“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive beaches your values become your destiny.”
Chances are at some point you’ve tried to eat a better diet. According to some experts* 45 million people go on a diet, per year, in America alone. There’s now a growing awareness in the US and globally, of the importance of eating foods that promote optimum health and longevity.
This is a fantastic change in our society, which for too long has collectively neglected the quality of our food. Optimizing our diets will promote greater health, happiness and quality of life for vast numbers of people the world over.
However today, I want to discuss a different kind of diet. One that’s as important but much less well known.
Your informational diet.
I propose that a helpful way to understand one root of our inner health, is to treat the information we “ingest” as mental/emotional “food”, which will correspondingly take time to “digest” and will either be helpful or harmful to our well-being.
In this analogy, I would consider the information we consume as the “food” and our minds and hearts collectively, as our “stomach”.
We should pay as much attention (if not more) to what information we consume, as to what we eat.
The simple reason is that our mental and emotional sphere’s are the nexus of our quality of life. If you have a deficiency in either sphere, even if your body was in perfect health (which would be impossible by the way) you’d still have a rough time in life.
Now, you might be wondering where this analogy crosses over into reality. In what situation does consuming certain kinds of information, have measurable effects? I’d like to run a quick thought experiment: simply close your eye’s and remember a time when you saw a movie that scared you.
Remember how you felt in your body during and crucially after, that movie? Not so good right?
That’s exactly what I’m talking about. “Ingesting” a negative stream of information caused “digestive” reactions in all 3 spheres of your experience; physical, emotional and mental.
(and in the big picture, those 3 spheres are all the same, but that’s a topic for another time)
Now let’s flip this experiment on it’s head. Imagine a time when you saw something that made you want to leap for joy. Remember how good you felt? Same thing. What we allow into our minds really matters. Let’s dive deeper…
Whether we perceive things we find as pleasant or unpleasant, our body makes and releases certain chemicals that correspond with how we’re feeling. And as modern science has shown, the chemicals that are released when we perceive something as negative, have a detrimental long-term effect on our health.
Yes, the emotions we consistently feel, directly impact how healthy we are.
Experiencing a lifetime of these negative chemicals, promotes a whole host of unpleasant health consequences; chronic inflammation, for one thing and an increased chance of contracting multiple diseases for another. These harmful chemicals are all related to the body’s system for dealing with threats; the Fight, Flight or Freeze response. And the research shows when triggered at low, chronic levels, our health dramatically suffers.
The other side of this coin is that when we experience positive emotions, our body produces life-enhancing, health boosting chemicals which make us feel good and enhance every single one of our bodily systems.
Literally every single one!
So, if we watch, listen or read something negative (excess, glorified violence, emotional or physical distress ect) our bodies, hearts and minds will pay a small but steadily accruing price over time.
Now while it’s probably obvious that watching Saving Private Ryan every day might not be the best idea, there are more subtle things that can chip away at our optimal health. Of course, the first step is to stop “ingesting” anything that is outright harmful. But the next step is to cut out anything that’s sub-optimal. This is where the true scale of mental/emotional “junk food” permeating society becomes mind-blowing.
Things in this category would include things like the news media. Yes, even though the people in charge of bringing us the news 24/7 put in a lot of hard work, on the whole, what is shown are biased, negative, incomplete opinions about problems we can’t do anything to fix.
Taking all this in doesn’t help us be our best selves. News content is generally designed (unconsciously or not) to draw you in with something negative (taking advantage of our inbuilt negativity bias) and keep you there for: As. Long. As. Possible. This doesn’t help you think better, or become more emotionally healthy. Most likely, it either irritates or depresses you.
So make consuming the news as small a part of your life as you can.
Don’t worry about being uninformed about world events, there are several other, less toxic was to learn about what’s going on in the world (like asking a friend a la Tim Ferriss’s suggestion).
Now, as for what else is on TV,or the Internet, don’t get me started. Most of it’s negative or useless at best.
So where does all this leave us?
When we take in a bit of information, our mind and emotions react and take time to process what we took in. So being diligent in what we consume mentally will promote greater health and stability in our hearts and minds.
Below are a few tips to get the ball rolling on how you can reduce the negative information in your life:
Tip 1# Take in no news for 1 week
- A great way to start cleaning up your informational diet, is to stop watching or reading the news for one week and to consider cutting it drastically after that. That means no news TV shows, no newspapers, and no Internet news. While it might be difficult at first (yes, you might just be accustomed to a “junk” informational diet) stay strong. After one week, you will feel a change in your baseline emotional state, particularly if you were a regular news viewer previously.
Tip #2: No digital entertainment for one week
- Again, this will be a hard one. We often don’t know how accustomed we are to things, until they’re taken away. But commit to a one week entertainment media fast. Never-ending cliffhanger TV shows, endless Internet rabbit holes and movies with too much CGI and not enough plot, are all out. Try it out and compare notes about your baseline feeling of well-being from the start and end of the week. You’ll be surprised.
Tip #3: Ask yourself “Will this make me smile?”
- Ultimately, we want to have information make us feel better not worse. So as you take stock of your informational diet, a good way to tell if you should “ingest” something is to simply ask yourself: “will this make me smile?” If the answer is yes than enjoy it. If the answer’s no or unclear, then air on the side of caution. Deep down, you know what’s quality and what’s not. Trust that instinct.
So to wrap up: our mental and emotional states are affected by what the information we put in.
If the content of our informational diets is predominantly negative, our bodies will react by producing chemicals that chip away at our health. But the reverse is also true. When we view things that make us smile, our bodies get a system-wide tune-up.
And in the end, what we spend our time learning and watching, will have a direct impact on our emotional well-being and even our creativity and thinking.
Now there is another level to this…
The next stage is to start taking stock of the thoughts, feelings and stories we create and nurture and seeing if they align with our highest potential.
A journey for a lifetime and a topic for another article…
Here’s a set of practical challenges that you can do today, to build on the what we looked at in this article:
- Take note of what other people fill their minds with. A great way to become more aware of what you’re mentally ‘eating’, is to watch what other people are ‘eating’. See if you can notice any effect in them.
- Take stock of the emotional flavor of all the produced information you see in a day. Magazine covers. TV shows. Movies. Music even. See if you notice any common themes.
Written by Judah Beck