We all know that eating healthy food is essential to our physical health. We only consume so many calories each day — sometimes too many! — and if we ingest those calories with junk food, with food that not only lacks nutrition but actually has harmful, unhealthy ingredients, then our body will suffer. Our physical health will deteriorate. And as time goes on, the momentum and habits build, and poisoning ourselves with garbage becomes normal. The bar gets lower. And then we earn the consequences: we get fat, we get diabetes, we have low energy, we get heart disease, and so on. We put ourselves on an inevitable track toward destruction, even though we KNOW it’s bad. We know junk food hurts us, and healthy food helps us, but it’s still hard to do.
How much worse would it be if we didn’t even know there were negative ramifications if it wasn’t so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness like the effects of healthy/unhealthy eating?
Because that is precisely what is happening to many of us, and we don’t even realize the damage being done and the danger being flirted with. We don’t know we are on an evitable track.
But it’s not unhealthy food poisoning our physical bodies. It is the unhealthy diet that we are feeding our brains.
Just like food, you can only take in so much information each day. And just like food, the stuff that’s not good for you feels a lot better short-term — talking shit with your friend about somebody, binging something dumb on Netflix, endless YouTube videos of crack heads fighting, your favorite genre on PornHub for two hours longer than “necessary,” hanging out with crappy people discussing crappy stuff, and so on. We all have our own favorite mental junk food we like to indulge in. Ready for this radical honesty? Here’s mine: researching whether celebrities and quasi-celebrities I encounter have ever been photographed/filmed naked, and watching pundits/journalists/experts discuss MMA/UFC news on YouTube. I can also get dragged into an angry debate on Facebook, which is always inherently negative and pointless. Those are probably my three big ones.
Feeding your brain things that are negative/stressful/angry/untrue, etc. have a very real impact on you as a person. But we can get addicted to it, just like junk food, and the terrible impact had on your mind, spirit, and even your character might be even worse than the bad food. And the dumb/silly/pointless things we consume are just wasted, empty calories. Not as terrible, but definitely not helping you.
We know what healthy food is, and what the benefits are, but what constitutes healthy content for your mind and soul? The MOST important source of quality mental calories will probably surprise you. It’s people. Your friends. Making sure the people you are spending your time talking to share interesting ideas, excellent advice, rational thoughts, and positive encouragement is the most essential step to improving your mental diet. Most of what you absorb comes from the people you talk to.
After that, it’s what you probably expect: books/audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube videos, online courses, etc. about the things you want to be better at, including just being a better person. There’s an interesting side effect that occurs, also, when we choose to spend our time consuming content on a productive topic. I always have an audiobook I’m listening to periodically throughout the day, and they tend to be on marketing, business management, entrepreneurship, and so on. Listening to the book, or the podcast, or the video gets my mind engaged on the topic, so not only am I getting the good info that I’m listening to, but that new information is stimulating that area of my mind, mixing with what I already know, resulting in me having great new ideas, sometimes barely related to the audiobook. Books/audiobooks are invaluable because they are an opportunity to be taught one-on-one by an expert, but this side effect is almost even better. James Altucher talks about “idea sex,” where getting new ideas combine with other new ideas for these epiphanies.
All of this is so powerful, but it never happens unless you consciously monitor and work on improving your mental diet, cutting back the junk. And just like with food, a little bit is fine. There’s no harm in me seeing an ad with Celine Dion, and then finding out if she’s ever been naked (she was once, in a French Canadian TV show in 1989), or watching a clip of Luke Thomas discuss the upcoming fight between Conor McGregor and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in January. That, by itself, isn’t a big deal. It’s when the junk becomes what we exclusively consume, with nothing healthy in our diet, that things start to become a problem. Start seeking out the good stuff, and you’ll find the junk stops being so tasty.