Mental Junk Food

While walking to work recently, I was catching up as I often do with some of my favourite podcasts. The selection for this walk was an episode of Chris Hardwick’s ID10T podcast, featuring Chris Jericho as the guest. (You can listen to the podcast here.) I would be remiss if I were to say that I truly wasn’t expecting the conversation to become as deep as it did. The portion that struck me the most was when they began discussing what they referred to as “Mental Junk Food”.

Largely they were referring to the social media landscape. In today’s world, everyone is so enslaved by their cellphones, trapped in a never-ending time-suck. How many times a day do you check your Facebook feed? Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat? The list goes on and on. People no longer take time to sit and reflect – as soon as there’s a moment with nothing going on, most of us reach for that phone to look at something…anything.

It’s not at all uncommon to be at a restaurant with my wife when we look around the room and notice that at least half the tables have someone with a cellphone out. I’ve even seen entire families sitting at a table, each staring at the glowing screen in front of them rather than having a conversation with their family members.

We’re slowly becoming social media zombies

Just like in life, you have choices. You can choose to eat healthy foods, or you can choose to eat junk food. If you want to be healthy, you must make healthy choices. Go to the gym, eat healthy food, watch your portion control, etc.

Sure, sometimes you’re craving a bag of Doritos. But if you choose to have Doritos every night, and the portion size keeps growing until you’re eating a family-size bag every single day, you’re probably not going to be fairing very well in terms of your health. I think everybody is in agreement here, right? Then why can’t we do the same thing with our minds?

Instead of just aimlessly scrolling through your feeds, or checking to see how many likes your latest post got every 47 seconds (wait…did I just hear a notification? Let me check!) try putting your phone down for an hour. Read a book. Have a conversation with your friend or family members (verbally, not via text).

My mentor, François Lemay, has taken to doing detox days on a regular basis. He turns off his phone and disconnects from everything for a 24-hour period. It sounds appealing to me. Some of the times that Isabelle and I have enjoyed the most have been when we’re on vacation and have limited (or no) access to an internet connection. Or when I do a silent retreat and leave my phone off for a few days. It’s truly so very refreshing.

My challenge to you today is to take on baby steps towards cutting out your mental junk food. Leave your phone on the counter or table for an hour (even better if you turn it off so you won’t be tempted). Or how about leaving your phone in the kitchen when you go to bed tonight? There’s no need for it in your bedroom. (Just go buy yourself an alarm clock. It’s not a viable excuse.) And if you’re truly daring, turn it off for an entire day. Let’s just see if the world comes to an end.

Who’s up for the challenge?

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