I came across a meme today on Facebook that said, “You become what you feed your mind,” and it really got me thinking. Just like we can’t expect to have healthy bodies by eating a steady diet of processed junk, we can’t expect to have healthy minds by consuming a steady diet of negativity.
You Become What You Feed Your Mind, So Stop Filling It With Negativity
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to turn that frown upside down or anything quite so trite (hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it!) With so many scary things happening in the world lately, it’s hard not to focus on the negative at least a little bit. It’s also completely unrealistic to pressure yourself to think nothing but positive thoughts all day, every day.
Indulging in a few minutes of worry is one thing. Studies even show that a healthy amount of worry can motivate you and act as an emotional buffer. However, spending all day every single day binging on negativity and worrying about things you can’t control can have the complete opposite effect.
Even worse, it doesn’t just affect you, but those around you. Turns out, negativity is contagious. So, in that respect, you’re not just feeding your own mind the mental equivalent of junk food, but also basically force-feeding it to your friends and family, too.
Of course, burying out heads in the sand and ignoring everything negative isn’t exactly the right way to go, either. Living in total denial is just as unhealthy as living in a constant state of worry. Just like a balanced diet in terms of food is vital to a healthy body, a balanced diet in terms of information is key to a healthy mind.
Feed Your Mind a Balanced Diet & You’ll Be a Happier Person
If you approach your mind’s diet the way you approach your body’s, you’ll have an easier time finding the right balance between negativity and positivity. Let me give you some examples.
Everything in moderation
Remember the golden rule of healthy eating: everything in moderation! You don’t have to completely give up chocolate when you’re trying to eat better, right? You just have to limit the amount you eat.
The same goes for negativity. Rather than declaring all negative thoughts totally off-limits, allow yourself X amount of time each day to focus on the things that worry you. Set a timer for 20 minutes and dive into the “dark side.” Really let yourself feel the worry, fear, and anxiety.
Then, when your time is up, choose to focus on the positive. You’re not burying your feelings or denying that they exist, you’re simply telling them, “Now is not the time.”
Choose your worries wisely
Let’s play a “what if” game. I have two pieces of chocolate. One is a mass-produced, foil-wrapped candy made by a machine. The other is a gourmet treat handcrafted by a world-famous chocolatier. You only get one, and it’s the only piece you can have all week. Which do you choose? I’m going to assume you went for the good stuff! After all, if we’re limiting ourselves, we might as well go with the best option!
Let’s try the same exercise, except with something far less satisfying than chocolate- worrying. Again, you have two choices in front of you, and can only pick one. Option A- worrying about a stranger’s nasty comments on social media that bothered you. Option B- worrying about how you’ll make a little extra money to afford Christmas presents.
You can’t control how other people act, so why spend your allotted time worrying about that? Instead, choose to focus on the things you can control. Remember what I said earlier, worrying can be positive when it motivates you. By honing in on your cash flow dilemma, you’re turning a negative into a positive and actively seeking solutions.
Start your day with a healthy mental breakfast
Sticking with the “healthy diet” analogy, your brain’s mental breakfast is just as important as your body’s actual breakfast. I think we can all agree that a triple-fudge brownie topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream is a pretty poor breakfast choice, right? At the very least, it sets us up for a sugar crash by mid-morning.
Well, feeding your brain a giant helping of depressing headlines and anxiety-inducing thoughts first thing in the morning is just as bad. The other day, I was talking to a friend who was in a really awful mood. I asked her what was bothering her. She said she didn’t know, adding “I actually woke up in a great mood! Then, I read the news, and it all went downhill from there.”
Had she chosen to ride the momentum of that great mood and just dive right into work, she said she would have been so much more productive. Instead, she was overwhelmed by anxiety, spent the whole morning panicking about the fate of the world, and ended up getting nothing done. That, in turn, made her worry even more. I think you can see where this is going. More worrying equals less productivity equals more worrying and on it goes.
If you ignore everything else I’ve said up until this point, at least do this ONE thing: choose to start your day off with positivity rather than negativity. Those worries will still be there in the afternoon. By feeding your brain a breakfast of happiness rather than anxiety, you may even find that you’re more productive and able to solve those problems when it is time to tackle them.
You’ll notice that I used the word “choose” quite a bit above. That was deliberate. As much as it sometimes feels like every decision is taken from us, we still have options. We can actively decide to give our mind the balance it craves and lean into the positive; or we can choose to feed it a steady diet of junk and wallow in the negative. The choice is totally up to you.