Most people know how their body digests their food, but do you know how you digest your emotions?
The concept of emotional digestion is not a new one. We see this concept in the practice of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic medicine is a system that originated in northern India over 5,000 years ago primarily from one of the Vedic texts. When an Ayruvedic practitioner evaluates a person, they typically look at two major areas – the body and the mind. Through the evaluation process, practitioners make recommendations for diet and lifestyle that help the individual optimize digestion of the body and digestion of mind. Digestion of the mind is emotional digestion.
Everyone’s emotional digestion rate is different. Some people take their emotions to the internet and bully, deflect their emotions onto others, abuse whomever is around them, scream it out, slam a few doors, or cry. While I’m not a fan of inconsolable fits of unbounded emotions and chaos, that’s how some people process things. I happen to be very slow at digesting emotions, meaning strong emotional feelings often sit with me for some time. When I’m knocked off balance, I’ll feel adrenaline and other hormones flood my system, and it makes me feel really cranky like I need to meditate, do some yoga, or take a nap. Even after doing these things, I might still feel nagging waves of emotion, so I have to keep meditating and sleeping to digest those emotions completely. This process can take days or even weeks!!
Some people don’t actually digest their emotions, and this is not a good thing. If emotions are not digested they create festering seeds of disease and deeply rooted trauma in your body. These things can later manifest themselves physically through cancer, digestive issues, and auto-immunity. I’ll give you a personal example of how this happens.
When I a child, I was told to “hold in” my emotions, “don’t make a scene,” and “don’t worry, you’re fine.” That’s all well and good when a parent wants their child to be mindful of others under the social rules of “children should be seen and not heard,” but this upbringing taught me to hold everything in – even when I was singing for funerals and constantly having to sing over dead bodies, or when I was witnessing verbal abuse, and being sexually and emotionally abused.
Holding that stuff in is toxic. Extremely toxic. As a child I was very, very sick all the time. I had undiagnosed and untreated celiac disease, constant cold sores and skin infections, asthma, allergies, and at one point I had antibiotic resistant strep. Oh, I was even allergic to the sun!!! Night terrors started as a young child, and it wasn’t until my late 20s when I learned how to lucid dream and conquer the constant panic of sleep. I didn’t get to digest that trauma until I was an adult, and I can tell you right now, it’s better to take care of this kind of stuff when you’re a kid. (Heads up parents! If your kids need therapy, get them help now!)
One of the keys to making sure you are actually digesting your emotions is to be aware that you have emotions. One way to do that is to meditate. Meditation quiets the mind to a point where you are able to “witness” emotions and realize that they are not you. Sure emotions affect you, but like your thoughts, they are separate from yourself – that part of you that lies beyond the constrains of your body and your brain’s busyness.
When you are able to be more present and anchored through the regular practice of meditation, you realize that emotions won’t just be digested, they’ll actually be cast back off into the void – the vacuum of space. Then they’re gone forever. You might have physiological symptoms of emotions like hormone imbalances, cramping, or insomnia, but those can be managed with a few minutes of deep breathing, a few rounds of burpees, some yoga, or a light jog.
And also remember that when you’re optimally digesting your food, that will help you optimally digest your emotions. There is a strong connection between the gut and the brain. Eating healthy food that your body can digest is very important.
If you want to know more about your body and mind digestion, check out this quiz from Deepak Chopra: