We’re off and running toward what I hope will be a great year for all of us. We’ve set some goals and developed plans to turn our good intentions into successful realities. Healthy eating plans, exercise equipment or gym memberships, time management plans, and numerous organizational tips offer us tools to guide us toward healthier living. If you’ve begun putting your plans into motion, you know the great feeling of accomplishment and the satisfaction that you are moving forward in a positive direction with your life. As we clean out our closets, cook healthier meals, exercise and organize our time, we also know we need to make certain our minds and hearts are ready for the experiences ahead. We may have tucked away special keepsakes and fond memories from the past, but we may also be holding onto negative things in our lives that we need to discard, clutter that’s been weighing us down. Psychologist and author Georgia Shaffer cautions us, “Even the best intentions to eat well and exercise can be sabotaged by last year’s emotional trash. Emotional trash is any negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes such as petty grudges, long-held resentments, or destructive guilt. If not dealt with and removed, our emotional trash creates many problems in our lives and relationships. In fact, experts say avoiding, hiding, or soothing our feelings with food (emotional eating) is the main reason we fail to stick to our diets.” In her book, “Taking Out Your Emotional Trash: Face Your Feelings and Build Healthy Relationships” (Harvest House, 2010), Georgia makes the point that while your emotional trash might be different from mine, the truth is we all have it. I asked her to share some tips to help shed the weight of damaging emotions as we work on improving our health and well-being. Here are three questions to help us become lighter and freer. What am I ignoring that is weighing me down? How often has someone made a hurtful comment that you brushed aside? “No big deal,” you tell yourself. “Don’t we all have times when someone hurts our feelings?” Or maybe you’re disappointed in your performance at work or ashamed of your overreaction to a co-worker. Choosing to ignore or hide these seemingly little hurts, disappointments or shame allows them to pile up and create more pain. Unfortunately this only increases our tendency to eat in order to soothe our emotions. Whether you discouraged or disappointed, acknowledge your feelings and find ways of expressing them before they control you. Constructive outlets can include journaling, talking to a safe friend or counselor and going for a walk. What have I grown use to that is weighing me down? It’s a subtle, gradual process where one day you’re aware you’re holding onto a grudge but then slowly, over time, this resentment becomes so much a part of you that you don’t even know it is there. Like living near a fast food restaurant, at first you’re aware of all the smells, but after a while you don’t even know they exist. Forgiveness is a choice we make, not a feeling, and a process we work through. Once you choose to let go of any bitterness, be willing to work through and resolve your sadness, anger or betrayal in order to heal on a deeper level. What am I blinded to that is weighing me down? We all have blind spots – our inability to see things as they really are. The best way to see our own junk is through prayer and time for personal reflection. Another way to see what you can’t see is to seek the advice of godly people who share your values, people you’ve learned to trust. Many times these people can help you identify the lies, hurts and pains you unknowingly still carry from the past. As you take stock of your life and are committed to making a fresh start this year, Georgia and I encourage you to take the steps you need to dump that weighty emotional trash. Free yourself from whatever weighs you down - physically, emotionally, even spiritually - so you can experience all God has in store for you in the days ahead. Nancy Williams, LPC, maintains a counseling, life coaching, and consulting practice and is the author of Secrets to Parenting Your Adult Child. Send questions or comments to her at www.nancywilliams.net.

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