Email is a wonderful way to connect and keep in touch with people, arrange your car insurance, be reminded of meetings, get news and updates and much more.


It also has the ability to overwhelm us. I know people who regularly have over 2,000 unopened emails in their inbox. Some are people who have allowed them to accumulate because they don’t check their email regularly, some have the habit of selected ones to open now and intend to read the others later and some people have jobs where thousands of people contact them each day.

The uninvited

I like to keep on top of my emails and it is always my intention that the emails in my inbox never exceed one page. The ones that are there are because they contain time sensitive information, for instance blogs that I need to upload to The Positive Psychology People website, some that I need to respond to but haven’t yet and some where I am waiting for a reply and this reminds me. However, there are always a large proportion of emails to inform me about events, courses and news from people and organisations that don’t interest me, or don’t interest me much. Maybe I signed up for these? Probably though my email address has been passed on or picked up by some automatic computer application. Although, I delete these and this takes mere seconds, I realised some time ago that I should not be allowing them to be there is the first place. So, I began to ‘unsubscribe’.


A lot of emails are recognised as Spam and go into a Spam folder (worth checking every now and again as occasionally important emails end up there too) but others get through. In the time it takes to delete one, there is another option that takes a fraction longer –  the ‘unsubscribe’ option, usually found at the bottom of the page. Since unsubscribing from these uninvited and unwanted emails I’ve found that I feel lighter when I see that new unread emails are much less. I can focus immediately on what is important rather than weeding out what isn’t. It’s a small change but one that makes a big difference.

A metaphor

I’ve also found that ‘unsubscribe’ is a good metaphor to use about a lot of things and one I share with my clients. When they describe how they feel overwhelmed by the problems of friends and family I ask them if they have ‘subscribed’ to this, in other words have they sent out an invitation to friends to say ‘dump your problems on me’, or their grown up children ‘bring round your laundry for me to do’, or ‘feel free to criticise me to make you feel better about yourself’? Of course, the answer is rarely yes (if it was, then it  is unlikely to have been identified as a problem).

A simple choice

Of course, it is kind, considerate and loving people who are most at risk from the overwhelm of this as they feel they have an obligation to ‘be there’ for everyone and eventually find that they don’t have any time left for themselves. It can be an ‘aha’ moment to realise that they always have the choice to ‘unsubscribe’. This seems to feel less like rejecting people or insulting people and is easier to put in place especially with the knowledge that this is most likely what other people have already done or the requests when straight in the Spam box.

We have the choice to unsubscribe from anything that we find draining and unhelpful such as unkind gossip and constant complaining, Just ask yourself ‘did I invite this and do I want it?’

Please noteI am an early riser and frequently wake up with thoughts and questions on my mind. I write them down and record them in these short unedited, un-researched, unscientific bits of writing. They are written in a half asleep hypnopompic state and should not be regarded as anything more than what they are – random thoughts and musings. For sensible subjects and writing please visit Positive Psychology Learning website