Evaluating Your Mental Toxic Load (Part 2 of 2)

In addition to the “mental toxins” discussed in a recent blog post, let’s continue to explore two other forms of toxins you are inevitably exposed to on a daily basis.
Emotional Toxins
Similar to “mental toxins”, an impaired ability to regulate emotions can generate “emotional toxins” - detrimental health effects that may be either direct or indirect. Addiction, an indirect effect of “emotional toxins”, is characterized by impulsivity and cravings for addictive substances in addition to a negative mood. A 2015 study evaluated the effect of mindfulness training on smokers’ ability to emotionally regulate particular regions of the brain (i.e. the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex) and the resulting degree of self-control and mood demonstrated.[i] In both smokers and non-smokers, this research illustrated a clinically-significant improvement in both self-control and one’s ability to regulate emotion after learning and practicing such mindfulness training.
Anxiety is an “emotional toxin” and one of the most common psychiatric disorders. Fortunately, meditation can be of great benefit for helping to alleviate anxiety-based symptoms, according to a systematic review published back in 2012 in the Journal of Depression & Anxiety.[ii] The meditation techniques evaluated in the study included Transcendental Meditation (TM), Qigong, Yoga, Mindfulness Training, Guided Imagery and Tai Chi - techniques encompassing those that involve movement, as well as those that involve remaining still. All meditation techniques revealed some level of benefit - a promising sign for those with one preference of meditation over another. 

Spiritual Toxins
A more controversial element of “mental toxins” involves spirituality. Spirituality and religion (two terms to be used interchangeably here), play a significant role in your mental, emotional and physical well-being. A 2013 Canadian study (University of Saskatchewan) followed a group of participants over a 14-year period, looking to reveal a relationship between spiritual worship attendance (and identification with spiritual values) and tendencies toward major depression.[iii] This study concluded that there is no significant relationship between spiritual worship attendance and the mental disorders of anxiety and depression. The researchers did reveal a direct relationship between decreased suicidal ideation and spiritual worship attendance.[iv]
In summary, “mental”, “emotional” and “spiritual toxins” have the potential to significantly impact your state of health and well-being. The key to reducing their potential toxic burden on your mind and body involves both recognizing and bringing conscious awareness to their existence in your day-to-day life, as well as actively implementing strategies on a regular basis to help negate their detrimental effects.

[i] Tang, Y., Tang, R., & Posner, M. I. (2016). Review: Mindfulness meditation improves emotion regulation and reduces drug abuse. Drug And Alcohol Dependence, 163(Supplement 1), S13-S18. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.11.041

[ii] Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). MEDITATIVE THERAPIES FOR REDUCING ANXIETY: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS OF RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIALS. Depression & Anxiety (1091-4269), 29(7), 545-562.

[iii] Balbuena, L., Baetz, M., & Bowen, R. (2013). Religious attendance, spirituality, and major depression in Canada: a 14-year follow-up study. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 58(4), 225-232.

[iv] Rasic, D., Robinson, J. A., Bolton, J., Bienvenu, O. J., & Sareen, J. (2011). Longitudinal relationships of religious worship attendance and spirituality with major depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal ideation and attempts: Findings from the Baltimore epidemiologic catchment area study. Journal Of Psychiatric Research, 45848-854. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.11.014