You Are What You Consume: Controlling Your Media Diet

February 8, 2017
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We live in an unprecedented time of information. For better or for worse, we have at our fingertips a constant stream of news and social media. Global, local, personal and private. It comes at us from all angles, and at all times and while I would never be one to deny the importance and opportunity that all this information has to offer us, I will say that constantly consuming all the terrible shit out there is a sure fire way to mental misery.

It is common knowledge that the physical diet you consume will most certainly define your physical health. Eat like shit; feel like shit and look like shit. The same can be said about the media diet you consume. Digest a bunch of shitty news and you are going see your mental health decline in a hurry.

The most dangerous part about the ways and the extent to which we consume media has an impact on our health is that we often do not see the damage it does because it does not show itself in physical ways. With a shitty diet, you can recognize that with an expanding waistline or a lack of energy.

The damage of our media diets is harder to recognize.

It comes in the form of generalized anxiety, irritability, information overload, confusion, depression, and sadness. All non-specific symptoms that can evolve from our habits of our media consumption.

These things can develop slowly and it can be difficult to point to our media consumption habits as the source. But I think it is important to recognize the ways in which that intake can affect your well-being – mentally and physically – and by recognizing them, change them.

Some questions to ask yourself in order to find out if your media consumption is contaminating your life?

Do you wake up in the morning and instantly start scrolling facebook or twitter or Instagram? Do you have feelings of anxiety that seem to come after reading news stories? Does reading bad news seem to ruin your day or set you up for a negative mindset? These are all very real problems that stem from our errant media consumption and that can be remedied by reflecting on and adjusting our consumption habits.

To that ends, I want to explore 5 ways in which we can alter our media consumption habits in order to improve our mental well-being and get our minds back in shape.

Don’t be ignorant but be selective

I would never try to convince you that you should not be up to speed on the critical news of the world, or of your life, but is it really necessary for you to read every single article about a news topic and every single comment about it? Is it really that important that you scroll mindlessly through every one of your friends updates on social media? Is it imperative to your life that you view every picture that someone posts to Instagram? My guess is, no.

I can guarantee that if you are more selective in your consumption that you are not going to miss much. Perhaps it is a matter of simply changing news sources to something less bias or making sure that the news you are getting is reliable and honest. Perhaps it is unfollowing some friends on Facebook or Instagram that don’t really have much to offer except sadness and shade.

You have every opportunity, and in fact, responsibility, to choose what you consume – you can choose the sources, the variety, the duration and the depth. Choose wisely, and as often as possible limit it to only what matters in keeping you informed without having you overwhelmed or inundated with falsity or negativity. 

Choose your time to devour

Maybe the best time to hit the newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter is not the first thing in the morning. Your mornings should be a time of peace and tranquility and quiet. A place to set the tone for the day and, if nothing else, have those few moments of solitude that your life allows.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to not check your phone at all when you wake up. Turn off your alarm and set it aside. Set it to airplane mode before you got to sleep if you usually get a lot of notifications throughout the night. Or better yet, remove the opportunity for app notifications so that you wake up to an uncluttered phone.

Basically, you need to decide what your priority is.

Is your priority everything that is happening out there in the world with others or is it setting the proper intention and peace of mind internally so that you are prepared for the day? Get clear about what is more important to you and if it is the latter, wait until the day has already hardened you before you make it worse by consuming the depressant that is the news.

What does your consumption create?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a great presentation by Sara Young, a local leadership coach here in Wisconsin, and she raised a very thought provoking question during her presentation. She asked, what does your consumption create? I think this is something we should all ask ourselves when we are weighing the value of the things that we consume.

If you are consuming things that do not add any value to what you want to accomplish in life – to what aligns with you – then why the hell are you consuming that thing? If it is not contributing to your future success it is actively diverting you from it. Recognize that and shift your consumption habits appropriately.

Try to make a habit of only consuming things that further your message, your cause, your passion or your dreams. I am not saying that you should have such a laser-like focus that you neglect anything that does not align with your future dreams of success, but turning to things that feed your muse instead of starving it goes a long way towards cultivating a passion driven life that has you reaching for and capturing the magic of your dreams.

Consume positivity

We have a lot of opportunities to filter the crap that we consume on social media. My facebook feed is filled with positive, uplifting and inspirational content. I rarely ever see anything that drags down my spirits or pulls my heart and soul through the dirty shit pile of the standard news cycle. How is this possible?

Easy.

I have joined and followed positive groups, unfollowed or hidden anything or anyone who drains me and made sure to diligently monitor and manicure my feed so that it only feeds me the things that uplift me.

This is really an easy opportunity for anyone to consume such an amazing amount of positivity. It is out there.

We focus so much on the negativity and the hate spewing diatribes of ignorant masses that we sometimes forget that there is a whole other side of the world that is trying to promote peace, tranquility, dialogue and positivity. Find those spaces and drink from them often as they will be a much-needed source of fuel in days that you are struggling to find your motivation or inspiration.

Set limits

How much time to do you spend consuming shit? Between Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, tv, movies, etc., how much time of your life is spent just passively consuming garbage? How can you expect to produce anything worthwhile when you are constantly putting garbage into your head and heart?

Ok. So you can’t go cold turkey. Fine.  At least find a way to set limits for yourself so that you are not always surrounded by the blue light glow of information overload.

Give yourself some scheduled time each day to page through your facebook feed or search through a news website. Allow yourself a little time for your favorite show or to share a movie but make sure you set a limit and hold fast to that limit so you can walk away and engage yourself back into your life instead of living vicariously through the rest of the world because that is what happens with overconsumption of shit.

Summary

The truth is, most people are addicted to consumption of news, social media, tv, whatever because they don’t want to be bothered with doing any real living or creating of their own. They use the consumption of media as a replacement for stepping up and creating their own noteworthy achievements or stories. They use it as a replacement for living.

You have to truly make an effort to be more selective in what you consume, while never slipping into ignorance about the world. You need to pick the right times to devour your media and you need to make sure that, whatever it is that you are consuming, is contributing to your creativity and not sucking it dry. You do this by consuming positive things and by setting limits on your consumption so that you have more time to create and contribute instead of constantly being a passive observer of the world.

Is it hard to limit your consumption of shit? Yes. As hard as it is to limit your consumption of terrible food shit. But it is just as necessary for your health to do it. You need to get clear about what you want your life to be and put yourself on the appropriate media diet that helps you achieve it.