Happy 2018 – Day 75 – Do you need to go on a MENTAL diet?

According to the news, humans across the globe are fatter and unhealthier that ever. We’re moving less and eating more. And we’re drowning in choice when it comes to food, especially when it comes to that which is high in taste and low in health.

As a result, the diet industry is booming. There’s just as many diets available as there are chocolate bars. Whether we’re counting points on ‘Weight Watchers’, cutting carbs on Keto or downing endless bowls of Cabbage Soup (very unpleasant side-effects here!); millions of people are cutting things out of their diets in order to lose weight and become healthier.

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But what about our mental health?

When it comes to what we might see/hear/unwittingly scroll past on a daily basis, there’s just as much choice as in the dairy aisle…and it’s just as destructive.

Much like the food – it’s high taste and low health. Sensationalist but lacking in substance. And even where there is accuracy and good reporting; some of it is seriously depressing.

Only a few evenings ago, I accidentally scrolled into a horrific story of animal abuse, right before I went to sleep. I’ve spoken before about how anxiety and imagination can combine to become a truly toxic partnership; and you can imagine what went through my head after reading this story. What good had it done me to see this? I went to sleep that night, with a deeply unpleasant feeling in my gut; wondering what kind of people could act in such a despicable way; considering that poor animals’ suffering; visualising a similar fate for my beloved cats. That night, the world felt a little less magic.

I tell you this because hopefully it emphasises my point – that over the years, I’ve come to understand that if we eat everything in sight, we become fat.

And if we don’t place some restrictions on what we ‘let in’ to our minds, we become anxious and miserable.

***

As a teacher, I always felt it was my duty to be up to speed with current affairs; but I now know that watching the news on a morning is often an anxious and depressing beginning to the day. Often now, I’ll pick and choose bits of news from YouTube, or I’ll scroll through my news app and only ‘go into’ stories that I’m curious about.

I’ve ‘unfollowed’ certain ‘friends’ on Facebook after scrolling through my News Feed, only to see some kind of graphic horrific picture, or some other tale of horror that sent my stomach into somersaults for hours.

In the car, I’m either practising Mindful driving or listening to a CD or podcast rather than the radio.

When I’m watching TV, I’ve gone full-blown Millennial and I pretty much just watch Netflix. I rarely see adverts (at least ones that I can’t skip.)

I pay attention to how I feel around someone. If I come to see that someone’s negativity is sucking the life out of me on a regular basis – that they’re effectively a Dementor – then i make sure I see a lot less of them.

***

I imagine that this attitude could be seen as naive. You need to know what’s going on in the world Joanna! And yes, I’m sure I do.

I recognise that there might be a time and a place for you to let in real news, that isn’t always positive. Without awareness of local, national and global events, how would we ever be encouraged to stand up against injustice, or be the voice for those who cannot use theirs?

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But let’s be honest here and say that the proportion of news that most people can actually do something about, or want to do something about, isn’t anywhere near significant enough that it justifies putting yourself into a bad mood on a daily basis. Often – as with the random animal abuse story that I stumbled into – the only thing that we, the reader/viewer/listener, can do…. is to worry.

Not only that, but we’re told that adults and children(!) are currently facing an epidemic of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Surely this gives us even more reason to protect our minds from negativity.

So before you throw yourself into cutting calories, have a good long think about your mental diet, and decide if it isn’t time to start placing your limits elsewhere.

Do you need a mental diet? Have you already put steps in place to limit what comes in and out? Thoughts and comments welcome:

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