes down to this: LIFE IS TOO DAMNED SHORT!
This one is a particular whopper for me. Every so often when I look back on some of the decisions (or lack thereof) I’ve made in the past I become filled with regret. I often wonder what I could have done with my life if I’d been more ambitious when I was younger, studied harder in school, focused more on my career. The list can get endless. And I know regret is just an appalling waste of energy so when I begin to question my past life choices I stop and make a list of my present day “wins”. And by a list I mean an actual handwritten list of the best things in my life. The very first thing on the top of that list is always my kids. I gave birth for the first time at the ripe old age of 41, which was and still is, referred to as “advanced maternal age” (or the equally complimentary “elderly primipara”….SHEESH). I may be biased but my twins are fabulous humans, a couple of gems that I can’t believe I had a hand in creating. If I’d gotten down to the business of growing up earlier, focused more on my career and climbed the corporate ladder, I would most likely have missed that brief window of opportunity that led me to motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that I still would have been happy if I’d chosen to forego parenthood. I certainly know it’s not for everyone, but it just so happens that being a mother is the one accomplishment I’m personally most proud of and focusing on THAT fact leads me to feel the opposite of regret. I have become thankful for those years of running around Manhattan prioritizing happy hours over meetings. A different path wouldn’t have led me to where I am now, with these two wonderful kids. The fork in the road I DID take wouldn’t have been possible without the choice I questioned.
A couple of years ago I hopped on the bandwagon and purchased, read and followed Marie Kondo’s bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing . I was an awful slob for many years (ask my saint of a college roommate – love you, Eileen!) and my tendency to never throw things away came to a head when I was faced with clearing out my mother’s things after her death. I felt the crushing responsibility of honoring the generations of well-loved items now in my care but also longed to unburden myself of the clutter they had created over the years. When I finally faced the fact that all of that “stuff” was making me heartsick, I decided to take action. I followed the “Kondo Method” to the letter and, after thanking many articles of clothing that no longer “sparked joy” (It works! I swear!), I truly felt like a weight had been lifted from me. The physical items were given away for another person to love, or at the very least, utilize and the memories those things created were safely stored away. I must say, it was really difficult, both physically AND emotionally but it was also a positive and life-changing shift and, for the most part, I’ve remained clutter-free ever since.
Have you ever seen the documentary, “SuperSize Me”? In it, a man named Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days in a row. At the end of the month his once-healthy liver resembles that of an alcoholic and his health has degraded to the point that his doctor begs him to stop the experiment. As you can imagine, the film drove home the message that fast food is incredibly unhealthy. That’s the easy part. We KNOW it’s not good for you and is, dare I say, “toxic”…but it still tastes good and is quick and is cheap and makes us feel temporarily satisfied. There is a way to get those same feelings of comfort and contentment without the toxicity and empty calories. One option is to carry something around in your car or purse with you at all times, and I’m not talking about raw carrots or “bird food”. A bag of crackers or pretzels can keep the wolf from the door and, if you need something sweet to deter you from the drive through, peanut butter and Wheat Thins will do the trick. I personally am addicted to Two Good coconut yogurt so I carry a spoon in my purse and run into the grocery store when I feel the need to splurge when I’m out of the house. I add cinnamon before eating and I am completely satisfied. Granted, I have really lame tastebuds but I DO recommend it to anyone who is game. If, however, you prefer to visit a fast food restaurant, try mixing it up to include places like Chipotle, Panera or Subway. They all offer excellent options that are healthy and actually taste good.
As my old pal Marie Kondo taught me, when you purge the things that are toxic and taking up space in your life, you’re giving yourself permission to open up space for the stuff that fits better. In other words, kicking things to the curb that make us unhappy creates room for new and exciting things that can make us feel lighter and free. Instead of that daily trip to the Wendy’s drive-through (I love myself a square burger), why not substitute fast food with a homemade baked good? No one is suggesting you cut out comfort food altogether so there isn’t a need to . And you know that space you now have after your big Kondo-inspired clean out? Resist the urge to fill it back up with junk. Instead, embrace a more minimalist esthetic and leave it open as a beautiful reminder of your hard work.
Last, but certainly not least, getting rid of toxic people leaves room for new friends and a strengthening of existing relationships. Once you let go of the anxiety and frustration caused by people who make you feel bad, you’ll be shocked at the time and emotional energy you now have to devote to others and yourself. Making changes for the better takes work so be sure to give yourself a high five for taking the brave step to detox your life. What are some toxic things you’d like to get rid of? Share in the comments below!