What are you feeding your brain? And how is that affecting your health and well-being? It’s an interesting question that we don’t ask often enough, yet the things we feed our brain can affect us in many real and important ways.
A few days ago I was in the middle of a major stuck-fest (feeling twitchy, restless and unmotivated), and I desperately wanted to get out of it, so I decided to listen to some positive affirmations to help get myself back on balance. Affirmations may seem touchy-feely to some people but I have found them a great way to center myself. There are some great options for affirmations available as podcasts or in audio book apps like Audible, where I happened to choose my affirmations from that day. As I listened to the positive affirmations flow, one particular sentence seemed to jump out at me: “I am careful and selective about the messages I allow into my home.”
Careful and selective? Yikes. It might be pushing it to use those words to describe what I allow into my home for my viewing or listening pleasure. I’ve pretty much been allowing any and all messages from the outside world into my life without a filter in sight. I’ve been jumping every time my phone dings with a news alert, twitching at every notification in my Facebook feed, and watching much more news coverage than I used to. I haven’t been careful or selective at all! Is that why I was feeling so out of sorts?
So often, when we are feeling unwell in some way, we look toward our physical health for clues to our angst. If we get an upset stomach, experience frequent headaches or have trouble sleeping, we may look at our diet, our sleep patterns or our medicine intake to determine what’s ailing us. It’s less common for us to consider the things we watch, listen to or think about. Yet, according to many well-respected modern physicians, examining the things our brains are doing is precisely what we should be doing for optimal health.
Many modern physicians are now recognizing the importance of the mind when it comes to overall health and well-being. The mind-body connection is certainly not all airy-fairy new age hoopla; in fact, the connection is emerging as one of the most respected fields of study in quantum physics. Quantum physics, you guys. I say, if quantum physicists deem something worthy of study, I can at least give the subject some passing thought.
The great news is, just as we have control over what we eat or drink, we also have a considerable amount of control over what we put into our minds. Here are just a few things to consider:
ONE: SOCIAL MEDIA
One of the most common (and somewhat frustrating) complaints I hear from my friends is how negative social media is. This is exasperating to me, because social media is largely user-generated. It’s only negative if we make it negative! All those friends on my Facebook feed didn’t magically appear one evening last May. I invited people, or accepted people into my life via a Facebook Friend Request. If I don’t like what they are sharing I can block or unfriend them. The same is true of virtually all virtual worlds. If I don’t like Hannity’s tweets, I don’t have to follow him on Twitter. If I don’t want to see Kim Kardashian’s duck face, there’s nothing forcing me to follow her on Instagram. Social media is simple to fix. Notice I didn’t write “easy,” as unfriending your crazy Uncle Buck might not go over too well with Aunt Gertrude and might cause a little family drama – but a simple “block” or “unfollow” can really do wonders for one’s sanity.
TWO: TV & MOVIES
Our Xfinity digital media package includes access to over 260 live channels in addition to hundreds of On Demand shows, movies, specials and features, not to mention the ridiculous amount of storage available on our DVR to record and save even more things we may desire to watch. Sure, a lot of what is available on TV is total garbage. But seriously, why settle for something destructive or negative to watch on TV when there are thousands of additional options at our fingertips at any given time? Why watch a boring or hateful movie at the theatre when Redbox and On Demand can offer much better options?
THREE: NEWSPAPERS & BROADCASTS
There’s a big difference between being well-informed and over-inundated with current events. I flipped to Rachel Maddow a week or so ago to find out what was going on with Donald Trump’s taxes, and after having the channel on for about an hour and listening to countless build-ups and anticipating some mind-blowing information that would change my life, I essentially learned … nothing. My blood was pumping and my stress was flowing for absolutely no good reason. I could have saved myself some serious trouble by simply reading my “theSkimm” update in my inbox the next morning. theSkimm is a succinct, light-hearted yet well-researched and documented news briefing I subscribe to and follow on Facebook, and I highly recommend using theSkimm or another similar source to lighten the burden of news stress while keeping you well-informed on the important things going on in our world.
Commercials and advertisements are designed to make us feel “less than” so we’ll buy whatever the seller is offering. Skip the page or DVR your favorite show and fast forward through commercials to minimize the brain damage. We don’t have to be interrupted and controlled by oatmeal peddlers.
There’s been a lot of buzz about toxic people in our lives, and the more I hear about the negative influence of toxic people, the more convinced I become that we simply have to do something about them. Toxic people are poisonous to our souls. We should be kind and generous and compassionate – sure! of course! – but there is a limit to what we should put up with from those we invite into our lives. Most of us have graduated from high school, and we don’t need to be friends with those people anymore. Many of us encounter toxic people at work but we do not need to bring them home with us (either literally or figuratively, by thinking and venting/talking about them constantly when we’re off the clock). Almost everyone has a relative or two that they don’t enjoy seeing, so see them the minimum required number of times and move on. When toxic people are cleared from our lives we have more time to enjoy and truly luxuriate in the company of the people that energize us, lift us up and feed our spirits. The incredible people in our lives deserve more of our time, energy and attention. We can only give them that if we toss out a few of the toxic ones.
The voice in your head has the potential to be the most destructive or the most beneficial thing feeding your brain at any given time. The nagging twitch in your brain that asks, “Do I look fat in these jeans?” or says “I shouldn’t have said that – it was so stupid!” or wonders “Does JoJo like me?” is remarkably significant and can be all-consuming, if we give it that power. On the other hand, the whisper of your spirit that says, “Go ahead and try it- you can do it!” or wonders, “Think of all the good things that can come from this,” or encourages us that “Today is a new day and anything is possible” can prevail if we choose. There’s no sense in ruminating over bad choices or failed attempts when we can focus on what to do better the next time. We can make the voice in our head as loving and kind as the voice we speak aloud to our friends and family – and don’t we deserve the same kindness we extend to those we love? A simple way to nurture the relationship with have with ourselves and increase the positive messages we send and receive it to spend a few minutes a day in meditation, prayer or quiet reflection. Consider it a date with yourself.
There are many other subjects we can and should consider when we look at our Brain Diet – video games, radio, podcasts, phones, tablets, work, school, sports, church, and even trips to the mall. The point is that we should start looking at them, and increase our awareness of all the things we feed ourselves.
For our health and well-being, it’s critically important to consider what we put into our bodies and minds. When we feed our bodies hearty vegetables, mineral-rich grains, vitamin-charged fruits and other robust foods, our bodies flourish. When we feed our minds provocative debates, inspirational stories and side-splitting hilarity, our minds flourish. Further, what we feed our bodies affects our brains, and what we feed our brains affects our bodies.
So, what are you feeding your mind?