Some time ago, I started to understand the idea of what I call the mental diet. Basically, the mind can handle information and ideas just like your body can handle food and nutrients. It can take in the information and digest it, break it down into parts and then use those bits of information. This web site is a good example of my mind consuming a lot of diet and exercise information and then using it in a new approach to fitness.
But the mind has some stark contrasts compared to the body. First of, the body is a pretty decent machine when it comes to being able to digest and use nutrients in the healthiest way possible. Regardless of how people talk about how our diets can be so harmful, the body is actually really efficient at breaking a food down and using it in, at least somewhat, healthy ways. Anything that’s not healthy or beneficial is usually discarded or prevented from entering the body.
Just like with foods, there are both harmful and beneficial components to the information you ingest. The only problem is your mind has a much harder time discarding and protecting you from harmful ideas. You can tell someone something that will be in their best interest and they will mentally vomit it back out of their mind with a dismissal or rejection. At the same time, you can tell someone a terrible idea (things like racism, or self abuse notions come to mind) and they will gobble it up and let it infect their mind (and their lives) for years.
A big reason for this is because the mind is also the seat of emotions. Many of the beliefs and ideas we embrace or reject are done on an emotional level. While your body might reject or ingest a piece of food due to it’s nutritional quality your mind may selectively choose or reject some information because of how you feel about it.
An example might be if I suggest that someone can get in better shape, yet they reject the idea due to their age. I can try to force feed the idea that change is still possible even though they are in their 40s but they can continue to throw the idea back up due to how it’s making them feel even though it could be very healthy.
It can work the other way too. If you are hell bent on smoking if someone tells you that smoking might actually be healthy, due to one highly speculative theory, then you’ll gladly hold onto that idea because it makes you feel safe and secure. On the other hand someone telling you that you might get cancer might be brushed off.
In addition to the mind not having a set defense mechanism it’s also highly susceptible to the information coming into it without it even being aware of it.
Even someone who’s slightly health conscious might read a food label or think twice about that second helping. But even the strictest dieter may be going through their day just mentally consuming whatever junk and harmful ideas come their way. These ideas come from radio, TV, adds on the free way, a bumper sticker on a car, and even a conversation with a friend that they’re barely paying attention to. All day long we just stuff our mind with whatever information crosses our path. Forget emotional or impulse eating. Our minds are constantly on an emotional and impulse diet, just constantly consuming information and ideas whether they are good or bad.
A healthy diet of good food is important, but a diet of healthy information is far more essential. Poor foods may slow you down, but bad ideas will down right cripple you. If you ate a meal of nothing but junk food you could still function at some level afterward, but harmful information can literally cause you become far more sick, fat, broke and miserable. Hell, chances are you’re eating that unhealthy meal because of some information your brain consumed a while ago in the first place.
Lastly, all food passes out of the body in one way or another. Even that deep fried Oreo and Twinkie salad with a gallon of soda you consumed at the fair will be broken down and passed or burned off in time. Everything you eat has a finite time it can influence your health. A movement on the lips doesn’t have to be a lifetime on the hips.
Information is different. Once it’s in your mind it can influence your health and well being for the rest of your life. The only way it can leave is if you actively remove it and it’s harmful effect. Of course the opposite can happen as well. A healthy meal can only bring you so much benefit, but a healthy idea or belief can bring you a lifetime of benefit.
Needless to say there’s a lot at stake here. A lot more than I would argue would be at stake with your physical diet.
In the next post I’ll go into some of the ways you can clean up your mental diet.