We live in a world where it is completely the norm to worry about what we put in our bodies but worry very little about what we put in our minds. We think a hamburger is bad but a celebrity gossip magazine is completely harmless. As children you never hear “don’t put that garbage in your mind”, but for our body counterpart it is common thread. Is this scenario good for our health and happiness?
Newspapers, social media, television programs, advertising billboards and computer games attach themselves to our sticky minds and cause us undue suffering. Mental illness is a bigger problem than obesity and cardiovascular diseases in the modern western world but still we pay no homage to the philosophy of watching what we watch. We only worry about what we put in the body in the form of food and care very little, if at all, with what we consume in our minds.
This mindless consumption of the media and other irrelevant information on a daily basis has the ability to cause so much confusion and dispersion in our lives. When we give ourselves the space to step away from this we start to see the major role it plays in our individual health and happiness. Anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses are at such a high point because we are bombarded by an overload of information, largely irrelevant, at all times of the day. People never get a moments silence from the constant bombardment, and over time this builds a habit of over-dependence, and we give ourselves no time or space for any deep thought and introspection.
When we consume like this, day after day, it sprouts seeds of distraction and our unhealthy habits become stronger. When we are bored we eat, when we are lonely we watch a movie, read the newspaper or jump on social media - every time we do this we are covering up our real emotions and adding another layer of confusion and anxiety onto our already distracted, and over-stressed minds.
In order to cultivate good health there has to be a healthy balance of focus on body and mind - there continues to be too much onus put on physical health in the modern western world. The body and mind are interconnected and both need our undivided attention. We can all be the pioneers for cultivating healthy consumption on a physical and mental level for our family and friends; maybe it means getting rid of the television, or limiting your time in front of it, maybe it is putting your phone away in social situations, removing that application or not drinking that beer because you are lonely. It can have a great impact on the habits of the people around you and create valuable quiet time for yourself to re-calibrate, de-stress and re-focus.
I was trapped in this kind of unhealthy, and mindless, consumption because I was like the drowning person Thich Nhat Hanh describes in his book Fear who simply grasps onto anything that floats by. I was bored and lonely so going out drinking, having sex, watching television and reading the paper were all things I could grasp onto that would give me a second of comfort. I didn't realise that grasping these things, over and over, only ever made me more prone to drowning.
We get over-involved in things like television, our phones, social media, alcohol, drugs and sex because they give us moments of comfort. It is a dangerous and complicated path and the fact that in the west we fail to have a deep connection with ourselves only complicates it further. We get into the habit of consuming alcohol, watching television and using our phones at every chance and before we know it we are deeply entrenched in this ‘culture’ and unhealthy consumption pattern.
Sex, alcohol, media and all forms of our consumption are like logs on a fire, the more you do these things the more the fire burns. We can't just give all these things up, but what we can do is take other, healthier, things up. We can write, read, walk, swim, practice a new skill, travel, explore, cook, educate ourselves, talk to the people around us and do a hundred other things we've always wanted to do. We will quickly see the positive effects that will sprout from such healthy consumption. We will quickly see what these old habits do to our minds and we will see what a break from them will do to our energy , passion and zest for life.