Why we make a mess when we are upset

I created the saying “Only unhappy people drop litter” when I noticed the relationship between our inner and outer worlds: when we are disconnected from our environment we are unhappy, we feel separate, cut off, perhaps even unimportant. These feelings are unbearable and so we act out: making a mess, dropping litter, destroying our external environment and bringing it in alignment with how we are feeling inside.

Conversely when we create an external environment which is beautiful and peaceful we tend to feel at peace too. I contribute to an article about how our emotions impact on our surroundings in this article for welldoing.org on the relationship between dust and depression:

“Our avoidance of the basics is actually an attempt at avoiding the difficult feelings we’re experiencing,” says Rhona. Not opening the curtains means not having to face the day. “Except in fact avoidance makes the difficult feelings even more hard to manage”.  The impact of this can be pretty devastating. When we feel rubbish about ourselves and don’t know what to do about it we also tend to feel angry and negative and take it out on our environment and those around us. “It’s almost like ‘I am suffering and so must everyone else!’” says Rhona.

And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Neglecting the basics of self-care has a hugely detrimental impact on our mental state and self-esteem, and the filthier the house the more depressed we feel – so we can face tackling it even less. “If we stop taking positive actions on a daily basis, we soon start to feel negative and ‘behind’ on things and life starts to fall into chaos”, says Rhona. Read tips about how to halt these destructive behaviours in the full article here

Top illustration by Sarah Culross