Putting “Mental Junk Food” in its Place: A Plea for More Enriching Behaviors

We are all the product of our surroundings.  Our reality – our world, is a reflection & outcome of the choices that we make for ourselves day-in and day-out.  These choices oftentimes derive from a lifetime of inputs, both physical and mental, and flow outward in reflection of the sum total of our lives’ experiences.  If we are to achieve happiness and fulfillment in this world, our choices need to be fed and supported by “nutrients” that grow both the body and mind.  In my opinion, it is only then that our energies will reach max potential, producing extraordinary outflows of capability, strength, and passion.   

As a father of three middle school-aged children, I spend a great deal of time thinking of ways to encourage my children to eat not only healthy foods, but also to consume nutrient-dense mental “food” as well.  There is such a strong, symbiotic relationship between the mind and the body…the connection and interdependence of each on the other is undeniable.  It is my observation that our culture spends a great deal of time talking about the “body” side of the mind/body connection and comparatively little time talking about the “mind” side.  Ironically, it is a strong and healthy mental state that plays a much greater role in achieving overall happiness and fulfillment in life.  One need only look at the staggering statistics indicative of diminished mental states in the US, to see proof of this.  Namely:

  • One in ten Americans take anti-depressant medication. Among women in their 40s and 50s, the number is one in four.
  • From 1999 to 2014, opioid prescriptions in the US more than quadrupled. From 1999 to 2010, prescription pain reliever overdose deaths have increased over 400% for women and 230% for men.
  • More than two in three adults are considered to be overweight or obese. For kids, it’s more than one in three. 
  • Suicide rates have surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years

If we don’t deliberately seek out positive messaging in this world, then we are left to consume the default buffet of social media, texting, news, television programming, and corporate advertising.  These sources of influence, I can assure you, are not leading you down the road to excellence, greatness, or fulfillment.  Avenues such as these are what I’ve come to refer to as “mental junk food”.   Much in the same way as traditional junk food, these sources of addictive mental nutrients may provide you with short-term pleasure, but they will rob you of happiness and longevity over the long-term if abused.  They should be consumed only in moderation. 

The world is full of inspirational and educational tools to expand and grow your mind and inform your world view.  All you need to do is seek them out.  Realizing that the default messaging out there isn’t helping you to serve your higher purpose is the first step in achieving all that you want out of this life.    Read books.  Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries.  Meditate.  Write.  Journal.  Study music.  Paint.  Sculpt.  Learn pottery.  Take an acting class.  Take a continuing education class at your local community college.  Learn a foreign language.  Volunteer your time at a charity.  The list is limited only by your imagination and drive to better yourself.  My suggestion is that you seek out these alternative sources of positive mental energy in your daily life.  Make a habit out of consuming them.  Then, in several months, evaluate how strong you feel in mind, body, and spirit.  I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.  Godspeed. 


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